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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 addition 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

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

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 purchase, price quotes on Dynasty, Mapex, Pearl, Yamaha Drumlines or anything else percussion or if you need any additional information.

So you have the hard part down, you have eager students who want to be in the drumline. But now you need to evaluate their skills and determine who plays marching snare drum, tenors, bass drum, or cymbals. What should you look for?

MARCHING SNARE DRUM
The snare drum parts are typically those that require the most physical ability to play. The parts are usually relative to the main melody, yet may branch out to create their own “color” within the musical phrase. The snares, by virtue of their timbre, are also more exposed simply because they can usually be heard most easily. This tends to support the idea that your better players should be placed on snare drum.

MARCHING TENORS
In many cases the tenor parts are more related to the inner voices of your ensemble like the saxophones, or mellophones/french horns. But in a lot of cases with middle and high schools, they play the same parts as the snares, only spread over as many as 6 drums. This additional physical responsibility may require some of your top players to be on tenors. There is also an extra responsibility in reading the parts. This reading issue is the one to pay attention to. Some students just don’t have the ability to process the parts over multiple drums. Test them out by playing the same part on snare versus tenors and see how quickly or slowly they adapt to the multiple drums.

MARCHING BASS DRUM
The bass drum parts, although split up over multiple players, generally do not require as much individual playing ability as the other two sections. However, these students should be strong in terms of pulse because many times it is the bass line that creates the foundation for the busier snare and tenor parts to sit on top of. If you have players that count well and feel things well but may not have the strongest chops or reading ability yet, these would be good bass drummers.

MARCHING CYMBALS
Crashes and other cymbal colors can be easily replicated using stationary suspended cymbals. That’s not to say that a marching line isn’t valuable. But, when faced with the decision as to how to build the marching percussion section and educate the players, it is worth considering putting them on drums if they intend to continue to be percussionists. If you have a well-rounded battery section established, additional less experienced players certainly should go on cymbals. Look for an awareness and command of their bodies. This is not always easily found in young performers.

In general, you’ll want to have all voices properly represented. Over the years I have seen groups with 4 snares and 4 basses and one single tenor player. The tenor voice will not speak in this set-up. Or, one snare, one tenor and 5 basses and 4 cymbals. This is usually the result of two strong experienced players and a large group of newer students. The balance is off in both of these situations. Be sure that when playing at the same dynamic levels that all sections of the ensemble can be heard contributing to the overall ensemble sound, with winds included. Also, be conscious of building for the future. Those new kids who are not ready for snare and tenors yet need to get ready somehow. Giving the glory to the two kids that can play by making them the sole snare and sole tenor player will not prepare the younger ones for next year and beyond. In most cases, putting an inexperienced player next to a much stronger one will bring them along much faster than if left on a less challenging instrument.

A quick guide:

6 players: 2 Snare Drums, 1 Tenor, 3 Bass Drums 9 players: 2 Snare Drums, 2 Tenors, 5 Bass Drums
7 players: 2 Snare Drums, 1 Tenor, 4 Bass Drums 10 players: 3 Snare Drums, 2 Tenors, 5 Bass Drums
8 players: 2 Snare Drums, 2 Tenors, 4 Bass Drums 11 players: 4 Snare Drums, 2 Tenors, 5 Bass Drums
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Meinl Cajon Sale

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 completes your setup. The cajon sale ends on March 10th and is only available while supplies last.

Meinl Snare Bongo Cajon The cajon has been used for centuries in Afro-Peruvian music, and more recently in Cuban and flamenco music. The popularity of the cajon in pop music has exploded in the USA in the last decade. It is being used as a drum set replacement in acoustic settings, integrated into hand percussion and drum set setups, played with brushes and can be heard on many popular recordings. One common use of the cajon is to add a bass drum pedal, snare drum, and hi-hat to create a portable drum set like instrument.

Meinl has been instrumental in the growth of the popularity of the cajon, which is why we chose to partner with them on this incredible sale.

 

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Custom Drums Information Now Available

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 website is a great resource for looking at color swatches, full drum set color examples, detailed photos of options.  Please visit our Custom Drums page or as always, you can call us at (888) 659-3477.

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Should you buy or rent a marimba?

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 to consider:

  • Over the last 5 years, the price of a 4.3 octave padouk marimba has gone up anywhere from 5% to 40% (yes 40%!) depending on the brand.  Since we typically sell these marimbas cheaper then anyone else, you can usually sell the marimba used a few years later for close to what you paid for it.  If you rented for only 1 year, you would pay approximately $1000.  Chances are you’ll do much better by purchasing and reselling.
  • Most marimba rentals end up being for much longer then expected.  For example, if you rent senior year in high school to practice on for a college audition – chances are you are going to want a marimba to practice during the next 4 summers as well.
  • The quality and condition of the marimba you’ll get by buying one will probably be much better then the marimba rental.

