Marching Xylophone (Your Complete Guide)

Not every instrument can play in a marching band. The oboe and bassoon are not marching instruments, but what about the xylophone? Is there such a thing as a marching xylophone? 

 A Marching xylophone is a pitched instrument with wooden bars or keys. A musician will hit the bars with a mallet to produce a note. Xylophones have resonator tubes on the underside of each bar that helps project the sound. A musician wears the xylophone on a harness to play and march.

 A Marching Xylophone attached to a marching harness

Are there Xylophones in Marching Band? 

Sometimes. There can be xylophones in a marching band, but they are rare to see these days. You can find Marching Xylophones in military bands across the world! Some schools like the University of Notre Dame have xylophone players in their band. Band directors are the ones who decide if they want a xylophone in their marching band or not.

It is easy to spot a Marching Xylophone on the field. A xylophone is a percussion instrument, so a player would march along with the drumline. There are two big reasons you don’t see marching xylophones in every marching band. 

The first reason is that they are heavy instruments. The second reason is that they are hard to hear when the rest of the band plays.

Marching xylophones are heavy. A Marching Xylophone with a carrier can be the same weight as a contra tuba (25 pounds) or heavier. Imagine carrying 25 pounds with your neck and moving around a field!

In the past, marching xylophones used a thick strap around the neck to hold them up. The neck strap made it hard for players to use their arms and shoulders as much as they needed to. Many Marching Xylophone players had to change how they played their instruments. 

They could only move their wrists, and that’s how they had to march and play simultaneously. Eventually, musicians got rid of the neck strap and switched to a harness instead. The harnesses were still hard to move around while wearing.  

Today there are new kinds of xylophones and harnesses made with different materials. These Marching Xylophones have been designed to make marching xylophones a bit lighter. 

The second reason it is rare to see a Marching Xylophone is that they are hard to hear. The other instruments will overshadow the beautiful sound of a Marching Xylophone. The other instruments in the battery are very loud, which makes a xylophone even harder to hear. 

Audience members are farther away than it can seem when you are on a field. If a Marching Xylophone has a solo, the rest of the instruments must stop playing. Regardless of what instruments are playing or not, the sound from one Marching Xylophone is unable to travel far enough to reach the audience.

What is a Marching Glockenspiel?

A Marching Glockenspiel is a glockenspiel attached to a harness for marching. They are sometimes called bells or marching bells. A Marching Glockenspiel is much lighter to carry than a Marching Xylophone. 

Marching Glockenspiels have a wide range of how many octaves they can play. The standard range is between 1.5 to 2.6 or 3 octaves. You may have seen or even played a marching glockenspiel in a parade in middle school.

A Marching Glockenspiel (Marching Bells) attached to a marching harness.

Some bands and music stores call a glockenspiel a xylophone because they look alike. Glockenspiels and xylophones both have bars, and musicians use mallets to play. Sometimes Marching Xylophones don’t always have resonator tubes at the bottom. There is one easy way to tell them apart just by looking at the bars.

 If you look at the instrument and the bars are made of wood or something that looks like wood, then it is a xylophone. If you look at the instrument and the bars are made of metal, then it is a glockenspiel. A silly rhyme to remember which instrument has the metal bars: “If it’s wood, it’s good, and if it’s steel, it’s a ‘spiel.” 

Once you look at the bars, you can tell right away which instrument is which. Many people don’t know the difference between the two or call glockenspiels by the wrong name. When you look to rent or buy a Marching Xylophone, be sure to look at the bars before you buy. 

Top Tip: If you want to learn how to play the Xylophone check out our article all about beginner Xylophone. Xylophone Playing (FAQ Guide for Beginners)

How and Where to Buy a Xylophone for Marching Band? What Brands are the Best?

When it comes to playing a Marching Xylophone in a band, you will likely use one that your school already has. Xylophones, like all instruments, can be expensive. But if you want to buy your own Marching Xylophone, music stores should have them.

It is a good idea to call the music store and ask if they sell Marching Xylophones before making the trip there. You can also search online for a Marching Xylophone. eBay and other online auction sites will have a xylophone for sale. Remember to find out if the bars are metal or not before buying.

Some great online music supply companies that sell Marching Xylophone are 

  1. Music & Arts 
  2. Lone Star Percussion
  3. Woodwind & Brasswind

Marching Xylophone is not a standard instrument in all marching bands, so they might not be in stock. If that happens, all three companies have super helpful customer service teams.

