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Thread: Keyboard and Mallet Percussion Technique - Vibes, Marimba, Xylophone...

  1. #1

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    Okay, a few of you might know I've been lucky enough to score a really nice Adams marimba last week, I've been after a decent mallet instrument since I graduated from a music course in 2004, and as far as marimbas, vibraphones and other such instruments are concerned, it was a damn miracle to stumble across one for a decent price here in Sydney. Tell you what, after nearly 7 years with just having just a two and half octave xylophone and a couple of glockenspiels, having this has just opened up my personal practice scope a lot more, and it's been a real pleasure to play it, let me tell you.

    But I digress. What I'd like to know is that how many of my DC brethren out there are also keyboard mallet and/or timpani players, because I'd like to see what we can share about mallet technique, which I'm just slowly been picking up bit by bit through a few people, and which is certainly a bit different than drumstick technique. I realise timpani mallet technique is fairly different from keyboard mallet technique, but whatever the case is, whether it is with a pair of mallets or four mallets (and yes, even you're a tubular bells player in an orchestra striking with a wood mallet, please contribute!), any pointers we can share will certainly be very helpful. Also, what do people out there in DC land know or would like to know about things like scales, chords, melody and harmony when it comes to such instruments? That I can help out a bit with, as I was lucky to have been shown the kind of theory that places like Berklee teach (as our head teacher, an American called Dr David Salisbury, absolutely drilled that sort of stuff into all students on a regular basis)...but I'd be the first one to admit that there are still 'holes' in my melodic music theory now and then, so it'd be good for all of us to contribute to this thread and keep it up when we can.

    Remember, knowledge is power.....and also, you'll realise that the more you know, the more there is out there to know. And it's all good for us, really. So, I've got my hand up (or should I say mallet?), who else here is learning, practicing or even gigging with keyboard mallet percussion or tuned percussion, such as xylophone, marimba, timpani, tubular bells, crotales, vibraphone or glockenspiel, etc? Have you learned formally or not? And do you play in say, a jazz group or another kind of band, part of an orchestra or percussion pit, or do it for the sheer heck of it? And what technique books, instructional videos and players do you recommend or have learned from? I'm all ears, as they say.
    "...it's the Paradigm Of The Cosmos!" Stewart Copeland on Youtube

    668: The Number Of The Guy Next Door To The Beast.

    "A random act of kindness; it keeps my heart in shape!" - Late8

  2. #2

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    Default Re: Keyboard and Mallet Percussion Technique....can we sticky this please?

    Drumb... I moved it to the Percussion forum. Made more sense for it to be here if we are to sticky it. Hope that's OK with you.
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  3. #3

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    Default Re: Keyboard and Mallet Percussion Technique....can we sticky this please?

    I think it is great to have started a Mallet percussion thread. I have been playing mallet percussion for 38 years and have owned my Musser M55 Pro Vibes for 36 years. Wow, haven't thought about that before. I had taken piano lessons since I was 8 for a few years then went on to high school band, college, etc. I have learned a lot, and still learning. My forte has been improviseing.
    I learned a lot from Avery Burdette when we had a quartet together. He was a Berklee guy and we played most everything out of the real book. He is now the jazz product specialist at Yamaha corp. Here is a pic of us in 1978 and a recent pic of a shot I happened to capture of my vibes on stage at Epcot's American Garden Theater during a lighting check. It used to be on Musser's Facebook pic's page. Not sure if it is still there.

    Last edited by VIbes; 10-05-2011 at 04:20 AM.
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  4. #4

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    Default Re: Keyboard and Mallet Percussion Technique....can we sticky this please?

    Sweet, I always wanted some good "vibes" (no pun intended), so this will be a guide for playing them or for techniques with playing them?
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    Default Re: Keyboard and Mallet Percussion Technique - Vibes, Marimba, Xylophone...

    Wow Vibes! I knew you would have had a fair bit of playing history when it comes to tuned percussion, but 38 years??? Holey moley, that's fantastic!

