Top 5 mallet songs

06Jun11

Back in the sixth grade when I began playing percussion in the elementary band, there was one pre-requisite. You had to have previous experience with piano lessons. Thankfully, my parents tortured me with five excruciating years of piano lessons from age 5-10. In band, I went on to specialize in the snare drum. My secondary instruments were the crash cymbals and the gong. However, going back to sixth grade, in addition to getting to hit things that make loud noises, we had to practice the mallet instruments. These included the bells, the xylophone and marimba.

Needless to say, I did not take these lessons seriously, and unfortunately, did not excel at the mallet instruments. Yet, in high school I became bound and determined to learn one song on the marimba. “Girls,” by the Beastie Boys.

Recently my uncle and I meandered into a conversation about pop songs that featured mallet instruments. He told me about Ruth Underwood who played the marimba, xylophone and other percussion instruments for Frank Zappa and the Mothers of Invention. At the time the only song I could think of was “Gone Daddy Gone,” by the Violent Femmes.

With too much time on my hands, I decided to compile a list of the top 5 songs featuring mallet instruments. A google search revealed several artists that featured a xylophone or vibraphone or what have you, but most of the results were obscure songs by such bands as Steely Dan or Captain Beefheart. Instead, I came up with a list of songs you might have actually heard.

Without further ado, here is the highly anticipated top 5 songs featuring mallet instruments:

5) “It’s the Same Old Song,” by The Four Tops. A great song, but it falls to the bottom of the list because the band is backed up by a full orchestra, thus the mallet instruments aren’t as prominent.

4) “Gone Daddy Gone,” by the Violent Femmes. Possibly the two greatest xylophone solos in pop music history. Gnarls Barkley would record an arguably more popular, but inferior, cover version of the song.

3) “Girls” by the Beastie Boys. The most underrated Beastie Boys song, and it features a xylophone lick that won’t get out of your head.

2) “Under My Thumb,” by The Rolling Stones. According to Wikipedia, Brian Jones plays the marimba part.

1) “Everyday,” by Buddy Holly. This song is brilliant in every way and after three beers I would heatedly argue that this could be one of the greatest pop songs ever.

There you have it. If there are songs you feel were slighted, please leave a comment below.

Addendum: Somehow I forgot to include “No Surprises” by Radiohead.

Also, here is a new song by the Australian band Gotye called “Somebody that I used to Know.” Great song.

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5 Responses to “Top 5 mallet songs”

  1. 1 Ed Narigon

    Steely Dan …obscure?

  2. 2 Barbara

    OMD- “Electricity” great xylophone!

  3. 3 Les Monger

    Hello, My son is trying to get a band together to do Gone Daddy Gone for his talent show. He plays Tenor Sax in band, but he has played guitar for five years, as well as mandolin, a bit of drums, piano, banjo, ukulele, violin and Bass. we have access to all the band room equipment and are trying to make this a big production.(for 7th grade talent show) I have checked everywhere for the notes or sheet music for the xylophone work in this song. as you already know, xylophone sheet music for newer music is very hard to find. Is there any way you could help him with this? You may be my last hope. Thank you
    Les

  4. 4 Loookie

    “Love my way “


  1. 1 radiohead xylophone songs - Arsya Travelling

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