Xylophone Course for Beginners

Welcome to learning how to play the xylophone, read music and learn the basics of melody!


  1. Basic music theory from middle C with simple exercises and songs; demonstration of how to hold the mallets 
  2. How music notation is written and read; a few simple songs to practice reading the notation  
  3. White keys in the key of C with nursery rhymes and simple classical pieces
  4. Introducing a chromatic scale and the black keys with further songs
  5. Moving to playing the bass clef and the treble clef with two layer fuller sound
  6. Classic classical pieces covering more than one octave
  7. Scales & Arpeggios; basic theory behind them and how chords and melodies are based on them
  8. Five song challenge: memorise five songs over a week
  9. Five song challenge from musical notation: play and memorise five songs straight from music notation
  10. Recap of everything with a grand finale of a beautiful classical piece

Lesson One

Today we will learn the basics of playing the xylophone. The basics are the same for all tuned percussion instruments, such as the marimba or glockenspiel. If you know the basics for playing the piano or the keyboard, it will help you to learn the basics for the xylophone quicker. Tuned percussion are percussion instruments that make a beautiful sound when you touch them with a mallet and you can play melodies on them as they have sets of keys, unlike percussions such as hand drums that can only be used for playing the beat of a song and not the melody itself.  

A xylophone has white and black keys, just like the piano. For now, we will focus on the white keys. There are 7 different letter names for the keys, because each octave consists of seven keys. The seven letter names are: C, D, E, F and G. These are written on the xylophone keys for ease of locating them. You can see them in the picture below. My xylophone is a standard beginner xylophone and you would expect your one to be similar.   

The C seen in the picture is what we call middle C. On the piano, it would be in the middle of the keyboard and would divide the keyboard into treble clef and bass clef sections. On the xylophone we only have treble clef. Nevertheless, the C is important as a number of songs start on or near the C. 

Let’s try playing the first five keys, starting on C. Play in the order of C, D, E, F and G. Listen to my recording here for guidance. Before you play, make sure that you are sitting comfortably in front of your xylophone, with the xylophone on a stand or table at a height that does not make you have to slouch and you can sit up straight. Hold the mallets between your thumb and your index finger firmly.  See the photo underneath for an example with my hand on how to hold the mallet. 

Have a go at playing the exercise first with your right hand, then with your left hand. Remember to keep a nice steady beat and not rush it.

(Insert video here)

Let’s play another simple song that we all know. In this song, we need C, D and E. C is the note that you can see in the picture and has a little line going through it. D hangs off below all the long stave lines and E is positioned so that the first long line goes through it.

The song we are doing is ‘Mary Had a Little Lamb’. The note pattern for the song is: E, D, C, D, E, E,E, D, D, D, E, E, E

E, D, C, D, E, E, E, E, D, D, E, D, C. 

The notes that are coloured in a completely black are called crotched notes. You need to play them for one beat. The notes that are white inside are called minim notes and you need to hold them down for two beats.  Listen to my recording and have a go at playing the song!

(Insert video recording here)

Until the next lesson, play the above exercises and song, alternating between your right and left hand. Try and memorise how the C, D and E notes look like in the treble clef.  

#musiceducation #music #xylophone #musictheory #musicnotes #readmusic #melody

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