Sunday, December 16, 2012

Crafting Your Marimba

And here I proudly present a new video from Seattle videographer Izzy Corey documenting the building and delivery (by me!) of a 2 octave soprano "Lowrider" marimba. This is about 20 minutes long and will be of interest to young malleteers, teachers, parents - anyone who is curious about how these instruments are created.

Crafting Your Marimba from Tom Bourne on Vimeo.

Because the world needs MORE marimba builders, the follow-up to this video will be a longer version intended for folks planning to build their own marimba. No doubt that crafty craftsman you know can view this shorter version and get a good start, and the forthcoming longer version will be the "director's cut", narrated by me and covering all the details of marimba building start to finish. Stay tuned!

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Baffling Baffles

I believe I've built over 200 of my Aussie model over the years, and as a box resonator instrument covering three and a half octaves, it took alot of experimenting with the box dimensions to get a fairly consistent presence of sound across the entire range. Finally I stumbled upon the sizings that seem to produce a good strong sound for every note. But there are many variables at play in musical instruments and I introduced a new one with a recent batch of 3 Aussies, incorporating 1/4" plywood for the sides instead of the customary 3/8". Makes for a lighter instrument to tote around a classroom, and with that thinner ply vibrating as it does, these new Aussies might just be a tad louder than the thicker-walled variety. The middle range is especially strong.

Building all three boxes with the same dimensions and materials and bar wood, you might expect them to all sound the same. Hah! Aussie #3, it turns out, has a decidedly weaker sounding Low C, something I dont like to have in an instrument where the key of C is king. So I switched out the low c bar from one model to the next. Same result, Aussie #3 is definitely weaker on that important root tone.

So I did what any dissatisfied Aussie builder can do, which is to measure out the inside dimensions at around the low G note and fashion a baffle that can be inserted to produce an entirely different vibrational profile. Low and behold, the Aussie #3 Low C comes through loud and clear now, and sounds on par with her sister instruments. Hmmm.... baffling.......

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

My Idea for Orff-Style Bass Bars

A couple things have always bothered me re: the traditional Orff bass bars that are commonly available. The bars are really narrow compared to the box they sit on, and each tone you buy sets at a different height. So a collection of these bass bars seems like several different random single note instruments, with the notes so far apart, both sideways and up/down-wise. Poor young malleteers!

So here are my Bourne Marimbas Bass Bars with double-wide American ash bars perched on boxes that share the same height - set them up in a row and you have .... ONE INSTRUMENT! Music teacher Bart Roderick of Yakima, WA has a full set of these now, he seems to like them.

My first generation of these bass bars left me unconvinced - I couldn't seem to dial in a consistent resonance on the boxes. But I do believe I've solved those problems, so these are available if you yearn for bass bars that are created equal, united side by side to form a more perfect bass marimba!

The Box Baritone

I haven't made one of these in several years, but they always impress me. It's got a good solid sound and rolls and stores upright like my Lowriders and Aussies. So it takes up much less space during its downtime (uptime?) than the regular Baritone, and stands lower to the ground as well. A good low end sound for the really young kids to belly up to. It's the Baritoniest!

The bars are made of ash, which I have switched to on all my baritones.

note: All good things have wheels.