Bar cord tension

Hi .-)

I got a used Adams VSWV31 Soloist vibe and it sounds great (...and yeah, all bars are in tune !).

Because the bar cords were very worn out, i got a new set... Which leads me to the question if there is any advice on setting a proper bar cord tension? How much tension should be on the cord springs? Are there any 'thumb-rules'?

best regards, Jenzz

Usually I just try to get it as tight as I can. If there is slack in the cord, it will break or your bars will smack your fans.

I'm amazed that some players have their tension very loose. I swear there is a big difference and the instrument sounds much better with tight tension.

i wrote the above a few years ago. i don't know put the tension super tight. remember the bars vibrate up and down and i think sideways. if you hear funny upper partials, try loosening the cord a bit. I've had that problem. loosened the cord and the funny upper partials went a way.

i think leigh told me this about the bars. if the string is a little looser then it can't move so much sideways.

fascinating about how sound and vibrations work!

Thx for the suggestions...

I've fiddeled around with the tension and you guys seem right. First i tried a loose setup with only some milimeters of stretch onto the springs (...this was the setup as i got the vibe a half year ago...). Result was a pure tone with much fundamental, but somewhat fast decaying upper hamonics. With about 2,5 cm of tension on the springs, the tone is more balanced and has longer sustaining upper harmonics (using Mike Balter No. 64 mushroom-type mallets). So i think i'll stay with the thighter tension...

regards, Jenzz

i took me a long time to understand about upper harmonics and string tension!

I had been a proponent of tight bar cord tension for a while, but I've since noticed that I get a better 'dry' sound with the pedal up when the tension is a little looser. I also feel like the dampening bar dampens the lower notes more evenly. Maybe this is another trade off situation. Tighter tension=better sustain, more muted dry sound. Looser tension=better dry sound, less sustain?

Interesting that this should come up. Recently, I noticed an annoying buzz from my low F bar when the dampening pedal was depressed. It took a while and some experimenting to discover that the tension on my bar cord for the lower rank (the naturals) was loose. When I increased the tension, the buzz went away. Apparently, the vibration of the bar was interacting with the rather loose cord, causing it to vibrate, producing an ugly tone. Now with a lot of tension on the bar cord, I'm getting a pure tone out of both the low F and G. And when the pedal is not depressed, everything sounds cleaner as well.

I think I've posted this before but every vibe, marimba and xylophone should have this. It eliminates the cumbersome metal springs for when you have to change the string, it for travel, you have no metal with the bars scratching them up. You can get this as tight as you like and you can do it fast enough that it can be done during a rest within a tune. It's easy to make happen. They are cam-cleats used on sail boats. Watch the video demo here.

I always use the following clamcleats CL204 mini for my frames:

* very cheap (even cheaper in Germany)
* absolut noisless beause of no moving parts
* work perfect with cords from 3 to 6 mm

I have those and wondered if they work as well but I haven't actually tried them. I'll replace mine when I get home and see if I like them as well. They are about 1/4 the price. Every instrument should be using them.

Great idea - ordered some and will give them a go. I would love to get rid of the springs - I use a piece of felt to protect the bars from getting scratched, but I'm not always successful. Thanks for the info!

The photos show how I use the clamping elements, in the right image with a standard frame.
For my lightweight frames (left pictures), I use a simple 90° redirection to tension the cords downwards, so that the frame will not be strained when tightened.
(I don't know how to add pictures to forum comments)

Love it.

it's pretty funny this post has over 4,000 views. i guess we care a lot about cord tension! i have known nothing about the technical side of the instrument. until.... i started VW and checked out piper and a couple other people. and when i got with malletech. i have learned a ton about the instrument now! the tech side is very important!

Tony, you should put a little pressure on Leigh to get rid of those dumb springs. Paul and I are causing change (improvements) but Leigh could lead the way and this is an easy but substantial improvement.

I received and installed the Clamcleats. Here a a couple of pics...seem to work well. Decided to install at an angle - just seemed more secure to angle the cords in a little around the last pins.

Hopefully the pics are visible...

Now that I have the new cleats I'm thinking I might want to replace the cords as well. Any big choices here? Any difference between hardware store cord and Musser? I think this is what I currently have:


I only use cotton butcher twine. It lasts fine for me but it's not as durable as the plastic stuff but I notice a difference in tone. I think Leigh has an alternative choice too. The thing about having the cleats and no springs is that you can run a continuous ball of string on one end. You can place the ball in an inconspicuous small black bag hung on your low end - one for the naturals and one for the sharps and flats. As you see see wear, you simply pull the on the used end through all the bars and new string from the ball will now be in your bars. Just snip off the old and you're ready to go again.

just for the record. i'm not as picky as these guys. i use parachute cord and love it. it lasts a long time and i don't see a difference. esp if you're with a band. then i would argue there's no difference.

Regarding to your photos, it looks like you've already done some upgrades to your frame. In the meantime, I have successfully tested another frame retrofit:

My bar posts can be made from any material (especially rubber). They can be subsequently applied to almost all frame types. The pictures show my rubber bar posts on an aluminum frame. Instead of the rubber post you can insert the same geometry in aluminum or steel.

When using the rubber posts, there is no noise and no cord wear anymore!