Monday, December 16, 2013

Monday, December 2, 2013

Alberta Bound

I always liked that song by Gordon Lightfoot, and indeed these three instruments ARE "Alberta Bound", specifically to Strathcona Tweedsmuir School in Okotoks. I wish I could drive them up there, they have wheels to make the trip. No chains for snow, alas.....

Monday, November 25, 2013

Boxy Bari

Got an order for a Box baritone - haven't made one of these in a while. This one has purpleheart bars and thinner sides on the box 1/4" instead of the usual 3/8". It REALLY resonates. This Bari is destined for Alberta, Canada.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Now Why Didn't I Think of That?

Here's a new collection from Beatin' Path Publications: In the Modes, Instrumentals for Orff Ensemble Using the Modes, Grades 4 to 8.

14 songs in 7 different keys playable on yer standard issue marimbas and Orff instruments. 

click here for a preview:

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Gitcher marimba hub caps HERE!

Some inconsiderate fellow told me that my wheeled instruments look like marimbas with lawn mower wheels. He was right! So now I am putting hub caps on my lawn mower wheels so you wont know that my marimbas have lawn mower wheels.

Reminds me of my favorite group from the 60's: Hub Kapp and the Wheels:

Monday, September 30, 2013

Zooming into the future: the NEW Bourne Marimbas website/blog

note: this is just a clumsy metaphor - DO NOT actually try this!

In this age of information overload it's good, once in a while, to hitch up your most important and useful stuff and leave the rest behind. So I am ditching my old web site and re-casting this blog as one-stop-surfing for my products, general info, maintenance advice, news from the school marimba world etc. Blogs are alot easier to update, trim and rearrange than web sites. Who needs both?

So welcome to the NEW This column will continue to run the usual bloggerific bloggifications, while the column of links on the right side of the page provides info on my instruments, prices, maintenance suggestions and especially useful or interesting blog entries.

Now that we are all consolidated, may I point you to one past entry in this blog that I am particularly  proud of. It's that link on the right under "Highly Check-outable" that says "Watch Tom Make a Lowrider". Go ahead, give 'er a click and Zoom into the Future!

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Minnie M

Big sound, little box! I designed the Minnie M in response to requests from parents wanting something affordable for home practice. The Minnie M is stackable for improved storage. It can sit upright and has 2 different handles for carrying. Versatile! The current Minnie M is 2 full octaves starting at middle C. $400, add $25 for optional F#/Bb bars.


Mallets are available in 3 hardnesses: soft, medium and hard. The hickory sticks are strong and durable and the mallets heads are cast polyurethane - virtually indestructible. $20 a pair.

Big Bass

A Big Bass generates big time enthusiasm, with 9 low notes beginning 2 octaves below middle C. Casters provide classroom portability. Buzzers are standard on all my basses*. $1600, add $100 for optional F#/Bb bars. 

* I utilize a simple rubber band system allowing you to "dial in" the buzziness, from in-your-face maximum buzz-tone, to no buzz at all. 

Here is a wheel-less bass with 8" wide bars and 8" tubes on the lowest notes, plus my usual 6" tubes on the upper notes. Price on these will vary, depending on what dimensions of the components you opt for.

related links:

Baritone Marimba

The Baritone covers a range of G to G. It is portable, with heavy duty and lockable casters for easy moving. This instrument REALLY fills out the ensemble. $1400, add $100 for F#/Bb bars.

I also offer a low standing box resonator Baritone - moves about quickly and stores upright.

And the design popular with Zimbabwean groups. On this style of instrument in all range, I like to build the frame so the long rails supporting the bars angle outward. This splays the legs outward as well, providing stability. The tubes are removable from below, then the legs fold in for very compact storage.

related links:


Featuring a range of two soprano octaves on wheels!  I don't recommend hitching this unit to the back of your car, but otherwise, it's about as mobile and manageable as you can get. Stores upright. Little malleteers stand to play, big 'uns sit. $1000, $50 for optional F#/Bb bars.

Here it is without wheels. $900.

Tenor Marimba

Here is a tenor 2 octave marimba on casters for easy moving about the classroom.
The range is 2 full octaves starting at an octave below middle C. 
$1200, add $50 for F#/Bb bars.

Also available without casters. This is a common design amongst Zimbabwean groups - with the tubes removed from below, the legs fold in for compact storage and transport.

3 1/2 Octave Box Resonator

This instrument stretches 3½ octaves, beginning at the "C" below middle C. That's enough room for 3 or more young malleteers! If you can only afford one marimba, this one gives you the most bonk for your buck. 

I have modified this popular box resonator design by adding wheels, allowing the teacher to "break down" the instrument, roll it about and store it upright - a real plus since many music classrooms are so small! $1200, add $100 for optional F#/Bb bars.