When shopping for a Marching Xylophone, there are a few qualities to consider. The most important quality is if the bars are metal or not. A second quality to look for is what the bar is made of if it isn’t a glockenspiel.

 Xylophone bars are made of wood. If the wood gets wet in the rain, it can be damaged. The moisture can lead to cracks or warping of the bars. Many brands have developed their own material for making bars that aren’t 100% wood.

Marching Xylophones are made with fiberglass and wood or have weatherproof bars. Weatherproofing is necessary for a Marching Xylophone. The rain-protected bars made of fiberglass can put up with a lot of stress before breaking. Looking for fiberglass or synthetic wood with plastic is a must. 

Another quality to look for is how many octaves the xylophone has. Marching Xylophones always have 2.5 octaves. Knowing that 2.5 is the usual range, it can help you buy the right kind of xylophone. All websites that sell xylophones will include information about the range of octaves.

When shopping for a Marching Xylophone, the final quality to look for is resonator tubes. Some Marching Xylophones have resonators, and some have detachable resonator tubes. Others don’t have resonator tubes at all. The instrument can play the same with and without resonator tubes; be aware of this when shopping

There are many kinds and brands of instruments, and they all weigh and cost different amounts. To help compare brands, here is a quick chart:  

Name of Brand and Model NumberOctavesResonators or No Resonators Bar Material*WeightPrice ✦
Yamaha MXL-32AF2.5RemovableAcoustalon-Lite20 lbs$ 2,000.00
Yamaha MXL-32FWC2.5ResonatorsAcoustalon-Lite20 lbs$ 1,656.00
Yamaha MXL-32X2.5ResonatorsAcoustalon-Lite20.2 lbs$ 1,573.00
Yamaha MXL-32F2.5No Resonators Reinforced Fiberglass 20 lbs$ 1,204.00
Musser M662.5No ResonatorsKelon46 lbs$ 1,500.00
Musser M672.5ResonatorsKelon53 lbs$1,075.00
Bergerault KSPS252.5ResonatorsTechlon19 lbs$ 1,495.00
Bergerault MBX202ResonatorsTechlon 19 lbs$ 1,595.00

✦ Note: Not all stores sell their instruments at the same price. Used instruments will cost less to buy than brand new ones. The prices in the chart are the maximum price. 

Pro Tip: Each company has its own patented formula and name for the material they use to make their bars. This chart is to help familiarize you with the brands and information you need to know before buying a Marching Xylophone.

If you see a xylophone listed as “Multi-Application” it means that they can work with stands or harnesses. Which means it can be played inside and outside. A multi-application instrument might be a good idea if you want to practice at home.

How to Rent a Xylophone for Marching Band

Many families want to save money but still have a quality instrument, so buying new isn’t an option. Instrument rentals are a great alternative to buying a Marching Xylophone.

Most local instrument stores have rental programs where you pay a flat rate each month. Look on a store’s website to find out if they have a rental program. Either call the store or visit, and they will explain how their system works.

Like all marching percussion instruments, Marching Xylophones are typically borrowed from your school. There will be an instrument closet with percussion equipment, sousaphones, and extra uniforms. It is almost standard practice to borrow Marching Xylophones.

You are not expected to buy a Marching Xylophone and bring it to rehearsals and games. If you want to use your own instrument, renting a Marching Xylophone is also a great option.

How to Hold a Xylophone in a Marching Band

Holding a xylophone in a marching band is very easy. The harness will be attached to the instrument on the ground, making assembly simple. Then you lift the harness and rest the shoulder pads on your shoulders. The instrument will then be suspended in front of you at the correct level and angle for you to play.

Below is a video of a xylophone player in Notre Dame’s marching band during a parade to show what a marching xylophone looks like on a harness. You can see where not only the musician is recording but a musician a row ahead.

How Much Does a Marching Xylophone Cost?

The cost of a Marching Xylophone was mentioned when we compared brands of Marching Xylophones.

New instruments will cost anywhere between $1,075.00 and $2,000. Not all music stores will sell the same make and model of xylophone for the same price. Additionally, some xylophones do not come with a harness, and you would have to buy one.

Renting a Marching Xylophone requires monthly payments. Each store will charge whatever they decide, so prices will vary.

If renting or buying new is not something you want to do, your school’s band can help. They will have marching percussion equipment. You can use a school instrument at rehearsal and games.

