At Steve Weiss Music, we get asked all the time about replacing bar cord on a marimba, xylophone or vibraphone. Jeff Phipps, our Educational Department Manager, wrote the following article. Please contact him via the Educational Department portion of our website if you need any personal assistance deciding on what bar cord to purchase or anything else percussion or if you need any additional information.

Replacing bar cord on any instrument is more or less just putting it back the way you found it. Plus, you’ll have the upper register or lower register to look at as an example while you work on the other one. There’s no tools needed, nor any special technique or experience needed. You’ll do fine. Here’s a couple tips…

  1. Make sure you get the proper length replacement cord. We can get you that for all brands and models if you don’t already have it.
  2. You’ll find two springs attached to one another on one end of the instrument. Unhook them and untie the old cord from the springs. Don’t lose the springs of course.
  3. Pull the old cord out, leaving the keys in place.
  4. Get the new cord and run a cigarette lighter underneath the last 2 inches of both ends of the new cord, one end at a time. This will keep it from fraying as you try to thread it through the keys. You don’t want to light it on fire, just heat it up enough to start it melting and getting more firm. Don’t burn your fingers.
  5. Match the two ends up like you would shoelaces and start threading them through. One end through one hole, the other through the other hole. Once you get a few keys done you can go back and make sure the cord is laying in the little saddle posts between each key properly.
  6. Once you’ve threaded the cord through all the keys, go to the high end of the instrument and be sure to loop the cord over the posts that are parallel and to the right the highest bar. This will anchor them in place before you reattach the springs on the low end.  Make sure all of the keys and cord are sitting where they should for normal playing. Once they are, you’ll need to go to the low end and pull on the cords to make them tight and tie each end to the springs, just re-doing what you un-did earlier. Don’t forget to put them over the posts that are parallel to the left of the lowest key before reattaching the springs.
  7. The only tricky part is that you have to tie the springs on at the right place on the cord ends so you get the right amount of tension. You should have to muscle it a bit to get the springs to re-hook to one another like they were in the beginning. If it’s too loose you’ll need to untie and move the knot/connection point between the spring and cord, closer to the keys. This might take some trial and error until you get the tension right.
  8. The tension is right when the cord is tight and provides the right amount of suspension so the bars are not touching anything underneath them, even when played on.

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Students and performers today have access to a larger selection of mallets and instruments than ever before.  Naturally this can make selecting mallets a daunting task.  Rattan or birch, yarn or cord, round or oval, length, weight?  The choices seem virtually endless.  It is no surprise that we at Steve Weiss Music constantly receive requests for advice when it comes to purchasing the “right” mallets.  The problem?  There is no one “right” set of mallets.  That being said, here are some ways to avoid purchasing the wrong mallets.

Price
While we all love to save money, it is important to remember that the instrument you play sounds only as good as the mallet you use to play it.  Even a top of the line instrument can sound unpleasant when struck with the wrong implement.  Often a few extra dollars can be the difference between a good sound and a great sound.  As your collection grows, be sure you have a quality mallet bag to protect your investment.

Handle Material
The majority of mallet handles are made from either birch or rattan.  Birch is a light but stiff wood which will retain its shape quite well over time.  Rattan is a slightly heavier and more flexible material.  Over time, rattan handles may develop a slight curve.  For most players, this is nothing to worry about, but more particular players may find this problematic.

It is important to note that both birch and rattan mallet handles are used by players of all levels all around the world, and that choosing one over the other is simply a matter of personal preference.

Handle Length
Like the other factors we have listed so far, handle length will ultimately come down to the player’s personal preference.  That being said, it is worth  mentioning that the majority of Stevens-grip players tend to prefer a slightly shorter handle, while cross-grip (or traditional) players tend to prefer a longer handle.  This is a logical trend, as longer mallet handles are required to achieve the same intervals for cross-grip players.  Stevens-grip players sometimes find that a longer mallet handle feels heavier than they prefer.

Mallet Weight
It is fairly common for cross-grip players to prefer a heavier mallet, due to the mechanics of the grip they are using.  Once again, the opposite is true for players using Stevens grip, who tend to gravitate toward a somewhat lighter mallet.

We normally recommend that beginners start with light mallets so that they can focus on developing proper playing technique without feeling fatigued or strained, which can sometimes accompany playing with a heavier mallet.

Yarn vs. Cord
Yarn mallets are used primarily for wooden instruments, particularly the marimba, due to their warm sound quality.  Using yarn mallets on a metallic instrument such as a vibraphone will typically not produce the strong fundamental tone the player is generally looking for.

As you may have guessed, the inverse is true of cord mallets, which produce a more articulate tone, making them much more suitable for instruments like the vibraphone.  Cord mallets can be used on the marimba as well, when the player desires a more pointed tone with a faster decay.

