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I think it might be a good idea to start posting items here on a regular basis, where the technical background of the vibes are explained. I've found that there are things many vibists don't realize.

I'll start off in a couple of days with a first topic as soon as work quiets down here at the company (we're preparing for PASIC with several new instruments).

vanderPlas Baileo


Piper Sun, 10/05/2008 - 09:13

Welcome Nico! It's great to have you join in.

(For anyone out there who doesn't know Nico, Check out his web site at ... I'll bet you're about to learn a lot about the physical vibraphone. Nico is a pioneer in the vibe and the mallet instrument manufacturing biz. He has a commitment and dedication to making excellent instruments.)

No matter what vibe you play, if you're not using Nico's gel pad on your damper rail, you're missing out on a lot of damping power your instrument is capable of. I use it on my personal Piper Vibe and I wouldn't be without it.

So Nico, what's new with you? Any cool new instruments? It would be great if you could offer up a video of your percussion shop and show our subscribers all the cool stuff you do there. Is that within the realm of possibilities?

Thanks for joining in!!!

nico Sun, 10/05/2008 - 10:49

In reply to by Piper

Hi John,

great to be on the same forum with you again: missed our enormous discussions we had years ago, and which were actually the cause of establishing my company.

Yep, but we're doing a lot more than vibraphones alone these days, tho ofcourse emphasis remain the vibe.
Pretty sure that many of the new stuff will be seen thru this site also.

Will you be at PASIC so that we finally meet in person?

vanderPlas Baileo

Piper Sun, 10/05/2008 - 11:14

In reply to by nico

I'm sure going to try to make it to PASIC this year Nico. Is it in Texas? I've been out of touch on that lately and need to pay attention to it.

Hey, remember that bar mount I sent you? Here's a picture of the vibe frame I built using it and a pretty cool set up for re-stringing the instrument that requires no springs that scratch up the bars in transport and has tight tension all the time. It turned out excellent but never really got off the ground. I ended up selling it to a conservatory out here as their school vibe. (check out the photos attached)

nico Sun, 10/05/2008 - 14:42

In reply to by Piper

It's in Austin.
We're at booth 55-59 (a big booth this year), so definitelly drop in, pretty sure we've a lot to talk about.

See you've used the smaller profiles for the frame: good choice. I've used the slotted profiles for bar rails in my early days, but never got it to work efficient for me.

Love what you've done with the frames' side stands. I don't know if it is really the case, but as I see it, if you'd remove the lower bolts/screws, you can tilt the stands underneath the keybed, while having the stands hinge in itself too. If it isn't the case, then you should make it the case as it would then be a great idea that saves leg lengths.

And you've put a semi-wide pedal underneath ;-)


Piper Sun, 10/05/2008 - 15:13

In reply to by nico

I think it is the case but I'm not sure I follow correctly. I'll look you up in Austin. Now... for more important things... do I buy the first round or do you? I guess that really doesn't matter either. What's really important is who buys the sixth and seventh? Ha! I look forward to seeing you there Nico.

BarryK Sun, 10/05/2008 - 15:34

In reply to by Piper

I recently installed a Vanderplas Gel Pad in my vintage Deagan 580 "Traveller" Vibraharp. My old pad was so compressed that when you hit the key it would buzz (i.e., repeated the note quickly). Now, with the gel pad, the note dampens out nicely.


Stefan74 Wed, 10/08/2008 - 05:31

In reply to by BarryK

Hi Barry!

I just wanted to ask if the gel pad is wider than the original pad and if this caused any problems?

I have been thinking about changing the pad of my Ross vibe too but it seems that the dampener bar is not as wide as the gel pad is so I always hesitated.

Any hints are welcome
cheers Stefan

BarryK Wed, 10/08/2008 - 07:08

In reply to by Stefan74

Hi Stefan,

When I received the pad, I was concerned about its width. It was wider than my orignal. The attached pictures (that I emailed to the distributor here), show the pad before I installed it to show the size. The second picture is the pad upside down to show the tape side. When you install it, the width should be centered on the damper bar. The problem with my Deagan was the levers would get in the way. What I did was kept the damper pad centered under all of the keys, but at the ends by the levers, I bent them slightly (not shown). I believe this was recommended for some Musser models also. The bend did not have any effect on the dampening.

