Cleaning Glockenspiel Bars the Right Way

cleaning glockenspiels

The Glockenspiel is a popular instrument in music education settings, especially for children.  The simple design of the Glockenspiel lends it to teach basic music theory and practice straightforward.  These instruments can receive a lot of use and abuse.  Keeping them clean is a challenge and should be done in the right way.

Metal Glockenspiel bars are easily cleaned by wiping the bars with a soft cloth damped with a quality window cleaning solution.  Don’t spray the solution directly on the bars to avoid getting the support structures wet.  Spray the solution on the cloth and wipe the bars and then turn the cloth to expose an unused portion and wipe the bars dry.

A good quality glockenspiel can last for years with a little attention and care.  Glockenspiels, like almost everything else, are manufactured from different materials that require slightly different approaches to cleaning and maintenance.  If you find an old glockenspiel that has been neglected and looks beyond hope, take care, we’ll show you how easy it is to revive these older bells and return them to a musical life.

A Guide to Proper Cleaning A Glockenspiel

Wiping with a soft cloth dampened with a cleaning solution is great for day to day maintenance and care of your Glockenspiel.  There may come a time that requires a more detailed cleaning due to spills or neglect.  The best way to rehabilitate a Glockenspiel depends on the:

  • Bar material
  • Type of support structure
  • Style of construction

cleaning glockenspiel barsDealing with Normal Wear and Tear

It is quite normal for Glockenspiels that see frequent use to begin to show the effects of many hands and mallets on the bars.  You can expect a bit of dirt and grime and regular cleaning can quickly restore the bars to their former glory. There are some tips you can use to keep your Glockenspiel looking and sounding like it was new.

  • Clean when needed – It isn’t necessary to clean the bars of your Glockenspiel every day or even after every use.  Wipe the bars down with a soft cloth damped with a good cleaning solution when the bars begin to show the effects of being handled. Don’t spray the bars.  Spray the cloth and then wipe the bars with the damp cloth.
  • Don’t forget the underside – Clean the underside of the bars, and the support structure as well.  Follow the same procedure wiping with a soft cloth dampened with a good cleaning solution.
  • Check for damaged or worn parts – While you are cleaning, check the Glockenspiel for loose screws, damaged, or missing parts.  Replacement parts are available for most of the better Glockenspiels.

Provide a Periodic Deep Cleaning

Occasionally you should give your Glockenspiel a deeper cleaning. It isn’t necessary to remove the bars or disassemble the instrument to perform this routine.  In most instances, once a year is a good schedule for an instrument that sees regular use.  Accomplishing a deeper cleaning doesn’t require a lot of time.

  1. Start with a basic cleaning – Begin your deeper cleaning with a wipe down of the bars as outlined above.  A good wipe down gives you a chance to see where extra attention may be needed.
  2. Use a non-abrasive kitchen scrub pad – Where dirt or grime has built up and resists a simple wipe down, use a non-abrasive kitchen scrub pad to attack these spots.  Don’t get too aggressive.  On some instruments with color-coded bars, too much scrubbing may scratch or remove the paint that covers the bars.
  3. Check the support structure – Clean the supporting structure as well.  If the Glockenspiel sits typically in a case when being played, remove the instrument from the case to clean the underside and to inspect more easily.  If screws need tightening, do so carefully.
  4. Clean the case – If your Glockenspiel lives in a case, clean and inspect the case as well.  Cases tend to collect things and you may be surprised what you find nestled inside the case along with the Glockenspiel.

Rehabilitating a Glockenspiel

If you are lucky enough to find a neglected, abused, or forgotten Glockenspiel, you may need to do a bit of rehabilitation.  Many Glockenspiels have been relegated to the top shelf of a storage closet because the owner or player thought them beyond repair.  Many times, there are simple means to what looks like an overwhelming problem.

  • Tape, stains, and Stuck-on debris – Often, you will find a Glockenspiel that has been put away for years with tape or other material stuck to the bars.  Removing this material without damaging the bar looks challenging but is often accomplished by soaking the stuck on tape or other material with a solution of baking soda and vinegar.
    1. This cleaning method requires removing the bars from the frame.  Do so carefully and put the screws in a safe place.
    2. Place the bars to be cleaned in a deep cup or bowl.  The bars should not touch, and you may need to clean each bar separately.
    3. Pour enough vinegar in the bowl to cover the bar thoroughly and then slowly add a teaspoon of baking soda.  The baking soda and vinegar will fizz and try to rise out of the bowl.
    4. Soak the bar until the grime, stains, or stuck on materials have been removed.  You may need to add more baking soda on tougher problems.
    5. Rub the bars gently with a soft cloth or a non-abrasive kitchen scrub pad.
    6. Rinse the bar well with clean water then rub a small amount of oil on the bars to prevent rust.
  • Making the bars shine – If your bars are metal with no color or paint, you can restore the soft sheen of the metal by using OOO steel wool to polish the metal of the bar.
  • Don’t forget the frame – If the screws that hold the wooden frame together and hold the bars to the frame are loose, tighten them gently.  Don’t over-tighten to prevent damaging the wood.  If the screws won’t tighten, a drop or two of wood glue in the holes usually works to solve the problem.

If the bars suffer from rust, this process may remove most of the rust.  The steel wool will further help remove the rust and stains.  Some stains just won’t come off.  The stain gets into the pores of the metal and resists any attempt at cleaning.  These stains should not affect the quality of the sound produced by the Glockenspiel.

A Word about Bar Material

  • Aluminum – Less expensive Glockenspiels have bars made of aluminum mass-produced by stamping the bars.  The quality and tone of these instruments can vary greatly. When choosing a cleaner for a Glockenspiel with aluminum bars, be sure that the cleaning solution is safe to use on aluminum.
  • Metal – More expensive instruments have metal bars that are individually cut, polished, and tuned.  These instruments can vary in price from a few dollars to hundreds of dollars.  Hand-tuned metal bars are incredibly durable and, if properly cared for, will last for many years.
  • Brass – A few Glockenspiels have brass bars.  Cleaning these bars is no different than cleaning other metal bars.  However, over time, the brass may begin to darken.  To restore the bright shiny appearance, use a high-quality brass polish.

What is the difference between a Glockenspiel and a Xylophone?

The significant difference between a Glockenspiel and a Xylophone is the material of the bars.  The xylophone bars have wooden bars and the Glockenspiel has metal bars. Xylophones are much larger instruments with a broad range of tones.  Glockenspiels are smaller and, because of the size and the bar material, have a higher range of tones.

Time to Make Beautiful Music

Nothing is more satisfying than making music from something as simple as a Glockenspiel.  Whether teaching children or playing for your enjoyment, the quality of sound is dependent on the quality of the care given to the Glockenspiel.  Don’t neglect your instrument.  A few minutes spent regularly can add years of enjoyment and use to your Glockenspiel.



Josh Olswanger

I've been playing and writing music since the age of 13. My father is a piano tuner/technician of 40 years, and I've been musically involved in all aspects from composing, to recording, producing and playing live for most of my life. I've always had a fascination and appreciation for all types of music and musical instruments, so creating this site is a perfect outlet to share my knowledge.

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