How Much Does a Marching Xylophone Weigh?

The weight of Marching Xylophones will vary between brands and models. All those weights were listed on websites for each xylophone in the chart above. These prices did not include a harness, so it may be heavier than listed.

The websites also don’t state if the weight is with or without a harness or resonator bars.

A reasonable estimate for how much your Marching Xylophone can weigh is somewhere around 30 pounds. The weight depends on the materials used to make the instrument. It is important to remember that they are not light instruments. Today many Marching Xylophones are made to make wearing and marching as easy as possible.

A lighter-weight Marching Xylophone does not mean it is poor quality. Nor does a heavier Marching Xylophone mean it will have outstanding quality.

Top Tip: Check out some instruments that are very similar in this article: 7 Instruments Similar to the Xylophone (With Video Samples)

What is a Marching Band Upright Xylophone?  

A marching band Upright Xylophone isn’t a xylophone at all. It is a glockenspiel! This instrument is a bell lyre, and it isn’t seen in the US and Canada very often. The bell lyre looks like a large metal lyre with metal glockenspiel bars across it.

   A bell lyre

Military bands in other countries use bell lyres. Bell lyres can be found in the military bands of Germany, Colombia, Sweden, and the Philippines.

Over time bell lyres have been retired for traditional glockenspiels on a harness. To play the bell lyre requires holding it in one hand at the top, and the other uses the mallet. The other option for marching with this instrument involves a harness. A pole attached to the bottom of the lyre rests in a musician’s harness around their waist. Still, one hand is needed to support the instrument, which leaves only one hand to play.

If you like the bell lyre or want to learn how to play one, you can find one on eBay or order from the Music & Arts website. They cost between $892 to $1,039. In the United States, these are not used in marching bands anymore. While the Marching Xylophone is rare to see, a bell lyre is super rare.

bell lyre being played in a military band. 
A bell lyre in a parade (Photo © David Dixon)

What Marching Xylophone Harness (Carrier) is the Best?

A school marching band will have their own Marching Xylophone harnesses. Yet, if you want to buy a Marching Xylophone, there are two popular types of harnesses you can buy. 

The first harness is the Yamaha Aluminum Field-Corps Tubular Carrier for

Multi-Application Bells or Xylophones.

Yamaha carrier for Multi-Application Bells or Xylophone

The second harness is the Musser 2481 Marching Xylophone Carrier.

Musser 2481 Carrier


The Marching Xylophone is a unique percussion instrument that is rare to see in a marching band. Due to their softer sound and how bulky they are, many marching bands don’t use xylophones.  It is up to the band director to decide if they want to include a xylophone for a show or not.

The University of Notre Dame is an example of a  college marching band with Marching Xylophones. Marching Xylophones are considered rare when it comes to marching on a field. That doesn’t mean it is impossible, or it never happens.

You can rent your marching instrument from local music stores in your area that offer rental services. Marching Xylophones, like all instruments, are expensive, and you are not required to buy one.

If you want to buy your Marching Xylophone, you have a few different options. A used one from eBay or a brand new one from a music store or company. The three music websites recommended in this article are great. You can use them to find a Marching Xylophone to buy.

There are plenty of brands and models of Marching Xylophones to choose from. make sure the instrument you buy is a xylophone and not a glockenspiel. To remember which these two apart, use the goofy rhyme of “If it is wood, it is good, if it is steel, it’s a ‘spiel.”

One kind of glockenspiel that is no longer part of marching bands in the United States is the bell lyre. You can order one or find one on eBay for fun or to practice at home. Military bands in other countries use them. Bands in the US don’t use bell lyres.

Marching band is a great experience both in high school and in college. The rarity of Marching Xylophones should not discourage anyone from joining the band.

Don’t forget, marching bands will sometimes have xylophone players. These are some examples of marching bands that use their Marching Xylophones as a fun feature in their shows:

Here is the xylophone feature from The Cavaliers Drum and Bugle Corps 2018 show “On Madness and Creativity.” 

Cavaliers 2018 Xylophone Feature

Here is another example of xylophones being used in a marching show, 

The Academy Drum and Bugle Corp’s 2016 show “Drum Corpse Bride.” 

2016 The Academy – “Drum Corpse Bride”

Check out These articles next: Marching Band Bells (Your Complete Guide!)
17 Songs with Xylophones In Them!

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