If you need a picture with the pad installed, please let me know.

Best to ask Nico about your model.


Stefan74 Wed, 10/08/2008 - 08:29

In reply to by BarryK

Hi Barry!

Thanks for the pictures and answering my questions! The levers and the dampener bar do look similar to those on my vibe. If bending the pad around the levers works then things are fine - would you mind posting a pic? Is there an installing instruction that came with the pad?

Again thanks a lot, cheers Stefan

Marie-Noëlle Thu, 10/09/2008 - 08:09

In reply to by BarryK

Hello Barry,
Having a look on your pic, I have a silly question: if the system is installed, if it's mounted on your vibes on that pic, then what is your vibes made of? :o! The material where it is placed doesn't look like metal but... somehow like some kind of "granite"! :- )) I know this is not, so, what is it? :o!

BarryK Thu, 10/09/2008 - 09:51

In reply to by Marie-Noëlle

The frame is texture-painted wood. The damper bar itself, on which the pad is mounted, is cast aluminum, I believe.


Marie-Noëlle Wed, 10/08/2008 - 07:21

In reply to by Piper

Hello John,
I've read that before Nico's gel pad innovation, you had created a "water-filled pad"... How did it look like? Do you have pictures of it?
P.S.: really glad to see Nico around! :o)

Piper Wed, 10/08/2008 - 10:33

In reply to by Marie-Noëlle

Yes, that's correct and Musser still uses the "pipercushion damper pad" (water-filled bladder) on the Piper Vibe (M58) model. It works great but is not as dependable as Nico's Gel Pad.

When I was trying to develop a solo style on the vibe, I was constantly frustrated by how much effort it took to play cleanly on the vibe. There was a damper but it never muted all the notes evenly or at the same time and often added extra buzz and other noises to your sound. I hated it so I started working on ways to improve it. I added small strips of piano felt to places that didn't dampen correctly and that really just moved the problem to another area. I tried placing more springs in different locations and that created another set of problems. I tried different foams and cushions. I even tried saving dryer lent for months and creating my own felt (didn't work). One day when I had my vibe all in pieces on my living room floor of our apartment in Van Nuys, CA. I decided to take a break and go for a ride on my bicycle. Unfortunately (fortunately), my bike had a flat tire. So, while repairing the inner-tube, it dawned on my that an inner-tube filled with air might allow even damping throughout the damper pad. It would distribute the pressure from the springs to all parts of the rail. I took the tube off my bike and laid a thin layer of felt over it and..... it didn't work. But, it failed because there was not enough mass in the air-filled inner-tube to stop the notes. So, I filled it with water and clamped the ends and it was fantastic. Now, there's a lot more to this story (about six years worth) but that's the main part.

Regarding the Gel (silicone) pad: I tried replacing the water with silicone and couldn't get it to work. It was either too thin and would leave residue on the bars or it was too rigid and would buzz so I just stuck to my liquid filled pad. Nico, however, figured it out, and now makes the best vibraphone add-on accessory available. I don't even see how it can be improved. It's perfect! I tell everyone to replace their liquid-filled pad and felt pads with Nico's pad. It's great. I've been using it for years and have never had to replace it.

Hey, thanks for asking. It was fun reminiscing.

Marie-Noëlle Wed, 10/08/2008 - 11:27

In reply to by Piper

That was a great story to read! This must have been thrilling, and somehow funny, with all those vibes parts in your appartment (though maybe not that much for your family…).
And that part with your bike’s inner tube : « Eureka! »... Now I know I could really call you « Professor Piper »! ;o)
Has your system the same outlook as Nico’s, with felt (like in Barry’s pictures?)

Piper Wed, 10/08/2008 - 11:59

In reply to by Marie-Noëlle

It seems that none of us (including piano manufacturers) have found anything that can touch a vibrating bar or piano string with out buzzing except felt and as Nico can tell you, it has to be special felt to work well.

BarryK Wed, 10/08/2008 - 11:43

In reply to by Piper

I am glad to read about your experiment with an air bladder. I was thinking of working on one to reduce the weight of the instrument. The idea was to somehow use a pedal to inflate/deflate the bladder. But now I know that won't work due to not enough mass.

How about air (through a flexible tube) to raise or lower the existing damper bar? This would eliminate the mechanical connection between the pedal and the damper bar. That might save some weight. I saw something similar with a portable vibes using mechanism similar to a bicycle brake cable.