    Drumrookie, I started this thread so that we can discuss all aspects of them, from playing them, techniques (especially say things like scales, modes and chord exercises), what tunes can be recommended for the novice mallet player, what are the various grips to investigate, any little bit of history and discussion about various mallet instruments, what players to watch, what books to work out of or even which instructors to recommend, etc. Really, I'd like this thread to be as informative and as open as any other thread should be on this forum.
    "...it's the Paradigm Of The Cosmos!" Stewart Copeland on Youtube

    668: The Number Of The Guy Next Door To The Beast.

    "A random act of kindness; it keeps my heart in shape!" - Late8

  6. #6

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    VIbes, that black and white photo, is that of you playing the vibes or is it Avery Burdette? If he was at Berklee, I'm wondering if he might know of the old head teacher at my technical college, Dr David Salisbury, because I have a feeling Salisbury might have mentioned him in a lecture at one time. Mind you, I'm trying to recall from 7-8 years ago, lol.

    VIbes, if I can pick your brains for one moment, what mallet technique book would you recommend for any novice mallets player? I know that a few drumshops may stock "Mallet Control" by George Lawrence Stone and a number of Morris Goldberg books on technique, but what else should I look at?
    "...it's the Paradigm Of The Cosmos!" Stewart Copeland on Youtube

    668: The Number Of The Guy Next Door To The Beast.

    "A random act of kindness; it keeps my heart in shape!" - Late8

  7. #7

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    Default Re: Keyboard and Mallet Percussion Technique - Vibes, Marimba, Xylophone...

    That's me playing vibes in the b&w photo and Avery next to me on piano.
    I use basic match grip when playing 2 mallets and the standard 4 mallet grip.
    I really don't know how to explain it but will make a pic and post it.
    Also when I first started out I started from nothing but I did have a ear and when I first started improviseing I worked off penatonic scales a lot. Then the light bulb came on, the voila' moment, and I could see them in every key.
    So I practiced every penatonic, major, and minor, scale in every key. Of course you have your diminished, augmented, scales etc. but you will hear them. I mostly play by ear and a terrible sight reader. Avery would play me the heads to the tunes and I would learn them, then it was up to me to hear what I needed to play as far as improviseing through the form of the tune. Having already played drums for years I had no problem with technique but musical theory and knowledge is what continues to develop over time.
    I have some old books around somewhere but I am mostly self taught.
    Avery, although a keyboard player, took some theory classes under Gary Burton at Berklee and when Gary Burton played in Huntsville Alabama, where we were from, we went to the clinic that afternoon and Avery introduced me to him and I got to spend some one on one time with the master.
    Last edited by VIbes; 10-08-2011 at 02:14 AM.
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  8. #8

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    Default Re: Keyboard and Mallet Percussion Technique - Vibes, Marimba, Xylophone...

    Great thread suggestion, Drumbledore. Looking forward to some good tips and advice.

  9. #9

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    VIbes, yeah I'm not too crash hot when it comes to sight-reading for mallets.....I'm really rusty with that at the moment, lol. I do know what you mean about practicing your pentatonics, major and minors, the blues scales and so on. In fact, what I had done about six months before I was starting my diploma, every day I'd meet up with a couple of my jazz and blues playing buddies (plus one metal-head guy I know who really had his theory together....thank Stu!) and they'd show me every one of the twelve keys, the seven modes within that key, the pentatonics of each mode, the major and minor blues of each key, plus the dimished and whole tone scales of each key, and, once you can work out the major, minor, augmented and diminished triads from all of those keys....was shown how to "build" the major 7th's and 9th's, the dominant 7th's and 9th's, minor 7th's and 9th's and so forth.
    "...it's the Paradigm Of The Cosmos!" Stewart Copeland on Youtube

    668: The Number Of The Guy Next Door To The Beast.

    "A random act of kindness; it keeps my heart in shape!" - Late8

  10. #10

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    Default Re: Keyboard and Mallet Percussion Technique - Vibes, Marimba, Xylophone...