These are a just a few things to consider when deciding whether or not to purchase or rent a marimba.  We normally suggest the Adams MSPV-43 Padouk Marimba or Yamaha YM1430C Padouk Marimba for most student or home practice use.  However, we have a lot of marimbas from Adams, Dynasty, Majestic, Malletech, Marimba One, Musser, and Yamaha available ranging from $1,295 to over $20,000.  If you have any questions or need any help with your purchase please give our staff a call at 888-659-3477.

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Buying Your First Drum Set

Drum SetBuying 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 the whole process much simpler with our new and effective filters in the Drum Set Category on our Website! Now you can refine the number of results that show up based on a few important criteria:

Brand: This might be more important to some than others, but if you have a favorite drummer that plays a brand that we carry, you might want to start your search there. We carry drum sets from Pearl, Yamaha, Gretsch, and Ludwig, so you’re sure to find a few that jump out at you! Just click on the “Brand” filter to see only the drum sets from that one manufacturer.

Shell Pack vs. Hardware Included: Some drum sets featured on our website include hardware (cymbal stands, snare stand, bass drum pedal, throne), whereas others only include the drums themselves (with drum heads and tom mounts). If you already have a pedal, some stands, or even a rack unit, then a shell pack might be better for you, but if you’re starting from scratch, wouldn’t it be nice to have more included? Simply select either option in the “Type” filter. Most brands have both options available.

Pieces: All this means is, “How many drums in your set?” – We have options for everything from a small 3-piece up to a large 7-piece, and everything in between! What goes into deciding how many pieces you’ll want for your drum set though? Typically, certain genres are associated with different drum set sizes: 3-4 pieces for Jazz and 5-7 pieces for Rock, but of course there’s always some cross-over depending on any one drummer’s personal taste. But those figures are a good place to start. The typical starter set is usually a 5 piece, right in the middle. This typically includes a bass drum, a snare drum, two rack toms, and a floor tom. Of course these all come in different sizes, but knowing how many you want of each is a great start. The filter labeled “Pieces” will help you narrow down your search for this. Some sets may or may not include a snare drum.

Bass Drum Size: This is another genre-specific characteristic most of the time, but again there are plenty of exceptions. Usually, a smaller bass drum (18”-20”) would be used for Jazz, while a larger bass drum (22”-24”) would be better suited for Rock and louder playing. As you’ll see, the standard sizes are 20”-22”, again right in the middle. Bass drum size may require other pieces of hardware to make the player more comfortable – specifically a small Bass Drum Riser for smaller-sized bass drums, to allow the pedal to still hit the center of the drum head, or tom stands/attachments if the toms aren’t mounted directly to the bass drum. But don’t let that hold you back – we have many options available for each of these accessories! Just select one of the options in the “Bass Drum Size” filter to easily see only the drum sets with your desired bass drum size. (We even have a Junior Set available for younger players featuring a 16” bass drum, ready to handle any genre and great for practicing and jamming!)

As with every page on our Website, you also have the option to sort your results alphabetically, or by popularity, rating, and price. Be sure to read the descriptions for each drum set to see what is included, as some even include cymbals or a free set-up video. However, if you find your perfect drum set and these are not included, they are available separately through our website (try similar filters in each of the Cymbal categories!). In addition to that, drum sticks, drum heads, and anything else you will need for your new drum set are available from Steve Weiss Music as well. Please feel free to give us a call with any questions you may have at 1-888-659-3477 – our experienced sales team is always glad to help!

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Tuned Gongs Introduction

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 of the characteristics giving them their unique sound and meditative quality. When struck, they have a clear fundamental pitch and a colorful array of warm overtones to give each gong its own “personality.” The fundamental is best heard when the gong is struck on the raised center, and the harmonics are clearer when struck about halfway between the center and the edge. We have successfully tuned these gongs to many pitches between B♭1 at ~59.9Hz (two ledger lines and a space below the Bass Clef) and G#5 at ~836Hz (just above the Treble Clef), with all quarter- or semi-tones within that range an option as well. These gongs do not distort easily because of the flanged edges and how thick they are compared to other gongs. The hand-carved designs on them really add to the overall aesthetics. I’ve had good luck recording them for percussion-based pieces I’ve written, and even playing a 13” G#3 like a hand drum in my lap focusing on the different areas of the gong for different overtones. We currently have these gongs for sale individually by size (no specified pitch, however they can be fine-tuned from where they are, within reason) and in the following tuned chromatic octave sets: Low (C2-C3), Mid (C3-C4), High (C4-C5), and Extra High (C5-C6). We can easily accommodate orders for specific pitches by phone/email/fax.

