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The marimba is a percussive musical instrument that has enjoyed a rich history in a diverse range of musical styles, from classical to rock. In Western culture, it has lived in the shadows of a similar instrument, the xylophone.
According to Vida Chenowith, a noted ethnomusicologist and classical marimbist, the first chromatic marimba was made by Jose Chaequin and Manuel Lopez. It was introduced to the public in Guatemala in 1874, and it was first introduced to North America in 1908.
Types of marimbas include pentatonic, diatonic and chromatic, the latter of which is tuned like a piano. Marimbas range in size from 25 feet to 50 feet long. The width ranges from 2 1/2 feet to 5 1/2 feet. Modern marimbas are constructed using rosewood for the bars and aluminum or brass for the resonators. The most common diameter of the shaft of the mallets is around 5/16 inch. The material at the end of the shaft is usually rubber wrapped with yarn.
Famous artists in popular music who have used marimbas in their work include the Rolling Stones Under My Thumb) and Elton John (Island Girl)