Damper on a M55G

Hi,
I am really new to vibes so if it is a stupid question sorry for that :-)

I bought a M55G (ok, I am a beginner, but it was a long dream...).
The mechanics of the new instrument is lovely except the dampening. The upper register is not damped much and the lower sounds like "tock tock" if I hit them. I tried to loosen and tighten the damper with that screw. The only difference is, that the lower bars are more like tock tock or nothing is damped anymore.
Any suggestions...?

Thank you!!

Holger

Not a stupid question at all. The fact that it's different from end to end is actually a good thing and it's a very common problem especially after shipping or moving. What you need to do is CAREFULLY but firmly adjust it by bending the pivot arms for the damper.

A good way to do it is to remove the bars and measure the distance from the low bar to the rail that is closest to it with a square. With the Damper still in the vibe back the damper adjustment screw/disk out a few turns. Then push down on the 'high' side and pull up on the low side to bend it some. Push the damper pedal 5 or six times and remeasure. I'd go up about 1/4" (5-6 mm)You have to be careful though. You have to give it enough force to bend but it is possible to pull the screws out of the mount if you are too aggressive. Put the bars back in and test and see if it gets better. It also is possible to do some adjusting with the bars in the vibe as well. Just remember to push the damper 3 or 4 times after you adjust it to make sure it's settled. It's possible to over adjust but at least you have measurements to work from.

Also if you are getting a tock tock sound, your felt may be replacing or you have something else loose that is making a noise and it's just more noticeable since you are hitting the damper harder on the low notes. Are there big dents in the felt from the bars?

Bought an old 55 and the high Eb and F3 buzz too much when closing the pedal on them. Any solutions. I heard newer cord or changing the posts or adding to the new felt I had installed. Thank you
Gust Tsilis

yes so the buzzing comes from one of 2 places. the felt on the damper bar or the chord holding the bars on.

you could look closely at the felt and shave off any pieces you see sticking up.
you could buy a new damper pad.
you could replace your chord.
you could switch to a silicone damper. I have a love hate thing with silicone damper pads. other people here LOVE them.

What do you use instead of the gel/silicone damper pads? I switched to the Vanderplas pad many years ago, but now I'm hearing quite a bit of buzzing. Also - although this seems to be pad buzzing to me - is there any way to tell if it's the cord without just replacing it? And - this may/may not make sense, but I get more of a buzz the softer mallet I use. Any cord recommendations?

What I wrote below using cotton felt, washed and dried to shrink and pucker will work for your situation (only a couple of bucks) and it will resolve it if you do it. Also, pay attention to the instructions about taking care of your damper pad by disengaging it when you're not actually playing it. This is very important for all damper pads. The pads are not cheap and if you take care of it by disengaging it when not in use, it will last decades (without buzzes).

Thanks for the reply - do you think the Vanderplas pad could just be too far gone given that I have NEVER disengaged my pedal bar in the many years I've had it installed. :o( I can clearly see indentations in the pad for every bar. I would consider replacing the pad with a new Vanderplas pad if I thought the buzzing would be corrected. Thanks!

My opinion is that if you replace it and take care of it, it will last a very long time. I've had one for over 10 years and it was fine right up until it got torn up transporting it to Antarctica. It's very important to disengage the damper when not in use if you want it to last and you don't want the buzzing to return.

However, you can first try just disengaging the damper starting now when you're not playing it and put a new thin layer of felt over it. That will only cost a couple bucks and I think that will solve your problems. . If I was in the states, I'd hook you up with the right felt ready to go but I'm 10K miles away. Try the thin felt 1/8 or 1/16th inch thin and do the washing/drying to soften it. See if that work. Lay it across the entire damper rail and see if it helps. If it doesn't then go with the replacement. That's what I'd do.

I replaced the dampening felt on my m55 recently and now it works great again. but you should make sure to really get everything of that old glue off from the bar that hold the old felt. otherwise you might get bumps and stuff like that.
if you are in Germany (Holger klingt als wärest du aus Deutschland?) I'd suggest you a great guy in Berlin. he is amazing in fixing old percussion instruments.

I actually have a world patent on the first version of the liquid-filled damper pad but Nico one-up'd me with an improved version with his gel-filled damper pad (I use his) and I think Leigh Stevens now offers yet another improved version. Point being, you should get one. It's a bit expensive but you'll probably never have to replace it and your instrument will be improved in many ways by simply adding this feature. Contact: Fall Creek Marimbas
(315) 879 - 0885 and ask for the Gel Pad.
rick@marimbas.com

Another option is to purchase cotton piano felt strips that are about 1/16th inch thick and 4 or 5 inches wide and several inches beyond the length of your damper rail. Next, machine wash it on gentle cycle. Stick it in the dryer on regular heat and dry it completely. This shrinks the felt causing it to puff up making it very soft. The new thin layer of felt will easily lay across the existing hard felt and eliminate the buzzing caused by the hard damper felt.