We also have mini Tuned Chau Gongs, which have a very clear and focused tone, a bit brighter than the Tuned Thai Gongs. These are sold only in chromatic octave sets C4-C5 and C5-C6 (not individually), however we do have other smaller Chau gongs available.

Opera Gongs, which “bend” up into a steady pitch, can be tuned here as well.  They have a bright tone and distort well for a “shimmering” sound when played at a loud volume. At a softer volume, these gongs have also have a nice warm tone. They are featured in Zivkovic’s multi-percussion pieces “Trio Per Uno,” and “Generally Spoken It’s Nothing But Rhythm,” among other popular percussion pieces.

The main focus when tuning and selling these gongs has been to make sure that everyone knows which octave the note(s) they want are in. We are using C4 as Middle C, and the gongs come to us based on A442. We can easily take any gong down to be based on A440 by request also. We go between the Helmholtz Designation (G#′′ / B♭, / etc.) written on the gongs when we receive them, to the Scientific Designation (G#5 / B♭1 / etc.) when we sort, tune, and sell them. There are a growing number of pieces that require tuned gongs, and they are fun instruments on their own – We are absolutely your best source for getting the right types and pitches for the right price!

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HAPI Drums are now available from Steve Weiss Music!

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 by some of today’s leading percussionists.

A few years ago when I was looking into purchasing some kind of melodic hand percussion instrument, I checked out many different types before deciding on an Original HAPI Drum (and later purchasing a second in a different key).  The HAPI drum is sturdy and well made, not too heavy, with an optional soft case for travel.  The tone is what really sold me on this drum.  It has a warm, full sound, with a very solid, precise, and focused pitch – it doesn’t sound like you’re banging on a propane tank – and will never need to be re-tuned like other brands do.  The overtones are very controlled, and because of the way the notes are arranged on the drum, when one note is struck the others ring sympathetically with it, adding to the texture for an overall “colorful” sound, with many percussive as well as melodic qualities.  The drum can be played with hands/fingers or mallets.  The pricing is also very reasonable for this type of drum.  With Hang/Halo Drums being difficult and pricey to get a hold of and even selling on ebay for thousands more, I quickly narrowed down my options to the HAPI Drum and maybe one or two other brands.  But with the scale options, ease of ordering, and especially being able to hear and see demos of it, the HAPI Drum ended up on the top of my list.

The way the notes are arranged on the HAPI Drum is another interesting feature, as I briefly mentioned before.  By placing a higher pitch next to a lower pitch all around the drum, this helps the sympathetic ringing to create the overall tone.  The scale (ascending and descending) is arranged to be very easy to play, too.  The Original and Slim HAPI Drums have eight notes of a pentatonic scale, which is great for non-musicians or hobbyists to be able to take it right out of the box and make some beautiful music without spending years practicing technique.  That being said, I have composed a few pieces on my HAPI Drums using techniques borrowed from tabla and latin percussion playing, with more musical concepts involved, meaning that any level of player will instantly feel right at home with the HAPI Drum and enjoy what it has to offer for many years.  It also sounds great with any other instrument, and comes across sounding great on a recording!

The HAPI UFO is a different take on the other two styles, as it only comes in a C Major diatonic scale in the Hammered Copper Finish, with 11 notes instead of eight.  The Original HAPI Drum is available in E and D, Major and minor pentatonic scales with the Aqua Teal Finish (Indigo Blue and Deep Purple available by request at no extra cost).  The HAPI Slim Drums are available in C Major, A Major, A minor, F Major, F# minor, G Major and G minor pentatonic scales, with a Black Finish only.  All HAPI Drums come with a pair of HAPI Drum mallets and 3 (removable) rubber feet attached the bottom of the drum so it doesn’t slide around on certain surfaces.  Soft cases sold separately (recommended!).  The HAPI Drum has become one of my favorite instruments to write for and jam with in many musical settings, and I look forward to hearing more of it through Steve Weiss Music.

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Marimba One Marimbas Now Available

Marimba One MarimbaSteve 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 of our exclusive Marimba One models feature an aged-copper resonator color that can not be purchased anywhere else.

Marimba One was founded by Ron Samuels in Arcata, CA in the early 1980’s.  He spent his next years acquiring the woodcraft and design skills that would enable him to make a world class instrument.  All Marimba One marimbas are handcrafted in the USA and feature an industry leading warranty.  Marimba One marimbas are used all over the world, played in prestigious colleges and universities, professional orchestras and high schools, and by classical and modern soloists and ensembles.

SW-4001: 4000 Series Frame, Traditional Keyboard, Classic Resonators $11,500
SW-4002:  4000 Series Frame, Traditional Keyboard, Basso Bravo Resonators $12,700
SW-4003:  4000 Series Frame, Enhanced Keyboard, Basso Bravo Resonators $14,550

Base models will be in stock for immediate shipment, while a custom marimba will be available in 4-6 weeks.

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