Here's a great video from South Africa showing this type of instrument (not built by me) in action.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Fall Harvest

A bouquet of the newly designed mallets from Bourne Marimbas - hard, medium and soft. 276 pair of these are destined for Yakima School District.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

A Big Bass

Just completed a nice and big bass marimba, destined with a complete set of Zimbabwean style instruments for the Music Department at University of Washington. 8 inch tubes from Low C to G, individually removable, then a cluster of 6 inch tubes on the upper end. Buzzers are located in the plugs of the tubes.

The funnest part of this build was under the hood, so to speak:

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Fine Tuning a Marimba Bar

You can fine tune any bar with a surform and an app tuner.

A "surform" is a cheese grater for wood, very effective for shaping and shaving. It's available at hardware stores or online for $10 or so. It's use is non-electric, and not NOISY, and it does not create enormous dust like electric sanders.

In this video I show briefly how to fine tune a slightly flat or really sharp bar with a surform. So this is how to keep ALL your bars in tune, unless one goes REALLY flat, in which case more drastic steps are required. 

This process leaves the bottom of your bar with scrape or cut marks, but that wont effect the sound quality. Wear gloves and experiment carefully with an out of tune bar and you and your students can keep your instruments in perfect tune for less than $10. If you have ever grated cheese, you can do this!

Here's the item: STANLEY SURFORM # 21-297

Questions? This is a simple skill ALL marimba owners can benefit from.

Thursday, March 7, 2013

The Click Song

Here is a traditional song from South Africa that you will want to try. I transcribed it from a performance by the Arboretum Primary School marimba group at the 2009 National Marimba Festival in South Africa. This is NOT my arrangement, but my transcription from this video of the group's rousing performance:


And here is my transcription. Be patient for the first half minute or so, it's a screen capture of the Finale MIDI playback:

AND .... here is the pdf of the transcription: 

Finally, background on this great traditional South African song:

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

March is Moving Month

With wife Patty in charge of Music Education at Western Washington University since Fall, it's time for me to get moved out of our Bothell digs and into a new shop space in Bellingham, Washington, USA. So I'm taking the month of March off to de-commision the house and home we raised our young 'uns in. We're liquidating on Craigslist, making runs to the dump and hauling the remainders north.

Come April I'll be working out of the NE corner of this building. Exact location will remain undisclosed for now, to avoid the job seeking hordes and Chamber of Commerce recruiters.

Alas, after 17 years, we've fallen short of the Bothell vision, with its motto: "For a Day, For A Lifetime". But we're already the ideal citizens of Bellingham, known the world over as "The City of Subdued Excitement".

Sunday, February 3, 2013

NO, this is NOT "Ice, Ice, Baby"!

I was testing out a new bass a few days ago and absentmindedly played a famous bass riff that sounds great on a bass marimba. So I went ahead and arranged this classic, one that everyone is familiar with. I think it would sound sound pretty good under the mallets of a solid group.

Each soprano part can be split into two parts, as will be evident in the score. Let me know if you have any suggestions for improving this arrangement, I am not as clever on the details perhaps as you who actually direct malleteers. Of course it could be sliced and diced and extended in any number of ways.

Just click on this page and it will open a window with the music playing and scrolling by:

Click to Play!
Here's the pdf:

Of course it is a copywritten song, so the payoff for performing it should be other than monetary.

Brent Holl, (of Orff fame and Beatin' Path Publications) must like this arrangement, he jazzed up my Finale file into a nice mp3 recording:

Saturday, February 2, 2013

This Just In from Sequim

Here is Five Acre School Explorer Class (older group) playing Isu Tauya Pano arranged by Walt Hampton at Sequim Prairie Grange, in Washington State, Jan. 26, 2013. Directed by Rosie Sharpe. Good Stuff!

Five Acre School Explorer Class

Thursday, January 31, 2013

Minne M for sale - used but good as new

A customer from 5 years ago is wanting to sell her barely used Minnie M. She's asking $300 for it, not sure if that is negotiable or not, but the instrument looks to be in fine shape, with mallets. If you are interested, let me know at and I will provide her email.

Saturday, January 26, 2013

New from Bourne Labs

Just finished this bass, with inclined bars. It's designed so the bars do not fly off when playing, and it doesn't require the top restraining cord that is standard on most my marimbas. PLUS, the bars are easily removed for inserting F#/Bb bars. Come visit my booth at the NW MENC convention in Portland to see how our in-house engineer (that's me) achieved this.

Advantages: bars are easier to strike, and the player does not have to be as elevated, in fact a tall person needs no stool at all.  Also, since the long bars are slanted, the instrument is several inches narrower, and can fit through passageways that the regular bass wouldn't without removing bars.

Disadvantages: I suspect kids actually PREFER lording over the group, perched higher up on a stool.

Either way, it is fun to have this new design and this is available as an alternative to the traditional Big Bass.