The marimba is pitched an octave lower than its cousin, the xylophone. Both xylophone and marimba bars are usually made of rosewood, but the bars of the marimba are wider and thinner than those of the xylophone, which gives the instrument a richer tone. The marimba is typically struck with softer mallets, as well.
The term marimba is also used to refer to various traditional folk instruments, the precursors of which may have developed independently in West Africa and in Pre-Columbian MesoAmerica. In the most traditional versions, various sizes of natural gourds are attached below the keys to act as resonators; in more sophisticated versions carved wooden resonators are substituted, allowing for more precise tuning of pitch. Traditional marimba bands are popular in Guatemala and parts of the highlands of southern Mexico; gyil duets are the traditional music of Dagara funerals in Ghana.