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Percussion players can vary the sounds of their instruments by using different kinds of drumsticks, or drumsticks with different kinds of heads. Timpani players, for example, use  sticks that range from very soft to very hard. The heads of “normal,” or “regular” timpani sticks are made of felt—hard felt covered with soft felt—but the softest timpani stick heads are made of sponge, and the hardest are made of solid wood. Just imagine the difference in sound between a drum struck with sponge and a drum struck with wood! 

The sticks that xylophone, marimba, and glockenspiel players use are called mallets, and again, mallets with different heads produce different sounds. The glockenspiel, for example, consists of a set of steel bars. Striking those bars with a rubber-headed mallet is one thing, but striking steel with steel is quite another. 

A Minute with Miles is a production of South Carolina ETV Radio, made possible by the J.M. Smith Corporation.

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Miles Hoffman is the founder and violist of the American Chamber Players, with whom he regularly tours the United States, and the Virginia I. Norman Distinguished Visiting Professor of Chamber Music at the Schwob School of Music, in Columbus, Georgia. He has appeared as viola soloist with orchestras across the country, and his solo performances on YouTube have received well over 700,000 views.