Presentation of the


Here is some important information to know about the instruments you will discover during the European Crafts Days exhibition.

The glockenspiel

A little history …

The origin and history of the glockenspiel is sketchy.

In its early days, this instrumentwould have consisted of bells, then later a set of tuned metal bars, played first with a piano-like mechanism in the eighteenth century, and then with baquettes in the mid-nineteenth century.

This evolution is explained because the old instrument produced a rather harsh, metallic sound and did not allow for much variation in sound.


The glockenspiel is a idiophone instrument, meaning that, when struck, the material is sufficient on its own to produce sound. It therefore has no strings or membranes. Once emitted, the self-resonant sound sustains itself for some time.


The musician strikes the center of the blades with mallets or sticks, made of wood, bone or copper, depending on the desired sound. These are then set into vibration producing a single note whose clear tone is reminiscent of carillon.

The pedal damper, allows the instrumentalist to muffle several notes at once or, on the contrary, to sustain the sound for longer.

The blade set allows to cover 3 octaves of the chromatic scale.

Listen to the sound of the glockenspiel


Neighbor in the …

Harp, piano

Holding the Instrument

To strike the blades, the percussionist typically uses four mallets, two per hand. These are crossed under the palm of the hand, with the center stick sitting on top of the other; the thumb and forefinger are used to adjust the angle the sticks form and thus determine the interval played.

There is a portable form of the glockenspiel that resembles a harp.


Unlike the xylophone built with wooden blocks, the glockenspiel is composed of metal blades (most often steel) of graduated length. The width of the blades varies between 2.5 and 4 cm.

Some composers

The glockenspiel is used in classical and contemporary works for orchestra.

In the 18th century, a few composers used the glockenspiel in their works such as Haendel in the oratio Saul (1739) or as Mozart in the Magic Flute (1791).

Little prized by Romantic composers, this instrument reappeared in the baton form in the mid-19th century with Richard Wagner,Gustav Mahler, Claude Debussy, and Maurice Ravel.

The glockenspiel is present in many orchestral pieces of the second half of the twentieth century, including Olivier Messiaen’s Oiseaux exotiques (1956) and Des canyons aux étoiles (1974), or Steve Reich’s Drumming (1971).

The glockenspiel is also used in guggenmusik bands, found in various Eastern or Northern carnivals.

It is also found in popular music, independent rock, and world music, including some albums by Radiohead, the Beatles, Indochine, or Arcade Fire. More recently, the band Bloc Party made use of this instrument in the song Signs.


  • en