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Thread: Marimba bars

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    Default Marimba bars

    Hey

    I was jusy wondering if someone could give there opinion on different types of bars. I know that rosewood is the ideal material but, whats up with all the other types of bars.

    Thanks A Ton

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    There are two basic types of bars, wood and synthetic.

    Wood bars are usually made of Rosewood (the best stuff comes from the forests of Honduras) and Paduak(comes from Africa).

    Rosewood Is the premium material for instrument bars. Its tonal quality is unparalleled and If you have the money and are willing to take care of them, you'll want to get a marimba with bars made of rosewood. You will not find a single marimba artist that plays on any other type of bar.

    Pros:
    -Sound Quality
    -Will stay in tune longer then any type of wood

    Cons:
    -Like any type of wood, if you bring it outdoors(why would you, are you a drum corps junkie or something, jk i like DC just as much as any percussionist) , your $11,000 keyboard will be destroyed after the first raindrop touches it.
    -Dents easily (don't think about playing on a wooden bar with plastic, extra hard rubber or metal mallets).

    Paduak Is an african wood that is a little harder and more dense then rosewood. It is used by the adams and vancore company on their low level instruments. The sound quality of paduak doesnt come close to that of rosewood, it will sometimes be surpassed in sound quality by synthetic bars)

    Pros:
    -It's about 10 times cheaper then Rosewood
    -It's wooden, so i guess if you took a picture of it someone might think you have a nice rosewood marimba (sorry that was a bit mean)
    Cons:
    -Falls out of tune very easily and very quickly
    -Sound quality doesnt approach that of even bad rosewood
    -Like any wood bar, will be destroyed by rain


    Synthetic are used for two reasons. First, they will survive more rainstorms then the michelin man and second, is much more durable. They will hold up the constant abuse of school chil'rens.

    Three basic type/models of synthetic bars.

    Kelon This is the brand name bar of the musser company. The kelon line marked the entrance of synthetic marimbas into the percussion market. While they have survived the test of time they are probably the worst synthetic bars on the market. Described as "glassy" sounding they tend to project to many high overtones. While they have an 'ok' sustain of the fundamental from up close, that sound is lost quickly when you start to walk away from the instrument. They project well but they don't project the right sound.

    Zelon This is the brand name bar of the adams company. I have never played on zelon bars but they are not as popular in the drum corps world so that would lead me to believe that many of the front ensemble gurus have not found their sonic properties less fit then other brands. People I know have described them as sounding too much like musser's kelon bars.

    Acoustalon Devised by the folks at yamaha Acoustalon bars represent the closest sound to a rosewood bar. They have a very warm yet mellow tone that projects the fundamental and lower overtones very well. These are by far the best quality synthetic bars on the market and if your in the market for some marimbas/xylos for an outdoor ensemble, these are the bars for you.


    To summarize both types of material have their place in music but when it comes to the concert hall we must realize that there is no alternative to the best material. You will never find a concert clarinetist that plays on a plastic clarinet. How does that translate to our art? well.... If you slap some synthetic bars on Bob Van Sice's Keyboard he's not going to play it, because it's not going to sound good to anybody's ears.
    Adam Rosen,
    The Peabody Conservatory

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    Thanks tons of great info. any one brand you would recomend

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    Yes sure, but what do you want, rosewood or synthetic? How many octaves (4.3/4.5/4.6/5.0) and what do you want to use it for?
    Adam Rosen,
    The Peabody Conservatory

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    how about one for rosewood and synthetic for a 4.3 octave. Im a college student looking to buy one for use at home and maybe a couple gigs or something.

    Thanks

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    If you're on a tight budget, you should check out some Paddauk marimbas. All of the above statments are true, they don't hold their tune, the sound isn't as rich or full sounding as rosewood, and they dent even easier than rosewood, but I think you can't beat the sound for the price. I'd take Paddauk over a synthetic considering the price.

    Check out the Musser Studio marimba, It runs about 2800 dollars, but the advantage is you can upgrade to rosewood bars down the line, alot of the other Paddauk marimbas don't allow you to do that. Plus it looks very nice.

    I like Adams stuff, but I don't like the look of them. They went for a updated Deagan sort of look and it just doesn't work IMO. But the quality is good.

    Also as far as the synthetics, if you buy a used instrument, check out the pre circa 1980 Musser Keylon. There is a difference, not alot of people know this. I don't know what happened but the early keylon marimbas were far less ringy and glassy toned as the new ones. The new keylon borders on resembling a vibraphone.

