The marimba is a beautifully sounding mallet percussion instrument. Sadly many music educators do not possess the proper training and experience it takes to care and protect this magnificent instrument. Kevin Lucas’ article, “How to Protect and Care for a Marimba” from the School Band and Orchestra magazine, October 2019, is the basis for this post. Kevin shares and recommends approaches on how to care and transport this fantastic instrument. This article will summarize and recognize the benefits of proper use of this instrument.
About Kevin Lucas
The content creator of this article, Kevin Lucas, was heralded by the Huffington Post in 2016 as the “most talented percussionist since Lionel Hampton, Ginger Baker, and Tito Puente.” Mr. Lucas has been nominated for 38 music industry awards and has won the 2016 American Songwriting Award. Also, he has performed with the Madison Scouts Drum and Bugle Corps and earned the DCI Midwest individuals award in 1994 for keyboard percussion.
Marimba Care and Protection
1. Do not use the Marimba as a Table
It is critical not to allow students to place items on the marimba like a table. Most importantly, protect the instrument from food or soda since it is the biggest culprit for damaging marimba bars. Teach students to respect mallet percussion instruments, and they will last through their expected lifetime.
2. Oiling Bars
Every month the marimba’s bars should be oiled. Bars that are not maintained will start to crack due to a lack of moisture. Try using “Old English,” which you can find at your local grocery store. Be sure to have your percussionists practice this process as a regular chore of maintaining a quality instrument.
3. Buy Cases!
When you transport a marimba, it is guaranteed to get banged around in a van or truck. Spend the extra $1,000 on a case when you purchase the instrument to maintain it’s lifespan.
4. Avoid Assembled Transportation
Kevin Lucas recommends avoiding transporting the assembled marimba. While the instrument is in this form, stress is on the frame. As a result of movement in the vehicle, the marimba will flex. Standardize a process with your volunteer helpers and students on how to disassemble and transport your marimba.
5. No Cases, Wrap Everything
If resources are limited, and no cases are available, wrap everything in packing blankets. Kevin Locus points the students need to become aware of how many dents may result due to years of travel.
6. Replace Rubber Washers
As a maintenance task, always replace a marimbas rubber washers. These are the rubber pieces that cover the metal parts of the rails. Use these between bars and keep them from touching the metal when they are vibrating. Consequently, rubber washers help minimize the unwanted mechanical sounds that come from the marimba.
7. Have a Marching Band Frame Built
Concert and marching marimba frames use different frames. Consider building one for the marching field. Marching field frames are generally made of metal and have monster truck style wheels. If building a structure is not in the cards, consider purchasing one from a percussion manufacturer. They are a bit pricey but worth the investment.
8. Replace Marimba Bars
Lucas admits that now and then you will have to replace marimba bars. His recommendation is to call Century Mallet in Chicago at 773-248-7733. They will be able to refer you to the appropriate manufacturer or repair your Marimba bar.
9. Always Choose and Use Proper Mallets
Always choose the proper mallets for the instrument. Note that xylophone mallets will damage a marimba bar. Take the time to teach your students which mallets are appropriate for each keyboard instrument.
In conclusion, the marimba adds tremendous color to the performing ensemble. Be sure to protect it from the hazards of time, mistreatment and transportation. In addition, be sure to schedule maintenance to ensure a quality life for your program’s marimba.