STUDENT RESOURCES:

An Introduction to the Marimba

Tools for Success

The Marimba Shop Now >

Marimbas come in a multiple choices of sizes and materials that the bars are made of. From a 2.5 Octave to a 5.0 Octave (most common is a 4.3), Rosewood, Padouk and Synthetic bars are available. Some also have adjustable height frames to fit the performer better. Covers should be considered to protect the instrument when not in use.

Mallets Shop Now >

Beginning students should start with a pair of yarn wound mallets graded as a Medium texture. This will cover much of the dynamic ranges a beginning marimbist will learn. Rattan handles are common for this mallet of choice.

Mallet/Stick Bag Shop Now >

A Mallet/Stick Bag is a must to protect your mallets. As your skills develop you will expand your mallet collection as the music dictates your need. Plan on a bag that will hang from your Marimba for easy access to mallets when you need to switch textures.

Metronome Shop Now >

This clicking time piece is an absolute must to training the student's internal clock for keeping time. They come in many levels from a simple click to 'programming' complex rhythms and compound time signatures. They are the musician's training 'clock' for perfect time in all music.

Music Stand Shop Now >

A music stand is more than just a music holder. It puts the music in front of the student at proper heights and angles suited to promote good posture and stance while allowing the student the visual display of music, marimba and director all in one shot. Centering the music stand to the middle of the keyboard (note 'C') gives a good reference to the whole keyboard.

Instructional material/Folders/Binders Shop Now >

Music is a language and any language has a written way to represent it. With so many published materials out on the market a student can only benefit and grow when they can read and understand what they are being taught by a good instructor. Printed materials are the guide for at home practice so the student doesn't 'forget' what their teacher covered in a lesson and helps the teacher in guiding that student in their development. Folders and binders help keep everything organized and tidy.

Pencil. Not a Pen

Pencils allow the student to make notes, write on music and such with the convenience to erase any markings made on music. Specifically, music that has to be turned back in after a performance.

CD/DVD/Audio/MP3/Computer devices Shop Now >

There is so much more instructional information today thanks to technology. Some training manuals now come with media that includes videos, mp3's, play-alongs and addendums in .pdf format. Using these resources will benefit your budding marimbist immensely.

Basic Marimba Maintenance

Cover Shop Now >

Always keep your Marimba covered when not practicing/playing. Generally, the manufacturer supplies a cover with your purchase. If not, order one or use a cloth big enough to cover it.

It's Not A Table Top

Marimbas can take up a little bit of floor space, but, it is a fine and expensive instrument and needs to be well cared for like any other instrument.

Before practicing/playing

Before playing on your marimba inspect the cords that suspend the bars above the resonators for wear and tear. If you notice fraying of the cord order replacement cord from your retailer ASAP for your specific brand and model Marimba. Once the cord breaks the Marimba is not usable.

Resonators

From time to time something can fall and land down in a resonator tube. Just remove the assembly and dump out the debris.

Cords Can Lose Their Tenson

At one end of each row of bars is a spring junction that helps keep tension on the suspension cord. Readjusting the cord's knot inside of each spring will renew the tension on the cord that suspends the bars properly.

Bars

Most companies today manufacture wooden bars made of Rosewood and Padouk that are laquered. An easy wipe with a dry cloth is all you need to clean them. Bars not laquered should be cleaned and treated with a non-wax lemon oil. Keep your instrument in a climate controlled area of 68 to 72 degrees fahrenheit and 50% relative humidity. If you have to move the instrument in less desirable temps/humidity give time for the instrument to adjust to the performing invironment. If your bars ever crack they will need replacing. Bars can become 'out of tune' over time. Find a reputatable tuner for this or contact your retailer to order the specific note(s) from the manufacturer.

Squeky or Unusual Noises

As your instrument ages it can create sounds that were not meant to be. Due to screws, rivets, metal and wood combined things will wear over time. Lubricate any wheels you may have. Check resonators for loose fasteners. Check your frame for any loose screws and bolts and tighten accordingly. If in doubt, send it out for repair.

Mallet Choice Shop Now >

Using inappropriate beaters including drumsticks, xylophone mallets or mallets which do not contain wool/binding around the core of the mallet will damage the bars.