    For the new stuff I agree, the Acoustalon is the only way to go. Although I'm not a big fan of Yamaha mallet instruments. Very cheaply made IMO, lots of rattles and unwanted sounds from the frame. The bars are good though.

    Also check out Ross, they make some less expensive rosewood models that are very good.

    Another good one is Coe marimbas. They're just a small machine shop in Florida, but they make a sturdier product than all the big names, and he makes a resonably priced Paddauk marimba. The rosewood models are pretty expensive though.

    Unfortunately Malletech, who IMO makes the best marimbas, bar none, does not really make a low end marimba. They do make a practice marimba that has factory second bars, but you get no resonators.

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    If your a college student, the best advice I can give is to NOT waste your money at this point. Sometime in the future your probably going to want to move up to a 5 octave instrument. Is this sounding right so far?

    If so, I'd reccommend the Adam's Robert Van Sice 4.3 marimba. Sure it costs $5,000 bucks, but the part that makes this a good deal is that when you want to move up to a five octave instrument all you have to do is purchase an 5.0 octave extension kit that you add onto the marimba you already own.

    Sure you could by a lesser quality now, but when you want to get a 5 octave you'll have to sell that junky Ross that now has 8 bad keys, you'll only get like 1/4 of your original money back and then you have to go and buy a $10,000 instrument. Not the best situation.

    If your not looking to move up to a 5 octave or larger ever, I'd reccomend you try and find yourself a nicely looked after old Kori 4.3.

    Kori has absolutely the most resonant bars on the planet, bar none. The owner KNOWS rosewood like nobody. And he KNOWS he knows it, the way an artist knows he/she is good. No ego there. Just confidence. He knows how to select and dry to a degree no one else has learned yet. Alas, the present importer of Kori is a #$%^&* (. But this situation should soon be rectified and Koris should become available again. -Bill Youhass, Fall Creek Marimbas
    Adam Rosen,
    The Peabody Conservatory

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    I agree with you 100% about Kori, I totally disagree about getting 1/4 of your value back. Any marimba holds value well assuming you take care of it. Hell, I sold a used Musser Keylon for 2500, I bought it for 3000.

    Also if you want a 5.0 octave instrument the Van Sice is about the last model I'd reccomend. Adams bars are good but the frame/resonators are cheaply made. For 10 grand on a 5 octave insturment, Malletech, Coe, and Marimba one, make a much nicer better quality built marimba than Adams (sorry Pearl).

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    What you guys think about Vancore marimbas?

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    They are decent for the price, again the sound isn't going to be like rosewood, but for the price and quality, it is a good deal if you need something for practice and some gigging.

    Personally I'd recommend the Musser Studio Paddauk over the Vancore for about 600 bucks more because 1) the frame is sturdier, 2) you can upgrade to rosewood bars down the line and 3) the Musser will hold it's value better.

    But having been there/ done that back when I was in school, I understand your dillemma.

    I only wish the options for all the various types of marimbas being made now was availible back when I was in school. I had to settle on a Keylon, for quite a bit of money, and was ultimately not satisfied.

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    Unless your going to get Ron Samuels at Marimba One or Demorrow make you a custom marimba the 5.0 Octave Van Sice Marimba is the best out there. The reason people have a problem with it is they never have enough experience with it. It is a very solid frame that can handle more then any i've ever seen. I've played pretty much every marimba out there and the Van Sice is the best out there. When you get a good set of keys (Adams is getting much better with this) you'll be hard pressed to find a better board anywhere. I've studied with guys who play on all of the major boards including Van Sice and this is a great keyboard. You really have to play them for awhile to know their worth. We have 3 five octave van sice's up here at Peabody and they are practiced on up 20 hours a day each, they stand up better then anything. Try doing that to a yamaha, malletech, marimba one, coe, musser or a vancore (which by the way stole the design of their frame from adams and of course adams stole it from someone else (not telling!))

    Oh yes and vancores. Find something else. They arn't made well. The mechanisms in the frame are just not machined right and their tuning is off.
    Adam Rosen,
    The Peabody Conservatory

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    Well I disagree about the Van sice or any flared box resonator marimba for that matter. As I said Adams makes nice bars, but that's about all I can say.

    Alot of people give Leigh a hard time about this, but he is 100% correct, square resonators give off non harmonic overtones, and brass resonators are louder than aluminum. If I'm shelling out 10 grand on an insturment, I'll take a solid oak frame over metal any day of the week.

    I too have played on both. I'm not saying the Van Sice is not a bad instrument by any means, but you can tell which one is mass produced. They don't make flared box resonators because they sound better.

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