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The Glockenspiel (German, "play of bells", also known as orchestra bells and, in its portable form, bell lira or bell lyre) is a musical instrument in the percussion family. It is similar to the xylophone, in that it has tuned bars laid out in a fashion resembling a piano keyboard. The xylophone's bars are wooden, while the glockenspiel's are metal, thus making it a metallophone.
The glockenspiel, moreover, is much smaller and higher in pitch. When used in a marching or military band, the bars are sometimes mounted in a portable case and held vertically. In orchestral use, the bars are mounted horizontally. A pair of hard mallets is generally used to strike the bars, although if laid out horizontally, a keyboard may be attached to the instrument to allow chords to be more easily played.
The glockenspiel's range is limited to the upper register, and usually covers about two and a half to three octaves. In sheet music, the notes to be played by the glockenspiel are written two octaves lower than they will sound when played. When struck, the bars give a very pure, bell-like sound.
One classical piece where such an instrument is used is Mozart's Die Zauberflöte (although the part has most often been played with a celesta in modern times). A modern example of the glockenspeil is Steve Reich's 1974 composition Drumming, in which the glockenspiel becomes a major instrument in the 3rd and 4th movements.
Modern pop uses of the glockenspiel include:
- Jimi Hendrix's "Little Wing" from the 1967 album Axis: Bold as Love
- The Velvet Underground's "Sunday Morning" from the 1967 album The Velvet Underground & Nico
- Danny Federici's electronic glockenspiel has been a key part of Bruce Springsteen's E Street Band sound from the 1970s to the present.
- The Beatles' Only a Northern Song from the Yellow Submarine sountrack.
- The 1977 Brothers Johnson remake of Shuggie Otis' classic "Strawberry Letter 23"
- Rush drummer Neil Peart regularly used a glockenspiel as part of his percussion setup. Examples include the songs "Xanadu" on the album A Farewell to Kings, "Circumstances" and "La Villa Strangiato" on the album Hemispheres, "Witch Hunt" on Moving Pictures, "Losing It" on Signals and currently uses an electronic glockenspiel to recreate some of the percussion instruments used in the past.
- The Black Crowes' song "Gone" on the album Amorica
- Canadian post-rock band Godspeed You! Black Emperor makes use of glockenspiels in its music
- Radiohead's song "No Surprises" from their 1997 album OK Computer (played by Jonny Greenwood)
- Asobi Seksu's track "Lions and Tigers" from their 2nd release entitled "Citrus" (2006), utilizes a glockenspiel during verses.
- Extensive use of (synthesized or sampled) glockenspiel in gangsta rap
- The Arcade Fire employs use of the glockenspiel on many of the songs on their debut album Funeral (2004)
- In the Green Day song Wake Me Up When September Ends there is a glockenspiel being hit every so often.
- 2005's release The Best Party Ever by The Boy Least Likely To uses the glockenspiel to give the album a more innocent and childish feel.
- The artist Andrew Bird regularly uses the glockenspiel in his live performances, often harmonizing his oral whistle to its notes.
- Panic! at the Disco's single I Write Sins Not Tragedies has a glockenspiel playing in the background.
- Indie band Page France makes extensive use of the glockenspiel as a defining element of their sound.
Other instruments which work on the same struck-bar principle as the glockenspiel include the marimba and the vibraphone. There are also many glockenspiel-like instruments in Indonesian gamelan ensembles.
In Germany, a Carillon is also called a Glockenspiel.
- Glockenspiel at the Vienna Symphonic Library