    Ok, so I thought I might just give an introduction to a little bit of theory, that way anyone who feels a little unsure of terms or how it all works can have a 'leg-up', so to speak, and therefore might be a little more self-assured when they have a chance to try any keyboard mallet or tuned percussion. I don't profess to be absolutely 100% expert (any corrections or discussion is most welcome), but I thought I'd put it out there, so that even if you never done any tuned percussion stuff, the information is out there for you folks!

    Keys:

    Before we can get anywhere with scales practice, we need to know about the key signature and how they relate to a keyboard percussion instrument (in fact, even if you don't have one, you can look at say a piano or keyboard at home.....after all, the principle is exactly the same. The easiest one is the C Major Scale. You can in fact refer to this as a sort of "mother scale", as once you know how to play up and down it, each of the next notes...D E F G A & B, played using those exact same notes will give you the seven "modes" (I'll post a bit about that later though).

    You'll have two rows of keys, the bottom row are like the white keys of a piano, and the top row are exactly like the five black keys. We can refer to the bottom row generally as the 'diatonic' keys and the top row as the 'accidentals' or sharps and flats.

    So, assuming you never had exposure to scales or any tuned instrument...where do you find C?

    Here, it is the first diatonic key to the left of the first two 'black' keys. On a keyboard mallet instrument, when you practice any scale, you are usually taught to play starting with the the left mallet first. I'll touch on that a little later.


    D is the next, with the right mallet:


    E is next, with the left:


    Then F is next. You find F as the first diatonic 'white' key to the left of the group of three 'black' keys. Play this with the right mallet:
    Last edited by Drumbledore; 10-07-2011 at 04:46 AM.
    "...it's the Paradigm Of The Cosmos!" Stewart Copeland on Youtube

    668: The Number Of The Guy Next Door To The Beast.

    "A random act of kindness; it keeps my heart in shape!" - Late8

  11. #11

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    Default Re: Keyboard and Mallet Percussion Technique - Vibes, Marimba, Xylophone...

    C Major Scale (Cont.)

    G with the left mallet:


    A with the right:


    B with the left:


    and finally, the C in the next octave, with the right.


    Whenever you practice any scale, first and foremost practice it slowly! Just as you need solid timing to play drums, you need the same thing when it comes to any mallet instrument....a good player will practice with a metronome to eliminate any rushing or dragging when it comes to performing well. Another thing when practicing scales is that once you've come to the top note of the octave (in this case, the next C), what I've been shown was to not repeat that note when descending. So a C scale run becomes C D E F G A B C, B A G F E D C. Same thing when you've descended and you then repeat ascending and descending again....the exercise then becomes C D E F G A B C, B A G F E D C, D E F G A B C and so on.

    So hopefully, this little exercise will get you started, happy playing folks!
    "...it's the Paradigm Of The Cosmos!" Stewart Copeland on Youtube

    668: The Number Of The Guy Next Door To The Beast.

    "A random act of kindness; it keeps my heart in shape!" - Late8

  12. #12

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    Good and correct instruction Drumbledore. Also if you listen you can hear the difference when you start on C to play a major scale and start on A to play a minor scale useing all diatonic. Every key has that relative.
    There are only two whole note scales. Those are cool and you can throw them in for good effect when done tastefully. you don't have to be a great player to understand music theory. It is what all music is built upon.
    A fascinateing theory and concept that is as true as any law of physics.
    Last edited by VIbes; 10-07-2011 at 12:51 PM.
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  13. #13

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    Default Re: Keyboard and Mallet Percussion Technique - Vibes, Marimba, Xylophone...

    Quote Originally Posted by VIbes View Post
    Good and correct instruction Drumbledore. Also if you listen you can hear the difference when you start on C to play a major scale and start on A to play a minor scale useing all diatonic. Every key has that relative.
    There are only two whole note scales. Those are cool and you can throw them in for good effect when done tastefully. you don't have to be a great player to understand music theory. It is what all music is built upon.
    A fascinateing theory and concept that is as true as any law of physics.
    Lol Vibes, beat me to the punch. Was just going to say that about the C major scale and the relative minor, ie: with any major scale (also known as the Ionian mode), if you were to play the same notes again, only starting from the sixth note of the major scale, you will be playing the relative minor (also called the Aeolian mode).

