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Replacing missing marimba bars (Qs Kahlil)

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-----Original Message-----
From: kahlil sabbagh
Sent: Monday, 22 October 2007 3:10 PM
Subject: from a marimba player in L.A.
Hey there Jim.
My name is Kahlil Sabbagh. I play everything in L.A. I recently acquired a 1919 Deagan marimba with 3.5 octaves. it's very beat up and needs a ton of work but I think it will be a fun project to do. It is missing 3 keys. the low F (the lowest note of the marimba), and two other smaller keys in the highest register. My question to you is what can I do to replace those missing keys???
Please, any info would be a huge help to my project!!


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Hi Kahilů many apologies that it has taken me a week to get back to you - what a busy week it has been!

Those sorts of projects are always both fun and challenging. Usually the biggest headaches are the ones you expect the least - for example if any of those little string holding bits are missing or damaged!!

Obviously replacing missing notes is a problem. You could have a go at making new ones yourself if you have any knowledge/experience with tuning bars. Otherwise the best option is probably to find a "local" marimba builder to make them for you. I'm not sure who in particular around LA there is, but there is likely to be someone - or if not, just google custom made marimbas - there are a number of places that would do that sort of job I'm sure. I bookmarked one the other day that would be perfect - somewhere is USA I think, but can't remember where. I was on another computer at the time so I haven't got the URL, but if you want it let me know, and I'll get it next time. The first and biggest challenge is to match the timber as well as possible, then make sure the same tuning system is used. They would need to have the bars diatonically either side (one side of the F) as a reference. It would also be good to measure the exact distance between the string holders (one end of the bar to the other) on EITHER side of the missing notes, as well as the width between them - remember one end of the bar will have a different width between the holders, because the nodal line is diagonal. These measurements will help them to get the nodal holes correct.

If the bars are not great on the playing surface, then it would probably pay to get all of them re-finished and retuned together anyway. Once the surfaces are sanded back the notes will all be quite flat (being from 1919 it could well be lower pitch anyway) so the tuner will have to take the wedge shape off the underside of the bar's ends and reposition/tune all the vibrational modes from scratch.

If I can be of any help, please let me know.
All the best.

Jim McCarthy

Jim Reccomends for comprehensive blueprints and building guides to make your own marimbas.

answers by Jim MCCarthy - 01/12/2005

For more help on instrument building you can email Jim.

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