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Hello everyone again!
I hope you don't mind me filling in this section with some more questions on the vibes makers?

What do you think about the Yamaha's lower end vibraphone, the small and cute YV-520 model? Would you consider it as a true vibraphone or rather a toy? It has 32 mm wide bars and I've heard it's not so much comfortable to play on the bars so narrow especially when applying a four mallet techinques.
Is this model more like the vibes for children?

I know Yamaha makes quality products but is it wise to get a quality product with so limited functionality that it almost defeats the purpose of playing the instrument? Am I wrong in saying this?


Marie-Noëlle Tue, 03/26/2013 - 03:01

In reply to by S-Vibes

Maybe some of the Yamaha players will post here later... or not. My opinion is that it's mainly a question of taste... a choice. I believe it requires skill to be at ease on tiny bars, but that you have the great advantage to have a more portable instrument. One of our French masters Franck Tortiller is playing Yamaha. I don't know the models (I think one was designed for him) but I know he made that choice of "compact" instruments and is doing very well with them. My 2 cents.

John Keene Tue, 03/26/2013 - 06:04

In reply to by Marie-Noëlle

It looks like an instrument designed for elementary and secondary schools. And it makes a lot of sense as a reasonable investment for a school band. I would think that the primary market for brand-new mallet instruments in general would be orchestras and schools, so this is really a nice instrument for that purpose.

S-Vibes Tue, 03/26/2013 - 10:01

In reply to by John Keene

So John, you say it's a valid vibraphone for a specific purpose? There are some other makers offering similar products like Saito #125. Saito offers it with 32 to 36 graduated bars though in a higher pitch in my understanding.

- Yamaha with the 32 mm bars is pitched like a regular vibes at F3-F6…

- Saito is ptches at C4-C7

How come is Yamaha pitched lower with almost the same and even narrower bars? Everything looks pretty identical and yet the Saito is pitched higher?

Saito on their web page describe the #125 model as an instrument "...utilized in schools as part of their music curriculum".
Yamaha says: "...perfect for limited budgets, beginning percussionists or professionals who need a compact, instrument".

Saito is rather modest but for a reason as their instrument is pitched higher and as such is less suitable for a standard vibraphone range situation.

Yamaha goes furter saying it could be used as a professional instrument.

All above sounds convincing but one needs to consider the limitations of the narrow bars. Who is at a more loss here? A professional on tour, probably an adult deliberately choosing this instrument for its compact size but understanding his limitations with four mallet work for instance and as such perhaps struggling with it or a kid who's using it at school and getting used to it not realizing about building specific habits with playing on narrow bars?

Marie mentioned that for a narrow-sized vibraphone one needs more precision. That's obviously so but is it good or bad? For example good for building precision that can be applied to a wider bars instrument? But does it really make sense since when translated to a wider bars instrument the precision becomes useless because one simply doesn't need it.

So, is it correct to assume that the only valid benefit of YV-520 is its compactness and comfort of use for small children regardless of its price tag and unless these factors are really a concern in a specific situation the instrument should be avoided?
What about adult amateurs?

By the way, if you go to YouTube and type in "Yamaha YV-520" you'll get a collection of videos of an nice old man Dennis Fern who does some nice two mallet job on YV-520 for his hobby. That perhaps answers my question but anyway what you think?

John Keene Tue, 03/26/2013 - 11:04

In reply to by S-Vibes

I tend to ask myself who the target market would be. If I directed bands a primary or seconday school, I'd want to buy an F to F instrument to comply with the published arrangements. Keeping the cost down also plays a role since a vibraphone purchase wouldn't be at the top of my purchase priority for school band. But a new reasonably priced one might be, and especially if it is a quality instrument like Yamaha that won't need replacement every couple of years. The height adjustment is a nice feature as well.

Of course Yamaha wouldn't advertise any instrument as "school-only" so in the theoretical world a pro musician might be interested in buying one although somewhat unlikely. One other target group that you mention is older musicians, where the lighter weight would make this attractive. So I would include them as target customers.

We had a similar discussion a few years ago about the Piper Vibe. Who would want to buy a vibe that heavy? Well, a school, orchestra, or symphony would love it because it is built to be rolled around stages as well as up and down corridors and not have to be replaced every couple of years. A professional would prefer a Pro-Vibe or Traveller, and often look to buy a used instrument rather than a new one depending on what is available.