    So, whereas C major is: C D E F G A B C....
    A minor is: A B C D E F G A.

    This holds true for all twelve keys. In fact, in an instructional video I've got, "Dave Samuels Mallet Keyboard Musicianship Steps To Excellence", Samuels mentions that so long as you learn how to move the mallets up and down the instrument, each major scale will have a certain shape for that key. All you have to do is to follow that same 'shape' six steps up or six steps down and you have the relative minor. Or, if you are in that relative minor, follow that same shape three steps up, and your back in the relative major.

    VIbes, I do know that one whole tone scale in C is C D E F# G# A# C. But what is the other whole tone scale? I know that the diminished is also called the whole/half diminished...C D Eb F Gb Ab A B C....I'm sure you're not referring to that, are you?
    "...it's the Paradigm Of The Cosmos!" Stewart Copeland on Youtube

    668: The Number Of The Guy Next Door To The Beast.

    "A random act of kindness; it keeps my heart in shape!" - Late8

  14. #14

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    Default Re: Keyboard and Mallet Percussion Technique - Vibes, Marimba, Xylophone...

    Okay, after practicing the C major scale, the next key to get started with is the D major scale (worry about C# major a little later, guys). The D major will also be an introduction as to why there are the 'accidentals' (the 'black keys').

    D Major Scale

    Start with D with the left mallet:


    E with the right mallet: (sorry about the blurred image....bit hard to hold the cam with one hand and shoot sometimes, lol)


    Now, move the left mallet to the right an up, striking the F# thus:


    Then G with the right mallet, so that there is a semi-tone between the F# and G:
    Last edited by Drumbledore; 10-07-2011 at 08:11 PM.
    "...it's the Paradigm Of The Cosmos!" Stewart Copeland on Youtube

    668: The Number Of The Guy Next Door To The Beast.

    "A random act of kindness; it keeps my heart in shape!" - Late8

  15. #15

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    Default Re: Keyboard and Mallet Percussion Technique - Vibes, Marimba, Xylophone...

    D Major Scale (Cont.)

    Now play A with the left mallet:


    B with the right mallet:


    Move the left mallet to the right and up again to play C# thus:


    ...and finally the D in the next octave wth the right mallet:



    To give a bit of background about why the Western keyboard arrangement for piano and mallet instruments came about, just a short music history lesson, folks. Way before the invention of the piano in the 17th century (and it's predecessors, the harpsichord and clavichord), from the medieval times stretching right back to ancient Greece, simpler plucked and wind instruments were based roughly more or less on what we now know as the C major scale. Well, if you only had one scale to play in, you would run out of tunes pretty quickly, right? So what the Greeks and other ancients came across were different ways....or 'modes' of playing the same scale to make it sound different, and thus be able to create new possibilities, otherwise all the tunes would start to sound the same. And, using the key of C as a starting point, these modes are:

    C D E F G A B C - Ionian (we often call these the C Major scale)

    D E F G A B C D - Dorian

    E F G A B C D E - Phyrgian

    F G A B C D E F - Lydian

    G A B C D E F G - Mixolydian

    A B C D E F G A - Aeolian (we call this the 'natural' minor scale)

    B C D E F G A B - Locrian

    Each one of these modes had found their origin in the various parts of ancient Greece that they are named after, Ionian named after Ionia, Dorian after the various Doric Greek states (Sparta is one of such) and so on.


    *The Mixolydian mode though, is not named after a place called 'Mixolydia'....no such place existed! Really, the island of Lesbos (Lesvos in Greek) was where the scale supposed to have originated, however, the idea of calling it the 'Lesbian' scale (and yes, a native from the island is really called one) would not have deemed to have been proper during those more socially restricted times, lol. And no, I didn't make that up, I really was told that in a music theory class by a teacher!
    "...it's the Paradigm Of The Cosmos!" Stewart Copeland on Youtube

    668: The Number Of The Guy Next Door To The Beast.

