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The Musical Instruments

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The Raft - a big xylophone

Raft - the xylophone Tree sounds beautiful. A big xylophone is seldom heard in western musical cultures. Since the dawning of world music, however, they are on their way. In Sweden they have been used as instruments for common rythmical improvisation in schools, at daycare centers, with disabled people and at open air festivals. Some times they have been called amadinda or marimba. There have also been courses in building them. It is an exquisite group instrument, used by children, youth, and grown-ups. The Raft has been developped from these experiences, with the aim of getting a maximally soft and melodious sound, and to be practical to handle in various circumstances with a lot of people around.

xylophone improvisation Play together. For the xylophone to be able to function as a group instrument, it is equipped with eight playing sticks (mallets) , to enable four grown-ups to play with two hands or eight children to play with a stick each (there is room enough - with a little care).

xylophone player Or solo. It is also a fine solo instrument. For thar purpose you can get specially designed playing sticks (mallets) for solo play (See the picture further down). You play then on the middle of the tone bars.

The xylophone comes in two versions, with a pentatonic (five tones) or a diatonic (usual seven tone) scale. The five tone scale is excellent for gathering round the instrument to "jam", to improvise together and play with the sounds that come out.

f g a c d f g a c d f g

Then you use it basically as a big drum. You play rythmically and use the harmonies that arise when you mix the tones in different ways. It is similar to hitting different places on a drum to get a varied sound. The Raft , however, gives a more melodious sound, and with 4-5 grown-ups or 8 children playing, you can get very suggestive and beautiful harmonies, especially if the music is allowed to go on long enough for the players to be able to comfortably listen to the whole picture.

The type with the ordinary seven tone scale - like the white piano keys - can also be used in that way, even if the harmonies usually become a little more blurred then.

g a h c d e f g a h c d

With this type you can also conveniently make arrangements, e.g. where someone plays the melody and others accompany with chords, playing from both sides.

You can get both types with foldable legs and a built-in sound box. These Rafts always give maximum sound and they can easily be placed in various environments. When needed, they can be played on the ground with the legs folded. The xylophones with legs are also easily played from a wheel-chair.

Here is a video with some children trying the Raft: