What's the difference between a marimba and vibraphone

komodobob

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While I know the marimba uses rosewood or padauk bars and the vibraphone uses metal bars, my questions is more about what, or rather where would you use either instrument? The reason I ask is that I'd like to learn a mallet instrument and start using it in swing / jazz style music. I just want to make sure I buy the right instrument. There are plenty of 3.0 octave marimbas out there, but is that the right instrument for me, given what my goal is?
 

cworrick

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Both are a pain in the ass to carry to a gig.
:laughing3: :laughing3: :laughing3: :laughing3:



Jazz Mallet Players:
Lionel Hamption - Vibes
Milt Jackson - Vibes
Terry Gibbs - Vibes
Carl Tjader - Vibes
Gary Burton - Vibes
Dave Samuels (Spiro Gyra, Carribbean Jazz Project) - Vibes, Marimba, Malletkat.

Overwhelmingly the Vibes are preferred for jazz swing medium.

The sustain pedal is the key for its sustained sound where the marimba requires rolling. This is why the vibes work as they are able to sustain like other wind instruments and complement an ensemble better. The marimba is much more rhythmic with its uses.

Malletkat makes a great electronic version. It's laid out like vibes and can be modified to however big you want to go. Much easier to transport if that is your goal as well.

A marimba is actually easier to play and learn on. The bars for a vibe are all at one level and you need to reach a bit more to hit in the center of the bars to get the best tone as the dampening bar is underneath the edges of the accidentals . A marimba has the bars on two levels with the accidentals overlapping the naturals. You can also strike a marimba's accidentals on the close edge for the tone making your movements smaller and thus easier.

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LarryJ

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A vibraphone (vibes) has discs in the tubes that rotate, which create vibrato. These can be turned on and off (think Hammond B3 with a Leslie). Vibes also have a mute bar under the slats which is operated by a foot pedal. Step on the pedal and the notes ring. Off the pedal and they have no sustain, just like a piano.

Vibes have more sound options, which is why they are chosen for jazz work. If you want to play jazz, they are by far the preferred choice.
 

SwivoNut

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You would definitely want a vibraphone for playing jazz/swing. Vibes have the ability to sustain sounds much like a piano does where marimbas cannot. The vibes a former bandmate used had an electric motor that rotated discs inside the tubes giving it a Leslie speaker effect. To sustain sounds with a marimba requires that the keys be struck repeatedly in fast succession like a drum roll. Marimbas are primarily used in salsa bands for Latin flavored music.
 

Pedal_Pusher

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For just starting out on mallets and playing jazz, you might also consider a Pearl Malletstation. It is similar to a MalletKat but requires some reasonably priced software such as Mainstage and a computer. The advantages are price, portability, being able to practice with headphones, and versatility. For example you can get both marimba and vibes sounds. Another advantage is that if you are playing with a loud band, you can just turn up a volume knob. Acoustic vibes and marimbas can't compete with miked instruments. The disadvantages are the same with most electronic instruments, software, computer, amplification, cables, and power issues at a venue. The good news is that it is no more hassle than what other musicians regularly experience. Good luck!
 

Whitten

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Xylophone - smaller bars, higher pitched, tone wood.
Marimba - larger bars, lower pitched, tone wood.
Vibraphone - tuned metal bars, usually with a motorised rotating disc for vibrato.
 

kdgrissom

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I know this is being picky, but Vibrato is achieved by a slight variation of the pitch. The Vibraphone actually uses the butterfly fans to open and close the resonator (which is mathematically tuned to the corresponding bar above it), thus creating a loud-soft-loud effect instead.
Additionally "Vibraphone" was first coined and patented by the Leedy Drum Co. and a short time later Deagan came out with the "Vibra-Harp". It's interesting that even though Deagan (and Musser) company survived much longer than Leedy, it was the "Vibraphone" moniker which came to be used to this day.
 

bpaluzzi

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I know this is being picky, but Vibrato is achieved by a slight variation of the pitch. The Vibraphone actually uses the butterfly fans to open and close the resonator (which is mathematically tuned to the corresponding bar above it), thus creating a loud-soft-loud effect instead.
Additionally "Vibraphone" was first coined and patented by the Leedy Drum Co. and a short time later Deagan came out with the "Vibra-Harp". It's interesting that even though Deagan (and Musser) company survived much longer than Leedy, it was the "Vibraphone" moniker which came to be used to this day.

Yup - vibraphones actually produce tremolo, not vibrato.

And the tremolo arm ("whammy bar") on a guitar actually produces vibrato, not tremolo

:D
 

Patrick

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I work with a guy regularly who plays marimba at our jazz gigs. Sounds great. Standards. I don't always like the mechanical sound of vibes which reminds me of bad plumbing or that one organ stop nobody pulls. Have fun and good luck.
 

studrum

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Bob, also I think you can find some Stefon Harris playing marimba and definitely Bobby Hutcherson, who wrote one of my favorite jazz tunes ever, Little B's Poem. It can definitely fit in jazz and points to World musics (neighborhood of the original, the African gyl). I like the warmer, mellower tone of the Marimba on jazz.

You could get a smaller, less expensive student (shorter scale) marimba or xylophone to start with. Easier to transport, too.
 

Ghostin one

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Another difference is the way the partials are tuned- xylo bars are tuned to feature the third partial; marimbas to the second partial. (edit- fourth)
 
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