    "A random act of kindness; it keeps my heart in shape!" - Late8

  16. #16

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    Default Re: Keyboard and Mallet Percussion Technique - Vibes, Marimba, Xylophone...

    You're doing a great job Drumbledore, and VIbes. For a minute there, I thought my head was going to explode, but you are drawing it together very well, and at a time when I have become very interested in music theory. Thanks!
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  17. #17

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    Default Re: Keyboard and Mallet Percussion Technique - Vibes, Marimba, Xylophone...

    C D E F G A B C - Ionian (we often call these the C Major scale)

    D E F G A B C D - Dorian

    E F G A B C D E - Phyrgian

    F G A B C D E F - Lydian

    G A B C D E F G - Mixolydian

    A B C D E F G A - Aeolian (we call this the 'natural' minor scale)

    B C D E F G A B - Locrian

    That is correct. In the key of C
    Now go to the next 11. That means you can start on any key and acheive the theory.
    I am going to print out a copy so I can Remember. Thanks Drumbledore.
    Drumbledore ,whole tone scale. You are correct on the first one.
    the other. FGAB C# D# play one and then the other. Complete opposites.
    Last edited by VIbes; 10-08-2011 at 02:05 AM.
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  18. #18

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    Default Re: Keyboard and Mallet Percussion Technique - Vibes, Marimba, Xylophone...

    Quote Originally Posted by VIbes View Post
    C D E F G A B C - Ionian (we often call these the C Major scale)

    D E F G A B C D - Dorian

    E F G A B C D E - Phyrgian

    F G A B C D E F - Lydian

    G A B C D E F G - Mixolydian

    A B C D E F G A - Aeolian (we call this the 'natural' minor scale)

    B C D E F G A B - Locrian

    That is correct. In the key of C
    Now go to the next 11. That means you can start on any key and acheive the theory.
    I am going to print out a copy so I can Remember. Thanks Drumbledore.
    Drumbledore ,whole tone scale. You are correct on the first one.
    the other. FGAB C# D# play one and then the other. Complete opposites.
    That's absolutely right, VIbes, I gave the example merely in C, otherwise I'd have the forbidding task of typing it all out in all twelve keys, lol. So I'm definitely going to point out the whole deal of 'transposition' or key change, in which you change the key of the scale, mode or chord that you're working in whilst still keeping the same intervals between the notes. So for example, the C Major and D Major exercises that were outlined above earlier, well, the D Major has the same tone and semitone intervals as the C Major....for those unfamiliar, it means that once you've worked out the tone between C and D, tone to E, semitone to F, tone to G, tone to A, tone to B and semitone to C, you use the same formula for the D Major....tone tone semitone tone tone tone semitone....and so on with all twelve keys of C, C#/Db, D, D#/Eb, E, F, F#/Gb, G, G#/Ab, A, A#/Bb and B.


    The fun stuff is when you then have to work out the modes of each of these twelve keys, lol.....but we'll cover that once the work's been done with playing the major scale in all twelve keys in say another post. :P
    "...it's the Paradigm Of The Cosmos!" Stewart Copeland on Youtube

    668: The Number Of The Guy Next Door To The Beast.

    "A random act of kindness; it keeps my heart in shape!" - Late8

  19. #19

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    Default Re: Keyboard and Mallet Percussion Technique - Vibes, Marimba, Xylophone...

    Drumbledore and Vibes, this thread got me back working on my vibes. An old set of Deagan model 555 made in 1945-46. Thanks

    When I used practiced scales, I would start in C and then progress through the circle of 5ths until I got back to C. That way I covered all the keys
    It works going down the circle of 4ths. same concept.

  20. #20

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    Default Re: Keyboard and Mallet Percussion Technique - Vibes, Marimba, Xylophone...

