Tuesday, December 20, 2011

The Last of the Purpleheart Baris

This Baritone goes to a school in Vermont and will probably be my last Bari with purpleheart. Purpleheart is another of those exotic woods I would like to replace with an American grown species. So my next Baritone will most likely be made of Ash, and I predict it will sound just dandy.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

My Christmas List

Note to friends: This is all I need for Christmas:

The Elwood Hybrid - Renovo Hardwood Bikes

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Name That Scale!

When purchasing a Bourne Marimba, many customers will include F# and Bb bars in the order - these extra bars are commonly used in the Orff curriculum. I used to include these extra bars in the price of my instruments, until I began to notice classroom closets full of unused F#s and Bbs! So now I charge a bit more for the option and make it the customer's choice.

One design advantage of my marimbas is their ability to accept a quick swap out of, say an F# bar for the F bar, getting you into the key of G. Or a Bb for the B, getting you into the key of F.

So that thin cording you see snaking over the bars allows them to remain on the instrument no matter how fortissimo they are bonked, whilst allowing, with a simple twist and pull at the end of any bar, removal of said bar. It's worked in thousands of Bourne Marimbas for well over a decade now. Also then, the bars remain on the instrument as it is tilted upright for wheeling and storing.

While many opt for the F# and Bb bars so common in Orff music,  I occasionally get a request for OTHER accidentals as well. How about C#s to get you into the key of D. Or whatever keys or modes are represented in THIS array:

name that key

One advantage to being a one-person operation: I can create whatever scale you are dreaming of!

Sunday, December 4, 2011

How Many Marimbas Can you Fit on a Semi?

Check out the Grantham (Washington) Marimba Ensemble, led by long-time customer-from-way-back -when Loa Vornholdt. I suggest clicking on the captions to experience them in full cinemascopic splendor. Un...be...liev...able!

Grantham by night

Grantham by day

Saturday, December 3, 2011

A Source for Cordage

nceHere is one source for what is currently my favorite cord to use on marimbas. A roll of this will last you a long time:

For suspending the bars you can use:
#5 gauge, available through SJM Parts

And for the lighter gauge restraining cord you can try:
#3 gauge, available through SJM Parts
This is great stuff, very tough and kinda cool looking too. This type of cord is vastly more durable than any common cordage you will find in the stores. Considering what it is used for, as pull cord for starting small engines, you know it needs to be pretty hardy.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Cordage Mysteries Revealed!

How do you replace or adjust worn out cordage?

Wonder no more! This series of videos pulls the veil on this enduring mystery. Now at last, you can replace that welter of makeshift knottage that over the years has accumulated with a couple simple tie-offs.


Under the Hood

Installing the Low (suspending) Cord

Tying off the Low Cord

Installing the Top (restraining) Cord

Installing the Bars

Removing the Slack

 Tying Off the Top Cord

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Testimonial of the Month

Here's the kind of note one likes to receive:

Hi Tom – these are a huge hit at school! We already did our first performance and several teachers came up to me to tell me it was one of the coolest things they had ever seen. They are easy to play, easy to move, sound great and are sturdy. Our department is stoked. Thank you so much! Believe it or not, we are toying with the idea of ordering some more.....

Hope to hear from you soon,

David Cameron
New International School of Thailand

Monday, November 21, 2011

And now for something completely different...

This has nothing to do with marimbas, but here it is anyway - a demo recording I did in Garageband of possible soundtrack for "A Midsummernight's Dream". The recording and performance are not perfect, but it came out OK for being a scratch recording ....

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Marimbas: Big Hit in Pittsburgh

I wish I could have made this evening marimba jam at the recent Pittsburgh AOSA (Orff) Conference.
recognize anyone you know?

Jam leader Scott Tarantino is ordering three of something.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Just in Time For Christmas

Here's the latest from Doug Edwards, as published by Heritage Music Press

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Inspiring Malleteers

Parents of young malleteers are naturally inspired to see their kids immersed in a school activity that instills so many grown up habits, with its emphasis on group collaboration, preparing for presentations, concentrating and executing a plan, sharing a passion. One local parent, artist Lynn Fleming, was led to her own act of creativity: this full size mural, which has adorned the music classroom for several years. Here's more on artist Lynn Fleming: http://www.cottagelakeartistguild.org/Lynn.html

Friday, November 11, 2011

Walnut It Is!

 I just finished two Minnie M's with bars made of Oregon Black Walnut, which is a variety of Claro Walnut. Sounds great! So I am moving full steam ahead with this source of Walnut as the replacement for padauk in my higher range tone bars.
  • This walnut all comes from the Willamette Valley in Oregon, USA.
  • It is all "urban salvage" - not the result of any sort of clearcutting or overcutting.
  • It actually costs me a little more than African padauk, in part because the persons cutting and milling the wood are getting American wages. Walnut is  considered by woodworkers to be a premium wood and is priced accordingly.
  • The sound is every bit as strong as padauk, but not as ringy. Definitely more "ethnic" or "folk" in its sound and definitely not as "European" in the way that orchestral marimbas are. That's fine with me, given the music most folks play on these instruments.