For these reasons, yarn mallets will often be marketed as “marimba” mallets, while most “vibraphone” mallets are made with cord.

Hardness
Most mallets today are produced in a line, or series, of different hardnesses.  As one might expect, soft mallets will generally sound their best in the lower range of the instrument, and may not speak well in the upper register.  Of course the opposite will be true of harder mallets.  We always recommend that beginners start with a medium mallet.  From there, a medium-hard and then medium-soft mallet would be the next logical additional to your set.  Try to avoid extremes (ie, very soft, two-toned, etc.) until you have a comfortable selection of medium, general-purpose mallets.  Remember, it is ultimately the player’s job to achieve the desired dynamic, not the mallet’s.

The Bottom Line
When you add up all of these different factors, it is easy to see that there is no one perfect mallet out there.  Most players spend years building their collection of mallets, ensuring that they always have the right mallet for the task at hand.  It is important to remember that the ultimate goal when selecting mallets is to produce the best tone possible on your instrument.  For most of us, it will take some experimentation to find the combination that feels good in our hands and produces the sound we want.  Be sure to take note of what you like and dislike about each and every set of mallets you play, which will help you avoid the “wrong” mallets we mentioned earlier.  From there, it’s just a matter of time before you know exactly which mallet to reach for on your next piece.

Still have questions?  Give us a call at 888-659-3477, or email us at.

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Marimba One Releases New 3100 Series Marimbas

by Steve Weiss Music on April 10, 2015

Marimba One 3100 Series Marimba

Marimba One recently released a new 3100 series marimba to go along with their existing Soloist and Izzy models. This series is a redesign of the well-known 3000 series, and incorporates many of the upgrades made in the 2015 released Izzy series. The largest difference is the ability to use the new aluminum rail system (wood rails also available) and the way the rails mount onto the end caps. Tweaks to the resonator and bar voicing, along with the improvements to the frame make the 3100 series a great option for anyone considering purchasing a Marimba One Marimba.

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How to Choose What Drums to Purchase for Your Drumline

January 17, 2014

At Steve Weiss Music, we get asked all the time what drums customers should purchase for a specific number of players in a drumline. Jeff Phipps, our Educational Department Manager, wrote the following article. Please contact him via the Educational Department portion of our website if you need any personal assistance deciding on what to […]

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Meinl Cajon Sale

February 25, 2013
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Meinl Cajons have been extremely popular lately, so we decided to create a new sale for them. We’re currently offering a FREE Meinl Snare Bongo Cajon when you purchase the Meinl Black Makah Burl String Cajon. This model cajon happens to be one of the best selling cajons available, and the freebie snare bongo cajon […]

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Custom Drums Information Now Available

December 26, 2012
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We recently spent a lot of time updating the Custom Drums category on our website.   You can now browse information on custom drums from Gretsch, Ludwig, Pearl and Yamaha.  An easy to use contact form provides quick access to our custom drum set experts for pricing, build time, available options and more.  This section of our […]

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Should you buy or rent a marimba?

July 16, 2012

Many customers contact us to see if we offer marimba rentals.  We may rent marimbas at some point, but up until now we’ve always suggested that you purchase a marimba instead of renting one.  In our opinion, renting a marimba should not be used in place of financing a purchase.  Here are a few points […]

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Buying Your First Drum Set

May 11, 2012

Buying a first drum set for yourself, a school or church, or the young drummer in the family, can be an overwhelming task if you aren’t familiar with all of the technical features and characteristics of this instrument. There are a few things to keep in mind when looking for one, and we’ve just made […]

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Tuned Gongs Introduction

January 16, 2012

Over the past few months, I have had the honor of welcoming a few shipments of tuned gongs into this country. I have learned there are many types of gongs, but a few tune more easily and accurately than others: The most popular are our Tuned Thai Gongs, featuring a raised center that is one […]

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HAPI Drums are now available from Steve Weiss Music!

August 5, 2011

HAPI Drums (Hand Activated Percussion Instrument)  are melodic steel tongue drums resembling a Hang Drum, Tank Drum, and many other similar products.  What sets HAPIs apart from these and other drums is the production quality, overall tone, and pricing. They have also been featured on the soundtracks for major movies and TV shows, and are played […]

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Marimba One Marimbas Now Available

July 26, 2011

Steve Weiss Music is excited to announce that we recently added Marimba One Marimbas to our selection of concert percussion instruments.  Three five-octave models ranging from $11,500 to $14,550 are available, in addition to our new Marimba One Custom Marimba Builder which offers a choice in frame type, range, optional bar upgrades and more.  All […]

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