    Bongobill, could you post a pic of those Deagan Vibes? I would love to see them.
    Ludwig Classic Maple vintage 1980 Silver Sparkle
    Ludwig Classic Maple vintage 1960 Gold Sparkle
    Ludwig Classic Maple vintage 1968 Champagne Sparkle
    Premier Resonators vintage 70's Polychromatic Red
    Slingerland 60's Vintage. Vintage Sky Blue Pearl
    Slingerland 1972 "Avante" Red
    Camco Chanute vintage. 1973 Silver Sparkle
    Gretsch Catalina Jazz. Blue Pearl
    Sonor Safari. Black Galaxy
    Rogers Londoner V vintage. 1977 Silver Mist
    Rogers Script Badge 9/72 1972 Black Nitro
    Beverley of England 4 piece vintage. Red
    Stewart 1966 Black Diamond Pearl MIJ
    Vintage Paiste 2002
    Vintage Avedis Zildjian

  21. #21

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    Default Re: Keyboard and Mallet Percussion Technique - Vibes, Marimba, Xylophone...

    VIbes,
    Here it is:





  22. #22

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    Wow Bongobill! She's a real beauty. I don't know over there in the States, but a set of Deagan vibes here would be pretty damn expensive. Is that company still making them?Wouldn't know the price right off the top of my head, but I'm sure I could get a price quote from the guys at Optimum Percussion in Burwood, Sydney. They're pretty the guys that deal with all the mallet percussion over here in town.

    Keep the pics and advice rolling in guys. Spread the love!
    "...it's the Paradigm Of The Cosmos!" Stewart Copeland on Youtube

    668: The Number Of The Guy Next Door To The Beast.

    "A random act of kindness; it keeps my heart in shape!" - Late8

  23. #23

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    Quote Originally Posted by bongobill View Post
    Drumbledore and Vibes, this thread got me back working on my vibes. An old set of Deagan model 555 made in 1945-46. Thanks

    When I used practiced scales, I would start in C and then progress through the circle of 5ths until I got back to C. That way I covered all the keys
    It works going down the circle of 4ths. same concept.
    Lol, yeah I nearly forgot to mention that, now all the college stuff we had to learn is slowly starting to come back. What I've been doing to get used to my new instrument is to run through one octave in the key of C, then go to the next chromatic step C# and do that major scale and so forth. Then repeat the process but this time run through two octaves. Now, I'm familiar with the circle of fifths and the circle of fouths, but Bongobill, would you care to explain that to anyone who might be reading this thread? The floor's yours, mate.
    "...it's the Paradigm Of The Cosmos!" Stewart Copeland on Youtube

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  24. #24

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    Default Re: Keyboard and Mallet Percussion Technique - Vibes, Marimba, Xylophone...

    Deagan went out of business quite awhile ago. The designs were purchased by Yamaha. I am not sure, but I think only the orchestra bells are still being produced. Anybody else aware of other models still being produced?
    Here is a nice tribute page
    http://www.deaganresource.com/

  25. #25

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    Default Re: Keyboard and Mallet Percussion Technique - Vibes, Marimba, Xylophone...

    Those are nice bongobill! Those Marimba look to be in excellent condition Drumbledor.
    Here is my Musser M55 Pro Vibe. I have had it 36 years.
    Last edited by VIbes; 10-08-2011 at 07:49 PM.
    Ludwig Classic Maple vintage 1980 Silver Sparkle
    Ludwig Classic Maple vintage 1960 Gold Sparkle
    Ludwig Classic Maple vintage 1968 Champagne Sparkle
    Premier Resonators vintage 70's Polychromatic Red
    Slingerland 60's Vintage. Vintage Sky Blue Pearl
    Slingerland 1972 "Avante" Red
    Camco Chanute vintage. 1973 Silver Sparkle
    Gretsch Catalina Jazz. Blue Pearl
    Sonor Safari. Black Galaxy
    Rogers Londoner V vintage. 1977 Silver Mist
    Rogers Script Badge 9/72 1972 Black Nitro
    Beverley of England 4 piece vintage. Red
    Stewart 1966 Black Diamond Pearl MIJ
    Vintage Paiste 2002
    Vintage Avedis Zildjian

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