Monday, October 31, 2011

Meet the Bourne Marimbas Employee of the Month: Mr. Van Agon

Van Agon, on the job at Scatter Creek Rest Stop

- Head of Shipping and Employee Relations
- AKA, Boxful o' Memories
- Veteran of dozens of Seattle/Portland deliveries and lumber hauls
- 158,000 miles @ 20mpg, with no major repairs
- AKA, Getaway Van
- Veteran of dozens of rest-stop snoozes
- Beloved by smiling children everywhere
- Veteran of dozens of Snoqualmie Pass ascents (at 40 mph)
- AKA, Lil' Woody
- Congratulations, Van!

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Welcome to Walnut

Due to a current shortage of padauk I am switching to walnut as the tone wood for my soprano instruments. Whatever the long term availability of padauk may be, my goal is to replace tone woods harvested from the shrinking rain forests with tone wood harvested domestically.

Does walnut sound as good as good ol' padauk? Let me share with you this sound recording of Patricia Bourne's school marimba group performing on marimbas outfitted with, firstly, padauk bars and, secondly, walnut bars. Have a listen and tell me what you think. Also available, with more readable text, at: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SCyJyLZoX1o

Of course sound recordings never quite capture the live experience but I would be very interested to learn what reaction registers in that space between your two finely attuned ears.

FYI this tune is a choral accompaniment that Patty Bourne arranged for her elementary school kids.

Any impressions of Walnut vs. Padauk?

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Walnut Lowrider

Just finished 4 Walnut Lowriders, destined for a school in Brush Prairie, WA.

Walnut may indeed be my replacement for Padauk, we'll see. Recordings of these Walnut Lowriders forthcoming!

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Perils of Padauk II

Here's a picture of a padauk log being milled, somewhere in central/western Africa. Note the orange dust, which permeates every nook of my shop and stains clothing permanently pink.
I am almost out of padauk now, with only a small batch reserved for replacement bars. My next four soprano marimbas will have bars of walnut. From Oregon, USA.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

The Perils of Padauk

Construction has slowed a bit as I approach the bottom of my padauk (tone wood used for bars) inventory. I've spent several many hours in the past weeks scrambling for a source of padauk, and experimenting with a possible replacement wood. Fact is, in the 15 or so years I have been building marimbas for schoolkids, no other wood competes with padauk in terms of ringiness and availability of large quantities in preferable grain patterns. But the recession has dwindled our local supplies considerably and a variety of issues prevents me from obtaining a usable supply of padauk from other regions.

My dream has always been to replace padauk, which arrives stateside with a murky and questionable environmental pedigree, with some American tone wood. Along with the eco concern, in these tough times I would love to be able to claim "made and grown in America".

So, as the photo here documents, I am making Lowrider bars from a veritable rainbow coalition of wood types, in a renewed quest for some suitable padauk substitute. Can you name these wood types?

p.s. If you are getting hungry looking at this photo, it may be the resemblance to a certain perennially favorite flavor of ice cream!

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Malleteers are Making Music in Massachusetts

Here's some great new music published by two of my longtime customers on the Eastern Seaboard: Scott Tarantino and  Dave Ruggiero. They are building up quite a marimba scene in the suburbs of Boston.

This book contains 10 marimba pieces. They are presented according to their degrees of difficulty, ranging from the beginner to the advanced levels. All of the arrangements were inspired by authentic, Shona-style marimba music from Zimbabwe, but each has its own unique groove.

Monday, September 26, 2011

A Customer Asks:

Music teacher Marybeth Norby asks:
"Walla Walla (WA) is very hot and dry.  My marimba bars, especially the Aussies, are looking very dry.  Is there an oil that I can put on them to keep them moisturized but won't change the pitch?"

Answer: Absolutely, you can re-oil your bars if they are getting dingy or dry looking. Of course this applies to the entire instrument, but in regards to the bars, I would not overdo it - for instance don't be oiling the bars every year or something. I have heard theories about over-oiling affecting the tone, and I am skeptical, but really the wood is pretty durable oiled or not, so I would just put on the least amount you would need to re-vitalize it. Before doing that you should wipe the bars clean with a very slightly damp rag, just to get the accumulated muck off.

Tung oil, Danish oil, Teak oil, any variety will work, but I would rub it on with a rag, don't be flooding the bar surface with oil.

As far as all the things that might change the bar pitch, this is probably pretty low on the list, as long as you don't overdo it. Chances are if you've had an instrument for a few years, many of the bars are already slightly sharp or flat, and the effect of any added mass of oil would be noticed in terms of a cent or two, not a generally noticeable pitch change.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Prettify Your Bass

I wish I could do this to every bass I sell. Alas, it is up to you!

This bass graces the classroom of music teacher Heather Stoker of Tacoma, WA. The design was achieved with an initial "wash" undercoat to provide a colorful background, followed by the actual drawing and hashmarks, followed by a protective clear lacquer coat.

Sooo... any marimba with tubes is a blank canvas waiting to be filled. Recruit some creative students, a local artist, or ....

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Bass/Baritone Mallets

A tough rubber ball that is 2" in diameter.  I am selling these as either Bass or Baritone mallets, with a softer rubber used for the Bass ball. The stick is made of 5/8" hickory. Check out the foam handle, ey? $25 a pair.


A blog for Bourne Marimbas
  • to provide updates on my building schedule
  • to share news and comments from music teachers and school marimba programs around the country (and the world!)
  • to provide advice on marimba maintenance
  • to introduce new stuff
  • and whatever else I think of .....