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Steve Weiss Mallet Workshop


I see two-mallet players comping all the time, but all the instructional material calls for at least three mallets.

I've seem people hit the same note an octave apart, put a full step in between, etc. I also read about the third/seventh idea. Anyway, there are a lot of combinations in an octave that sound different. What combinations (or intervals) would best correspond to various chords?

Any tips for comping with two mallets?


John Keene Tue, 07/26/2011 - 13:18

Although the vibes are buried in the mix, Al Jarreau's live 1977 album Look to the Rainbow has Lynn Blessing playing vibes exclusively and it's all two-mallet comping. There is a pianist, so the vibes are essentially fleshing out the rhythm section with a combination of obligatto lines, octaves, fills, and other techniques you describe. There is only one short vibes solo on the entire album, so I think it's an excellent example of how to comp with two mallets.

toddc Tue, 07/26/2011 - 15:51

5 Step comping program for two mallet players:

1. Only play if you can support or add to the story.
2. You're not a parrot so don't pay like one.
3. Think lines and/or colors
4. If you need more colors play four mallets
5. When in doubt tacit, step back from the instrument, look deeply and calmly into the yarn of your mallets as if inspecting them, while listening in shear panic to find your place in the tune.

I have no clue what I'm talking about.
I have no authority to say these are rules.
I accept no responsibility if these rules screw up your life.


goldwing Wed, 07/27/2011 - 22:44


I'm surely no expert at this but here's my two cents on the topic. When I first started playing the vibes, I played with two mallet for about 5 years so I played two note chords. I started with 3rds. They sound pretty thin but hey, they are correct harmony and they work. I moved to 6ths because they sounded a lot fuller. Octaves work too.

The trick to using any of these is to not just strike the chord and leave it at that. I've learned by listening to a LOT of players that good comping comes from almost making a harmonized melody with what you're playing. Whether you're playing chords with 2 notes, 3 or 4, the top note is heard the most so start this exercise by use it to create some interesting harmonized lines behind the lead instrument. Don't over do it ... less is more in this case. I've heard some very effective 2 note chords played this way and it sounded great. Playing chords in an arpeggiated way is another good technique.

Ed D

mikepinto Thu, 07/28/2011 - 02:08

The way I use 2 mallets to comp is to not think about it like 2 mallets but to think of larger chords and textures that you have to arpeggiate with 1 or two mallets at a time. Using mallet dampening allows for common notes to be held out accross multiple chords while dampening and striking new notes to create movement while maintaining a thicker presence.
Another idea is to break a chord apart and strike the outer notes first and then the inner notes of a 4 note voicing or some variation of that. Just some ideas!

edmann Mon, 08/01/2011 - 15:34

sometimes 1 and 2 voice comps blend and carry better than 4 voice comps, especially given the harmonically rich nature of a vibes bar.