How do Freenotes Instruments work?

Freenotes Unique Designs Deliver Perfect Tone Forever

Appealing to All Ages and Abilities


Everyone can play Freenotes, regardless of musical training, and can step right into improvisational play with other players. No other system of musical instruments can offer this – especially to a novice. Freenotes are an ensemble of real musical instruments with distinct pure tones that blend into soothing sounds.  These percussion instruments are xylophones, chimes and marimbas that are perfectly tuned and  make musical expression accessible to everyone.

Of the wide variety of Freenotes instruments, each is designed around a fundamental system that is effective regardless of the final shape or size. Drawing upon years of experience with music theory, practical experience and an analytical mind, Richard Cooke (inventor of Freenotes) creates unique instruments that ensure a successful experience playing music from the very first note.

All Freenotes instruments are in the category of percussion instruments because they create a sound when hit with a mallet.  Most designs contain an air cavity (resonator) that amplifies and sustains the sound when struck.

Freenotes designs incorporate four, simplified musical principles that ensure not only a player’s success, but their enjoyment and satisfaction, as well as those listening nearby.

The Simplified Tonal System

Each instrument has a different combination of a few notes that work together – creating harmonious and complementary notes.  The simplified tonal system ensures that a satisfying combination of tonal qualities is achieved, regardless of shape, size or material with which the instrument was made. It is what allows for untrained musicians to improvise beautiful music, played totally by ear.

The Ergonomic Design

Very simply stated: Freenotes are designed to be easy to play. With the large scale of the Ted X
instruments, hand-eye coordination will either come naturally, or is easily developed, for people of all ages. Players see a note, aim with the mallet and strike. Each instrument has a unique mallet that is designed to produce the fullest sound from each note. The instruments are placed at an optimum 30-degree angle, for maximum ease of play by children, adults, elders and people with physical and cognitive challenges.

Various Types of Sound Quality Achieved Through Form and Materials

Freenotes musical instruments come in assorted shapes and sizes and are made from different materials in order to achieve the variety of tones . For sound quality and durability, most Freenotes are made from aluminum and fiberglass.

The sculptural instruments include: tuned bars, resonators, chimes, drums and bells. Tuned bars are flat pieces mounted over a resonator that vibrates when the note is struck. Chimes are long cylindrical tubes that hang in the air. Drums are long hollow cylinders, tuned to a specific pitch, with heads that are struck either with a mallet or an open hand. The bells are convex shaped, reminiscent of big mushrooms. Different tonal qualities are created by varying the dimensions of the tubes, bars and bells. The note will be pure and full when the bar is struck in the middle or on the end.

Some of the larger instruments, specifically the Pegasus, Glass Imbarimba and Swirl, have a Major pentatonic scale on one side and a corresponding Minor pentatonic scale on the other side,  This exclusive Freenotes feature allows for easy change from one scale to the other). In addition to fun musical exploration, it is useful for music educators to teach their students about Major and Minor scales.

Another very important feature of the design is that the tones are sustained for five seconds or longer. Players can hear the harmonies that are created as they strike the different notes; they don’t have to play fast. Playing is more gratifying because the sound lasts longer.

Building a Sound Sculpture

Freenotes are designed for durability.  They require minimal to no maintenance. With regular
use, they retain “like new” condition and the sounding elements never go out of tune. Additionally, the materials and construction methods are designed so the instruments sound good over a wide range of temperatures. Proof of the durability and longevity is in the numerous outdoor Freenotes installations that date back  16 years. Even exposed to constant severe weather, in places like Moab, Utah, the Freenotes still sound like new.

These four musical principles come together in Freenotes, resulting in individual and group sound sensations. A solo instrument is perfectly satisfying. Or, complex and exquisite combinations of tones can be created by having individuals play various instruments at the same time – similar to the way all the instruments in an orchestra come together to form one cohesive beautiful piece of music.

These principles combine to form the real reason Freenotes instruments “work”: they are just fun to play. They demystify and make musical expression entirely non-threatening. The instant gratification and total success that is achieved (by literally everyone who plays) builds self-confidence that spills over to many other areas of life. It encourages freedom of expression in whatever endeavors a person chooses to pursue. Freenotes encourage active participation in life as opposed to being a spectator. Creating beautiful music is not reserved for highly trained musicians – it is available to everyone.

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