My Janko Glockenspiel

My Janko Glockenspiel The development of the 4×3 Tonnetz notation discussed in my earlier post is motivated in part by Roy Pertchik’s tri-color vibraphone with it’s 6-6 “Janko” keyboard arrangement. This suggested to me that the simplest and most economical way to get a real Janko instrument was to modify a xylophone.  I was able to find an inexpensive CB bell kit (2 octaves A5-A7).  Rearrangement of the bars was relatively easy as the bars are attached by screws to a wooden frame.  Once the bars are rearranged, the holes in the bars will mate with only one of the original screw holes in the frame, so I temporarily let the other end of the bar float free.  It is still playable, if I’m not too vigorous!  At some point I will need to secure the other end, or at least substitute spacer pegs for the original mounting pegs. The keyboard arrangement may be a bit difficult to recognize due to the A-A range.  The front four white bars are F G A B, and the black bars immediate behind them are Gb Ab Bb.  The white bars C D E were moved to the back row, the black bars Db Eb were moved forward, and the “missing” black bar positions Cb and Fb were filled in, leaving empty slots at the end of each row (not all visible in this photo).  The full arrangement is:  b C D E g a b C D E g a A B d e F G A B d e F G A The particular instrument I found used the traditional while and black bar coloring. So to get Roy’s tri-color scheme, I just added star stickers in red, white, and blue! I plan to replace them with the 3-color 4-orientation notehead symbols of my Tonnetz notation. (This could be approximated by suitably orienting the star stickers.) I had no previous experience with the Xylophone before building this instrument, but in spite of that, with the Janko arrangement and tri-color stickers, I found it relatively easy to play songs “by ear” ( I had limited experience singing solfedge) and to transpose into any key. The whole project cost under $100 and a few hours time. I found it a considerable advantage to have a real 6-6 instrument to play while exploring 6-6 notations. At this price, there was really no excuse not to. What’s more, it suggests that low cost 6-6 chromatic “xylophone” type instruments could be made available for children.  (The instruments could even be produced by the children themselves–see for example  Other plans use wood or PVC pipe for the tone bars.  Or  you might prefer to buy a commercial instrument with tuned bars and just build your own frame). This would enable us to explore the pedagogical benefits of the 6-6 arrangement (and corresponding notations) vs. the traditional method.   Indeed, xylophones are already  a staple of the Orff approach to music instruction for children so it may be possible to adapt existing skills and methods.

About DrTechDaddy

Dr Tech Daddy is a retired computer science professor with additional interests in music, robotics, STEM education, model railroading, mathematical physics, congenital heart disease and heart transplant, and Christian theology.
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2 Responses to My Janko Glockenspiel

  1. DrTechDaddy says:

    Yes, tri-color is ambiguous unless you differentiate at least ONE note with a special mark. I’ve added the colored stars to my B/W version and found them helpful.

    As for making them available to kids–according to Roy Pertchik, there’s a guy in Texas working on a “$100” version and some lesson plans as we speak.
    Check out the MNP forum at

  2. David Hart says:

    I’m glad it’s not just me:-)
    I built a glockenspiel from scratch out of steel bars in the janko layout (I’m pretty sure I worked it out independently before I discovered I was decades behind the curve), and painted them in the same layout as yours, i.e. one colour for the natural notes, one for the flats. I think that’s better than the tri-colour layout, since you could lose your bearings on that, and mistake a C for an F-sharp, say, whereas on the two colour layout you can always tell visually what note is what. But do let me know if you think the tri-colour layout is better.

    I then had a go making one out of brass. Nice, strong yet mellow sound; not sure why you don’t see that more often. Currently working on a makeshift set of wooden slats to glue onto an accordion keyboard to make it into a Janko accordion, which I think will be enormous fun once I get it all put together.

    But yes, it would be great to get these things available for kids. Sadly, I think pretty much everyone interested in 6/6 keyboard arrangements is a garden shed tinkerer, and not the boss of a major musical instrument manufacturer…

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