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Sunday, 30 April 2017 07:59

Bar tuning

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Ofcourse the main part in a vibraphone, and as this determines for the major part the quality of the instrument, are the bars. In general, manufacturers know how to tune bars. Some tune accurate, some tune a bit less accurate. Many of the manufacturers however are using the same dimensions as their competitors, and using the same tuning scheme being tuning the fundamental and up to a certain bar, also a 1st overtone (double octave).

Sound character

I believe, as a manufacturer I need to offer a line of  instruments with its own unique sound character. Getting this unique sound character is achieved in several ways:

  • applying triple tuning instead of the usually applied tuning
  • using a different alloy
  • using different dimensions
  • using a different surface treatment

These are the parameters known to make adjustments to the sound character. Not varying any of the above will not let you change sound character. Do understand that I am talking about the acoustic sound of the bars itself. The frame and its construction also do alter the sound character, which is why some vibraphone models sound better than others, and some don't sound good at all.

Triple Tuning

On our vibraphones, I apply triple tuning instead of the regular tuning method. Triple tuning means an extra partial / overtone is tuned. This does offer a more consistent sounding bar, and specially in the low range it offers a more pleasing sounding bar. Triple tuning means tuning the fundamental, the 4th partial (double octave) and the 10th (octave and major third above the 4th). To my knowledge, only the vanderPlas vibraphones are applied with the triple tuning.

There are several options manufacturers have for choosing alloys, but any manufacturer does have to use the alloys that are available in the market. No manufacturer will be able to experiment and use its own recipe as alloy. The vibraphone market is too small for any manufacturer to mix its own recipe. I use one of the harder alloys, but for sure not the hardest. The harder the alloy, the more brilliant and less nasal the sound will become.


From a players perspective, vibists like to have all vibraphones to be equipped with bars of the same dimensions. A big advantage then is, that they can travel with their own bars and place them on other "local" frames. The big downside with this however is, that all bars will start to sound the same, no matter what brand. Again, this is not what I am after. Our bars are a bit wider, which favours the fundamental volume, making the bar appear warmer. This may have the disadvantage that a player has to adjust to the width of the bars, but that is only a small and short discomfort: look at marimbas, each marimba brand has its own barsizes, and marimbaists adapt. 

Last and for all, I apply a different surface treatment to our bars. This really makes a difference in sound: so much that I will dedicate a seperate article about on a later date.

Stay tuned!

Read 2712 times Last modified on Wednesday, 10 January 2018 11:59

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