Sounds of Music C

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Re: Sounds of Music C

Post by zyzzyva980 » May 26th, 2012, 8:12 am

I disagree. Find some PVC pipe, drill a few holes, and you've got a working flute. (Though I would agree that instruments from the brass family would be rather difficult).

I think the more difficult instrument would be percussion, and that's because everything involving the instrument has to be perfect. With winds or strings, a good player can make up for deficiencies in the instrument and still make it sound good. It's much more difficult for a musician to compensate for problems in a percussion instrument. For a percussion instrument, you need to find a material that sounds good for both the instrument itself and the mallets, and for it to be in tune, you have to have very accurate measurements. It's a lot of attention to detail, but it can be done- the last three national champions have had a xylophone or a related instrument.

Of course, you could make a case for any instrument being toughest to make and play. Our own experiences with the event undoubtedly make us biased. With regards to whether or not there will be limits next year, I don't think so. You can never know, but I doubt that the rules will require certain instruments. Let each team figure out what works for them- there will be differences.

On the other hand, I'd love to see them make electrophones mandatory. :P
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Re: Sounds of Music C

Post by AlphaTauri » May 26th, 2012, 10:55 am

zyzzyva98 wrote:I disagree. Find some PVC pipe, drill a few holes, and you've got a working flute.
"Working" and "in-tune" are not synonyms. :P Also, flute-like wind instruments make it slightly more difficult to hit accidentals, unless you are very good at bending notes.

I think that pitched percussion is easy by comparison. Yes, they are large and bulky instruments and they take ages to construct correctly, but there's more room for error - if you overshoot/undershoot a note, you can still easily salvage the key and work it back to the note it was supposed to play, and measurements aren't as big a deal as you'd think, since as long as you're relatively close, everything still works out during the fine tuning. If you misdrill one hole in a flute...well, you kinda have to get a new piece of PVC.

IMO, pitched percussion also eliminates some human error at competition. As any wind/brass player knows, you have to get the air just right to get a note in tune. With pitched percussion, no matter how you hit the key, it still produces the same note. As a starting mallets player, I think that it'd be much easier (even for someone with no music experience) to pick up pitched percussion than it would be to pick up a wind/brass instrument. After all, it's basically "hit right things at right time", as opposed to "force right amount of air across mouthpiece, while simultaneously putting down fingers over right holes in instrument at right time".
On the other hand, I'd love to see them make electrophones mandatory. :P
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Re: Sounds of Music C

Post by nomynameisnotkevin » May 29th, 2012, 5:47 pm

Hello, I am interested in building a xylophone type instrument. Any ideas on what I should use to build a mallet?

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Re: Sounds of Music C

Post by beaverkid » May 30th, 2012, 10:37 am

Use your head

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Re: Sounds of Music C

Post by Infinity Flat » May 30th, 2012, 12:24 pm

nomynameisnotkevin wrote:Hello, I am interested in building a xylophone type instrument. Any ideas on what I should use to build a mallet?
Depending on the pitch of your xylophone/marimba you will want a different type of mallet.
Generally, you want a harder mallet for higher notes and a softer mallet for lower notes. For the most part, mallet selection in this event is less important than the actual construction of the instrument, and you can usually get away with only using one hardness/type of mallet for your device.

Generally, a mallet is made up of a head and a shaft. For the shaft, you can use either a wooden dowel (1/4-1/2 inch hardwood/oak from Home Depot work pretty well) or a plastic rod. The head typically has a rubber core wrapped in some other material, usually yarn.

For the rubber core, we used these black rubber annulus things about 1.5 inches in diameter with a .5 inch center hole, and about a quarter or half inch thick. Not sure exactly what they are called, sorry. We wrapped the end of the stick in masking tape for a tight fit, and then hot glued the core onto the end of the wooden shaft.

After the "skeleton" of the mallet is constructed, we then wrapped the mallet using a fairly soft yarn, following the instructions from here. For a bass marimba, you might want ~150 wraps, whereas for a higher "xylophone" mallet, 25-50 wraps suffice.
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Re: Sounds of Music C

Post by ahsettle23 » May 31st, 2012, 6:21 am

For a bass marimba, the real key is the core of the mallets, and this actually has a surprisingly important effect on the sound of the instrument and is significantly more important than the number of wraps. Since the beginning of last year, we've been using the same kind of super ball cores and they've worked wonderfully for two years. This year at states, someone on our team decided to make a pair of backup mallets, but he didn't have any rubber cores so he just used wood and doubled up on the wrapping, and they sounded like crap. I'm not saying there is a perfect core that will work for all marimbas, but you definitely want to try out a few different cores before sticking to one.
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Re: Sounds of Music C

Post by Infinity Flat » May 31st, 2012, 7:38 am

ahsettle23 wrote:For a bass marimba, the real key is the core of the mallets, and this actually has a surprisingly important effect on the sound of the instrument and is significantly more important than the number of wraps. Since the beginning of last year, we've been using the same kind of super ball cores and they've worked wonderfully for two years. This year at states, someone on our team decided to make a pair of backup mallets, but he didn't have any rubber cores so he just used wood and doubled up on the wrapping, and they sounded like crap. I'm not saying there is a perfect core that will work for all marimbas, but you definitely want to try out a few different cores before sticking to one.
Yes, the core definitely has a notable impact on the "hardness" of the mallet. Like for the mallet as a whole, you'll want to have a softer/squisheir core for a lower instrument, and a harder/stiffer core for a higher instrument. When you just wrap the shaft in yarn solely, you kinda get the worst of two worlds, with it being too soft (no support from the core) and too hard (the center can easily "clink" on the wood) at the same time.
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Re: Sounds of Music C

Post by butter side up » May 31st, 2012, 8:04 am

We typically used some standard bouncy balls (we experimented to find our favorites, don't remember our final choice, but that would be up to you anyway) and used arrow shafts for the handles. This allowed us to make multiple ones, as everyone preferred a different length (and color). The arrow shafts worked very well, as they are light and strong. The rubber balls were fairly dense, but had a good effect, as they did not make noise themselves, which might change the resulting note.
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Re: Sounds of Music C

Post by CulturallyScientific » June 25th, 2012, 9:12 pm

Out of rubber, yarn-ball, and plastic mallets, which are the most recommended (in general)?
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Re: Sounds of Music C

Post by Infinity Flat » June 25th, 2012, 9:39 pm

CulturallyScientific wrote:Out of rubber, yarn-ball, and plastic mallets, which are the most recommended (in general)?
For the broadest range of application, a rubber core (I used NAPA mounts pic) wrapped in yarn will probably be best. As mentioned above, the hardness of mallet you want is determined by the pitch of your instrument.

The issue with rubber mallets, in my opinion at least, is that they have a weird timbre when striking the instrument, from what I believe is the rubber "sticking" to the wood. This is especially noticeable when doing rolls. Doing a thin wrapping of yarn will preserve the hardness but improve the timbre.

The exception to this is if you can somehow find the rubber which is used to make actual xylophone/marimba mallets, in which case I would recommend that if trying to produce a smooth sound on a treble instrument. This rubber doesn't have the same striking issue, but I haven't been able to find any. For a brighter sound on the treble, go with plastic mallets. For a bass instrument, almost always stick with yarn, although there are some times when rubber sounds nice, and rare instances where you might like a plastic mallet.
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