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Friday, September 25, 2015

Making a Glockenspiel

Who knows what a glockenspiel is?  I thought it was something very different from what it is.  When my grandson wanted my husband to help him make one for a science project, I had to look it up.  His assignment was to make a musical instrument, and how he came up with this one is something I must ask him.  I guess I always thought they were called Xylophones, but there is a difference. They are both melodic percussion instruments, but a glockenspiel is made with metal and a xylophone is made out of wood.  They make different sounds because of the difference in materials.

The first thing Sam and his mom did was look up how to make a glockenspiel.  They found a couple possibilities and sent my husband an email with instructions.  Sam likes to work with Papa, and he knows we have a lot of tools.  They think Papa can make anything, even though that isn't really true.  In this case it was true.  Wednesday was a half day of school for Sam, so in the morning we took a trip to the lumber yard and craft store.  We picked up the supplies necessary that we didn't already have on hand.  Then on the way home, we picked up Sam and brought him home with us.

The boys went to the garage to start the project.  Even though I didn't get photos, they told me they used the bolt cutter, drill, table saw, air brad nailer and a hammer.  When they came inside, they had made the basic bones of the instrument.  The next step was to cut copper pipe in various lengths.  Each length would make a different sound when tapped with the mallet.  We found an app for that.  Someone had designed a formula for figuring out the relationship between frequency and length of pipe.  This is an example of the chart which included two or three octaves, so we had all the measurements we needed.

Note Frequency (Hz) Length (CM)
C1 32.7 17.49

Papa measured and Sam cut the pieces.


Sam cutting the copper pipe.

The next thing was to attach the lengths of pipe to the base.  At first he used thick pony tail bands.  It worked for the first two longer pipes but there wasn't enough movement with the shorter pieces.  With the thicker bands, the sound was flat.  Next he tried rubber bands.  That worked great.  The mallets were made out of dowels and wooden beads.  Technically they should be plastic, rubber or metal but that would have complicated things and gluing a wooden bead was easiest.


One by one attaching the pipes.

Do, Re, Mi, Fa, So, La, Ti, Do  It sounds great.

Sam is all decked out in his orange hat and orange shirt.  It was Hat Day at school for Homecoming Week.  Now the project is done.  All he has to do is write his report about it.