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Gourd resonated marimba (Discussions with Adam)

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-----Original Message-----
From: Adam
Sent: 17 July 2009
Subject: Gourd resonated marimba
Hey man,
I recently just bought a traditonal gourd resonated marimba. I am new to the instrument and have many questions. Its made slanted held together with some type of nylon looking black rope string. I don't know the keys or chords or scales. The african lady i bought it from said the keys are made of some sort of pine type of tree native to Ghana. Anyways i want to resonate it more by using sum sort of music box taht can help the gourds hold the pitch longer. I don't know what material to use to build or the stucture to start from. Its ten key bar things, i can measure them if that helps to tell what notes im playing.... Welll if you could share your knowledge id greatly appreciate it.


Hi Adam.

I'll gladly help but my warning is that any modifications you do to improve the sound from your instrument will also start taking away from its authentic character. Both in looks and sound. Sometimes if you want an African style marimba you buy an African style marimba, but if you want a Westernized refined instrument you buy or build one of those…. If you know what I mean.

Now - the idea of building a resonating box to help resonance is likely to waste your time. The gourds are already in place for that job and are likely doing it as well as any box style resonator would do. If you want to improve the resonators what you really need to do is build brand new ones in the style of a Westernized marimba. I prefer PVC tube - you can read my spiel about why if you like here:

You will probably find an even better improvement in sustain and sound by simply mounting the bars better. This also has the advantage of taking away from the authentic look of the instrument much less. Most African style instruments have the bars mounted by having cords tied around the nodal points which tends to dampen the vibration quite a bit. What you do is untie the bars and mount them with string through horizontally drilled holes through the bars at those nodal points instead. You will get some info about mounting and finding nodes on this marimba blog link:

Making Marimbas Blog

Hope this helps

Jim McCarthy

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answers by Jim MCCarthy - 28/02/2008

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