Xylophones are an invaluable instrument for creating melodies. From four note chord voicings (and less) to scales with five or seven notes, they’re an incredible way to compose melodies with sound.
In order to play chords on the xylophone, you must count four notes from your thumb upwards in order to locate the root of a triad or chord – this process works for major as well as minor triads – making learning simple.
1. C Major
C Major is known for its simplicity and purity, evoking feelings of innocence and joy. Additionally, this piece can express hopefulness and renewal.
All major scales can be broken down into two major tetrachords (four note segments that follow a 2-2-1 pattern), making them easier to remember than larger patterns of seven or eight notes. C Major’s first tetrachord contains notes C, D, E and F as its first four note tetrachord.
All keys contain both flats and sharps, though their order varies across treble, bass, and alto clefs. You can learn to recognize this difference by memorizing “Fat Cats Go Down Alleys to Eat Birds”, where each sharp is organized in an ascending or descending sequence regardless of clef type.
2. D Major
D major is a melodic key with an overall cheerful, upbeat mood that can be used to express innocence, simplicity and naivety; its associated with innocence can help express declarations of love or the sorrowful sobs associated with love-sickness.
Key signature for B flat is written at the beginning of a piece of music between treble and bass clef symbols and indicates which notes should be played flat and which don’t. It provides information regarding when this must be done.
To create a chord, start with the root note of a scale, find its 3rd and 5th tones, then combine those notes – this will form a major chord; for instance a D major chord would consist of D, F sharp, A. You could also try adding seventh (or augmented) chords into your repertoire – these simply extend existing triads with an extra note added; for instance a C seventh chord could consist of C, E, G and B-flat chords.
3. E Major
This four sharps major scale can become more complex with each sharp added, yet still follows the same fingering techniques as white key major scales. Additionally, it provides an opportunity to test whether you can link E and D chord shapes from CAGED System together successfully.
Play these notes slowly against an E drone to strengthen them further. Drones are long, sustained sounds found online that will allow you to practice specific key centers.
This chord shape begins on the major third (G# in E) and builds off of a D Major open chord structure, covering two full octaves of scale with tricky finger stretches to keep your fingers active and engaged.
4. F Major
This chord shape can be more challenging to play and may take more practice to master. Take your time practicing this chord shape slowly and deliberately so as to see progress made towards mastery.
As part of learning a scale, it’s crucial that learners recognize that F Major has one sharp in its key signature (F#), meaning when moving up one perfect fifth as per the Circle of Fifths chart above they will add one additional sharp into their key signature.
As we conclude our exploration, let’s turn our focus towards the fifth CAGED System enclosure in F Major. It can be found between the 9th and 13th frets and contains all of the same notes found in G Major’s first enclosure; one octave higher.
5. G Major
G major is one of the more frequently employed keys for both acoustic guitar and xylophone, as it utilizes concert pitch with similar note patterns on each instrument, making chord voicing transfer easy from one to the other.
Chords for any given key or chord progression can be created by creating triads from notes of that scale – often referred to as harmonizing it.
These chords are composed using G major’s one sharp (F#). As with other interval-based chords, these should be played slowly and repetitively until you become comfortable with their shapes and notes; once this has happened it is important to move them up and down the fretboard as quickly as possible to further increase finger strength.