A mallet percussion instrument is a melodic percussion instrument played in a particular fashion, with mallets. Mallet percussion includes:
The use of mallet percussion dates back at least 4,000 years to the first known xylophone. Mallet percussion was first used in a modern European orchestra in 1874, when Camille Saint-Saëns used a xylophone in his Dance Macabre.
Modern mallet percussion instruments exist at many levels, from toy glockenspiels such as the Pixiphone popularly (and incorrectly) known as xylophones, to orchestral instruments, and including many folk instruments. Many of these are diatonic, while professional mallet percussion instruments are chromatic keyboard percussion instruments, set out in a fashion similar to a piano keyboard.
Although all mallet percussion is played with types of percussion mallet, the converse is not true. Not all instruments played with percussion mallets are termed mallet percussion instruments, and not all percussion mallets are used to play mallet percussion instruments. Rather, the term percussion mallet is applied very widely, including for example tympani sticks and even drum sticks and the beaters used for untuned gongs.