Marimba Practice

During the beginning of your training there will be several things you will need to pay attention to. They are:

Stance

Standing center and moving side to side with the exercise at hand. A good instructor will address this.

Grip

Follow your instructor and instruction book on mallet grips. For 2 mallet playing each hand holds the mallet the same way.

Learning to Read Notes, Time signatures and Rhythms

Since the marimba covers a wide range of voicing (for a 4 octave marimba it covers C2 to C7) you will need to learn both bass and treble clef music.

Learning to Read Notes, Time signatures and Rhythms

Time Signatures are directions, that look like fractions, that tell you how many pulses (the top number) are in a measure of music and what kind of note (the bottom number) is getting the pulse (or count). Much music is in 4/4, meaning, by the top number, there are 4 counts in a measure and, by the bottom number, it's the quarter note (1/4) that gets the count. 6/8 would be six counts of 1/8 (eighth) notes. 3/4 is three count of 1/4 (quarter) notes.

Time Signatures are directions, that look like fractions

Rhythms will be the values of the notes timing. And since you do not need to blow into an instrument this frees up your voice to count out your rhythms. Counting is crucial to being accurate. 1 2 3 4 1 & 2 & 3e&a4e&a1e& 2 &a3e a e&a are accurate counts using quarter, eighths and sixteenth notes and rests. If you can say it you can play it.

Rhythms will be the values of the notes timing

Playing In Time

This is where the metronome comes into play and counting out loud. Just like clapping to a nursery rhyme or a favorite song tempo/time is so important to learning your lessons to make you a better player.

Using Peripheral Vision

Unlike any other instrument where you have hands/fingers on the instrument, the marimba, and other mallet instruments, depend upon striking the notes while reading the music and/or watching a conductor. You will need to understand about memorizing and/or reading ahead while you perform. It's not as hard as it sounds. You can read faster than you can speak and the same principles apply here.

Glancing in your peripheral view will help you get the right notes in your performance.

Forming Good Habits

How to Practice

Start slow. It's not a race. Poor technique sounds terrible and never wins you points. Getting your technique down will give you the skills needed to sounding great. Sounding great wins listeners that will appreciate your talent.

Remember to Count Out Loud

Again, if you can say it you can play it. It's that simple. Our brain is closer to our mouth and we have developed our voice longer than we have developed any muscles of our body. Our limbs will follow anything we can say. Try tapping to the phrase "hamburger lollipop". Without exact note rhythms you will say a long and two short syllables followed by two short and a long syllables. Rhythmically, this could equate to the following: Quarter note and two eighth notes and two eighth notes and a qurter note. Count wise it becomes: 1 2 & 3 & 4. Other permutations of subdivisions are possible.

Another reason to count out loud is that is makes you breathe. Percussionist have a tendency to hold their breath when things get difficult, which leads to rushing the tempo. Rushing is not a habit we want as a performer.

Dedicate the Proper Amount of Time to Practice

As with anything in life we started with the very basics to develop our motor and audio skills. Crawling, walking and running. Mumbles, gargles to speaking. It all took time. The same applies to developing our music skills. Dedicating 30 minutes a day, whether all together or broken into three 10 minute groups, is a plus to your development. No practice is no gain at all. "The more you practice the better you get. The better you get the better you feel about your performance. The better you feel about your performance the more you want to practice." This is paraphrased from a friend of mine, Dr. John "Dr. Throwdown" Wooton, percussion professor at Southern Mississippi University.

Staying True to Fundamentals

If something isn't working it is usually the failure of a fundamental. Technique and grips need to be looked at to be sure that is not the problem.

Use Your Metronome Shop Now >

As said before, practice slow at first. Set the metronome to a low number to start with any new exercise or music you are practicing. Once you are comfortable with the passages bump up the tempo by 4 to 8 clicks. Repeat the process until you surpass the required tempo by 12 clicks or more. This will guarantee that you can play the required exercises fluidly, with precision.

Seek More Knowledge

Nothing will replace good instruction from a great teacher. Seek their knowledge and direction. It will make you a better musician.

Request A Lesson

Start here and your local store will contact you about a custom lesson program.

Find Your Instructor

Fill out the form. Your perfect instructor may be just around the corner.

Interested In Teaching?

We take pride in finding instructors who are experts in their instrument. It is part of our commitment to music education.

See Available Positions