Into the vibe

Sunday, 12 March 2017 07:00

Bar discomfort

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When I started building vibraphones, I ofcourse also started tuning regularly bars for other vibraphones. At one point a vibist asked me to tune a few of his Musser bars that went down big in pitch. Me, thinking being the guy who knows it all and thinking it was the quality of the particular bar that made the pitch drop so much, brought the pitch back to the original level. Wow, was I a craftsman ;-).

Months later the vibist dropped in again, telling me it dropped again. So me, thinking being the guy who knows it all and thinking it was the quality of the particular bar, looked deeper into the bar, and found that there was a small hardly noticable ''crack'' in the bar. I replaced the bar with a new one and told the guy it couldn't happen with my bars. Well: turned out I wasn't the guy who knew it all. After a couple of months :-D, the guy had exactly the same problem with my newly made bar. Again, the pitch of the bar had dropped in 2 or 3 weeks to almost a semitone

That made me realize something else was happening, and I asked and looked deeper into it.

It turned out this vibist was using bighead mallets (Milt Jackson model), with a very short shaft. Realizing, these mallets have no proper balance and lots of weight in the head, I suspected I found the cause of the problem. I advised the vibist to change mallets. I don't know if he ever did, but he never returned with the same problem anymore.

After this occasion, it happened a couple of times again, and it always happened within the range C5-G5, and in all cases the vibist was using this particular type of mallets: bigheads with a shorter shaft.
It doesn't matter what brand the bars made, as I said, I also had it with one of my own bars.

What happens here is that, when striking the bars, these particular mallets put a lot of energy in the bar, and due to the short shaft, the (unbalanced) mallet does not bounce back (energy is staying in the bar), causing in the end miniscule cracks in the bar. You would expect that specially in the low range where the "flimsy thin" bars are, the bars would suffer the most, but that is not the case. Apparently the thinner lower bars are flexible enough to withstand this energy. this however is not the case in the range C5-G5. I cannot tell if the same applies for the bars above, as I have the feeling these higher bars are not played as frequently as the once in the mentioned range, or maybe these bars due to the volume they offer, aren't being played with the same velocity as the ones mentioned.

When this sudden big drop in pitch happens, you're out of luck. It is impossible to retune the bar. After putting it back on pitch, within a few weeks the bar will be dropping in pitch again. There is only one remedy: replace.

You would expect that I, for commercial reasons, wouldn't mind selling new bars. TrueBut I do mind selling new bars for this reason.

For this reason, I don't like these bighead mallets at all. All I can say: manufacturers, don't offer mallets that destroy instruments.

Stay tuned! 

Read 1160 times Last modified on Wednesday, 10 January 2018 12:30