What is the difference between a practice marimba and a concert marimba?

There are several key differences between practice and concert marimbas.  Typically, practice marimbas are 3 to 4.3 octaves, utilize padauk wood bars, no resonators and cost between $1500 – $4000. Concert marimbas are 4.3 – 5 octaves, utilize rosewood bars, and resonators, and cost around $8,000-$20,000.  We’ll go into detail below on each of the key differences.

Number of Octaves

Most practice marimbas available are 3-octaves.  This keeps the price down and it’s really all a novice marimba player needs.  Once they become more advanced, say doing 4-mallet exercises, they’ll outgrow the 3-octave and need a 4.3-octave practice marimba.  There aren’t many 4.3-octave practice marimbas available so check out this page for options.

Concert marimbas range from  4.3 to 5 octaves. There is no need for a 3-octave concert marimba.

Type of Bars

To keep the cost low, practice marimba bars are generally made with Padauk wood.  This produces a beautiful, consistent tone, just right for the novice percussionist.

The standard for concert marimbas is Rosewood bars but it’s becoming more limited and expensive.  Many marimba manufacturers have started offering concert marimbas with synthetic bars such as Techlon.  These are especially popular on-field marimbas used during marching band.  The synthetic bars can stand up to the elements a bit better than Rosewood.

Here is a great video on the sound differences between Padauk and Rosewood.


The resonators make a big difference in the sound quality between a practice and concert marimba.  The resonators are the large pipes that hang below the bars, one for each bar which makes the note “resonate” when struck. The length of the pipe changes depending on the pitch of the tone plate with lower notes utilizing longer pipes.  To save costs, most practice marimbas do not include resonators.


The most obvious difference between a practice and a concert marimba is the cost.  Practice marimbas are designed to keep the costs low enough to make them available for home practice by middle school and high school percussion students.  Therefore, they’ll sell for $1500-$4000 and rent for $35-$125/mo. Concert marimbas typically range from $8,000 to $20,000.

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