I am always thinking about ways to make my vibes more portable, as I am sure others are too.

Does anyone know how much the bars weigh? Mine are permanently attached (string through eye bolts) so I can't weigh them. Can I replace eye bolts with something else? Recommended sources?


Piper Wed, 10/08/2008 - 12:05

In reply to by BarryK

This is an excellent idea and I'll bet it would work very well. There are several glitch potentials such as leaks and altitude etc.. but I love the idea. I've always felt that the pedal mechanism on the vibe is backward anyway. The player should be able to control the pressure applied to the bars by stepping on the pedal and then a spring should assist in releasing the pressure, not applying it. Of course you'd have a great time getting the established vibe community to accept depressing the pedal to mute notes instead of releasing but I'm all for giving more control to the player. GREAT IDEA that's thinking outside the box. Now... Here's what I always say about a great idea (I don't think I made this up, it's a quote from a great inventor but I can't remember from who) ... "A great idea is a job half finished". The hard part is making one work.

Piper Wed, 10/08/2008 - 13:03

In reply to by BarryK

You'd be surprised at what you can learn about playing your instrument by digging in and making it tick for you. In addition, I've read studies that have proven that the brain needs time away from a discipline in order to incorporate it into the subconscious to be able to use new information creatively. So, spending time away, doing completely different tasks could benefit your overall learning. I think you should tinker a bit...

Tony, how much credit do you get to apply to music practice by "tinkering on the vibes"? Ha!

BarryK Wed, 10/08/2008 - 13:28

In reply to by Piper

Unfortunately, I have a full-time day gig (not music), so that is my time away from my instrument.

And Tony, why don't I get credit for listening to music at work?


tonymiceli Wed, 10/08/2008 - 13:55

In reply to by BarryK

cause you're not focusing. ha! and you're using the OTHER side of your brain!!!

and that's just my deal. you can alter the rules any way you want.

unfortunately you have full time job? don't know if that's unfortunate!

this is a hard hard hard hard hard hard business. i love music and love playing and pretty much love my life. but if i was to do it over, i'm not sure what i'd do. i wouldn't trade my past for anything. but it was sooo hard, that i'd have to think twice to do it all over.

s k y p e: tjazzvibe
i c h a t: tonymiceli

nico Sun, 10/19/2008 - 07:23

In reply to by Piper

"The player should be able to control the pressure applied to the bars by stepping on the pedal and then a spring should assist in releasing the pressure, not applying it. Of course you'd have a great time getting the established vibe community to accept depressing the pedal to mute notes instead of releasing but I'm all for giving more control to the player. GREAT IDEA that's thinking outside the box."

This is not a difficult thing to accomplish on a vibe. I've just done it with the new glocks both Fall Creek and I are introducing at PASIC.
Just remove the spring from underneath the damperbar. Extend the pedal towards the opposite side of the crossbar and mount the pedal connecting rod at that other side.
So when you push the pedal, the rod pushes upwards. Weight of the damperbar will most likely push the pedal up again when foot is lifted. If not, then add a pull spring ISO the usual push spring.

Ofcourse you need to adjust the pedal connecting rod.


tonymiceli Sun, 10/05/2008 - 10:13

do whatever you want!! that would be sooooo cool.

i'll set up a forum called ask 'nico' if you want also. whatever you want i'll do!

s k y p e: tjazzvibe
i c h a t: tonymiceli

Piper Sun, 10/05/2008 - 22:06

Are you offering tunable stops that will retro-fit to other manufacturer's resonators yet? I always thought that would be a great thing to offer.

nico Mon, 10/06/2008 - 01:12

In reply to by Piper

NOt at this moment.
I am not fond of having people tuning the vibe resonators themselves. Other than on a marimba, it takes a lot more effort and things you need to take in account when tuning, such as at what angle the fans start acting, sustain length compared to warmth, etc.

I plan to post the proper method to tune the resonators here too.


Piper Mon, 10/06/2008 - 08:50

In reply to by nico

Okay. I understand. People who don't get the complete picture of how the tuning works end up "chasing their tails" trying to get things where they think they want them - especially with fans in. I don't use fans and there are a few people who don't but probably not enough people like that to warrant making them available. Thanks for the reply Nico.