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I have to replace the bar cord on our marimba and I’m TERRIFIED! Got any “how to” help?

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.
{ 5 comments… add one }
  • Tom Rye August 13, 2016, 9:16 am

    I have an older portable Deagan Marimba model 333 that is 2 1/2 octaves 36 inches long. I do not know the size of the cord. I need the cord and the rubber connecting pieces that go between each of the bars. Thanks Tom

  • Roy Lewis November 1, 2017, 2:57 pm

    I have just acquired a Deagan 354 Marimba for my son, who has been plying marimba for five years now. It has been stored for almost 40 years, and appears to be complete, but in need of serious TLC. None of the wood plates are cracked, and I can find no faults in the resonator tubes. All finishes are dull, but it looks like some metal polish and Danish oil on the wood should handle most of that. I assume the suspension cords need to be replaced. What type of cord do I need? What size? What else should I look out for?

  • Alison Peacock November 9, 2017, 2:25 pm

    where can I get the replacement cord for an SPL 2.75 octave xylophone?

  • Kathrine Dyer March 28, 2018, 11:25 am

    I am looking to build my own marimba and need some help on where to buy string. If someone has any tips please let me know.

  • Tim Crossman April 8, 2018, 12:24 am

    I have a Deaghan Model 590 Imperial Nocturne Vibraharp. The posts aren’t all aligned or at the same depth. Since they are simply pressed into the wood I presume this is the result of 60 odd years of being bounced around. But I have no idea what the proper configuration or placement of the posts should be. I have replaced cracked gaskets with pieces of surgical tubing but again am unclear on their proper installation/purpose. Are they meant to keep tiles above posts or is string tension alone responsible. And what is their a proper height differential with the hooked end posts

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