Regarding Saito vs Yamaha, this is only a guess but I would imagine that certain schools have a relationship with Yamaha dealers since Yamaha sells trumpets and saxophones and band instruments. A better deal may be achieved when more Yamaha instruments can be added to the purchase.

vibeman27 Tue, 03/26/2013 - 17:25

In reply to by John Keene

I looked at the links before answering with this post. John's first sentence states the case in a nutshell. Elementary and secondary schools I would see as the purpose of its marketing. Also sets these sizes have been successfully sold as "student" models, that is in school or otherwise. This level does not require the professional bar composition responses nor size for ease in performing or recording. As one progresses in adulthood and musical maturity, it is a natural progression to move on to a more professional sounding instrument. This situation is no different than a student trumpet or one that costs thousands of dollars.

S-Vibes Wed, 03/27/2013 - 02:48

In reply to by vibeman27

Be careful dear vibeman27 when comparing a vibraphone like YV-520 to a student level trumpet. I think in this case you've compared the wrong parameters. A student level trumpet has the same physical dimensions as a pofessional instrument and since I have some experience playing trumpet (sorry if you do also, I just don't know) I'd say some student trumpets are good enough to pass as a semi-pro trumpet. A good student trumpet like Yamaha will have a thinner upper register compared to a pro instrument but intonation-wise they are great and sound in the middle register is as good as with their pro ones. Besides trumpet is a very difficult instrument to master and not every profesional even deserves a very expensive pro trumpet but they buy them anyway because they have to.

If you said that a student level vibraphone of the pro level size one would have bars made of inferior alloy compared to a pro instrument and maybe it was tuned by a less experienced master tuner and the vibraphone would have overall simpler construction and materials used I'd totally agree with you. In this particular case what is obviosly different is its size. Yamaha doesn't say anything about lesser quality and we all know Yamaha's quality is legendary.
You could probably compare YV-520 in this case to a piccolo trumpet size-wise but that's also a different story as piccolo trumpets have normal valve block size so they are handled in a conventional way. Besides there are no student piccolo trumpets unless it's an Asian cheap instrument. So a piccolo trumpet will only sound higher. It will require a more precision work though like a smaller vibraphone. The piccolo could be close in comparison but not price-wise however. Even the simple one will cost thousands. Again it's a wrong comparison path. You see, with trumpets it's a different story.

Now you may think what is my point of continuing this argumentation? OK. If Yamaha said that 'this is a vibraphone meant solely for small children because with their smaller arms they are uncomfortable with a larger one' I would see the logic immediately. However Yamaha says this vibraphone can be used in a professional setting and so I immediately imagine an adult struggling with smaller size bars.
Well, maybe I simply overstate the importance of wide bars for professional work and comfort of playing? Here I maybe completely wrong. Looking at an elder man on YouTube I mentioned before I don't see him experiencing any discomfort playing his YV-520.

So, maybe I simply used wrong assumptions? I actually didn't make up this assumption myself. I read an article on the web mentioning potential precision problems with narrow bars and I took it for granted.

Finally, what I'm getting at is the following. Is what Yamaha says about potential buyers of this model completely true or is there any degree of slyness in saying that this vibraphone can be used by (adult) people on a budget and professionals for whom the weight and size is of concern? Of course anything can be used by anyone with various degree of success like a three wheel kids bike by an adult for instance but when the potential application by professionals or adult beginners is suggested as a norm for this vibraphone without implying any possible limitations is this a true suggestion? When someone buys a three wheel kids bike I doubt the bike's ad will say: 'For small kids, adult beginners and professional racers with bike size concerns' or will it? :-)
By the way I think I found a valid comparison with the bike analogy. You can get a quality three wheel bike but not everyone can use it with ease. But again, I don't know maybe the potential playing limitations associated with YV-520 are only imaginary?

mnomusic Thu, 04/11/2013 - 16:32

OK, I had one of these things for years when I lived in Japan. Did probably 500 gigs with it.

I used it for 1 reason, transport. It fit in cab, and with I could fold it up, strap the resonators to the frame and roll on the metro. It sounded OK when played quietly, but was very "pingy" when played loud.

At times I hated it, but without it, I would not have got the exposure from being able to play most anywhere.

The reality is, the music is in yourself, not in a hunk of tuned metal.

Eventually I got very annoyed at the volume issue and modified an old Ayotte pickup system for my M-55. It was glitchy (I always traveled with a soldering gun:). With the pickups, I could cut through most anything (this was during the 90's... lots of "Acid-Jazz" style gigs, loud and groove based.

Eventually I grew to hate the sound, and eventually left the vibes at a restaurant I was playing at one night, I folded them up, put them behind a fake wall, and never went back. Maybe they are still there:)

So is it a real instrument... Yes, is it a good sounding instrument... No.

A side note, I was playing this instrument and was heard by a producer for Sony Records, who over time had me record on 50+ dates. I always brought my m-55 for the recordings, but would have never got in the door if it were not the the Yamaha.

Go play music and don't worry about the little stuff!