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North America
Vibraphone (Vibes)


The Vibraphone, also referred to as the "Vibes" or “Vibraharp”, is an American instrument and is a hybrid of the European and South American Xylophome Marimba, Indonesian Gender/Ganset (Gamelan) and African Balophone. Both the Vibraphone and Gamelan have different sized tuned metal bars where as the Marimba, Xylophone and Balophone have different sized tuned wooden bars. All of these instruments have tuned tubular resonators which are placed directly below each bar to increase vibration/tone, and are made out of metal, wood, bamboo or gourd.

Below each bar on the Vibraphone there is a tuned tubular metal resonator with an electrically driven rotating propeller inside of it. While the propeller gyrates very closely to the vibrating bar, a slight fluctuation of pitch occurs, producing a warm soothing vibrato. The pulse or speed of the vibrato can be increased or decreased by adjusting the speed of the electric motor. The Vibraphone uses a foot pedal for suspending notes, similar to the suspension pedal on a piano, and is usually played by striking the bars with two or four mallets made out of rubber, felt or yarn.

The actual Vibraphone displayed in this picture belonged to the reknowned pioneer percussionist/drummer and innovator of the instrument, Lionel Hampton (1908-2002). Lionel Hampton played his “Vibraharp” at a recording session for a colleague, Jazz king Louis Armstrong, in October of 1930, and the rest is history in the making. Soon, Benny Goodman caught wind of Lionel’s sound, and the first integrated performance of Jazz was received with unanimous praise by the American public in New York city on Nov. 21, 1936 in the Manhattan Room of the Pennsylvania Hotel. Revered grandfathers of Jazz, Louis Armstrong and Lionel Hampton, both touched the world with their innovative creations and sounds. Lionel Hampton was to music as Jackie Robinson was to baseball and Martin Luther King was to equal rights. He is also historically considered to be the first pioneer in our nation to successfully bring different cultures together peacefully by using music and dance as the prime catalysts to bridge the gap between the social classes/ races.

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The WORLD BEATS video features live, costumed performances of ancient, ethnic, percussive traditions. Aaron Plunkett puts it all together in this fascinating 33 minute program. SEE MORE...


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