In order to keep the new felt good for a long period of time, get in the habit of using the circular knurled nut located under the bars holding the spring. Simply, depress the pedal and turn the knurled nut clockwise tightening it until the felt will no longer engage the bars. This will stop putting unnecessary pressure on your damper bar when you're not playing the instrument. All that pressure pushing the felt against the bars 24 hours per day causes the felt to mash down over time and become hard and buzzing increases.

An easy way to hold the new felt into position is to place a couple pieces of the the hook side of velcro (with sticky back) on the sides of the aluminum damper rail. The new thin felt will act like the loop side and will hold onto it just fine. Give it a try. You'll love it if you prefer the original type of felt belts for the vibraphone. I think you can purchase the felt at any fabric store but it has to be thin or you won't clear the bars.

Before you do anything, make sure you adjust the bar's string to a stout stiffness. If the damper has deep and uneven depressions from even normal wear, replace it then begin making adjustments. Be extra careful if your attempting to bend any the metal.

A little knowledge is a dangerous thing. If you have damping problems on your vibraphone, to assume that the problems lies with the damper bar is an example of just why you need to take the instrument to your local percussion expert. Over the twenty odd years that I have been repairing vibraphones I would say that only about 50% of the time the problem originates with the damper bar, the rest of the time the problem is in the construction and set up of the instrument frame.

So I would ignore any advice that starts with "change the damper felt, adjust the bar...," because the damping bar is a secondary mechanism on the instrument, start at the top. First things first, check that you have assembled the instrument correctly and check that the manufacturer has done a good job on the construction and set up. Most of the time I am correcting mistakes made at manufacturer level. It is only when you know that the note bars are sitting uniformly that you will ever have a chance on consistent damping across the entire range. Once that is done, then you should check the damper bar and correct any alignment issues it has. Finally there is the felt which affects how the bars are damped. So in summation - inconsistent damping = set up problems.

Silicone versus felt. For me felt. The complaint of musicians is the buzz when the damper bar first touches the notes. As discussed general damping is instrument set up, anything soft will damp the bars, but they need to be damped silently. Only if all the notes ring on too long, but do damp consistently would I advise to first change the damping material, because it is the sort of job that a musician can do proficiently. If the damping material can accommodate any set up discrepancies then so much the better. This is why silicone works, because it is soft it moulds to the height of the note bars a lot quicker than felt takes to bed in. However I still hear the buzz, why? Because the felt used is still pretty rubbish. The felt I use is incredibly expensive to buy in a sheet, but by the time I have cut it to a strip for a vibraphone it costs the customer less than £30. I find that general damping is massively improved, especially over time as the felt moulds to the bar because the damping starts on the bar ends not the underside, but the buzz all but dissapears.

A little knowledge is a dangerous thing and it is very easy to sound convincing in a forum discussion. Therefore my advice to musicians is to find a local instrument maker and give them the work, not only are you supporting local artisans, but they probably know a lot more than you ever will about how vibraphones work because they are repairing instruments all the time. You wear shoes everyday but I bet you don't know how they are made, for that you need to speak to a cobbler, not a shoe shop owner.

(playing nice)

well.... let's play nice :-)

here's what i take from all this. first john is right. most of the things done on this instrument can be done by the players. i've repaired many instruments and i'm terrible with a screwdriver in my hand.

next i agree with the set up. mussers are notorious for being built poorly. i like playing mussers and think they sound good! but man, how many times i've had to bang down posts because they are sticking up too high and the notes are not dampening. i've pulled out posts and put them back in with wood glue and saw dust, all kinds of things. and i've had mussers for years and years.

and of course knowing a repair person is good also, there are times when we need someone with a lot of experience.

yes many times the problem is not the damper bar. i'm in germany right now playing in a friends flat on an adams. the high F# G# A# don't dampen at all. but the F G and A are fine. i'm not going to mess with someone elses instrument but i'm sure the posts were put in wrong or something else that has nothing to do with the damper bar.

and i love felt. malletech puts material over there felt (if you choose felt, it's optional, silicone is the default). no buzz, so it's easy to deal with felt. i use both but love felt. and as for a little buzzing... it never bothered me, but buzzing on my mussers are fine. just part of the instrument. i like the imperfections of a guitar, or vibraphone. for me within reason it gives the instruments character.

and yes john piper is an example of a player who has learned so much about the instrument he's made is own model, and built his own instrument to take to antartica where he lives for half of the year!

and if need be there are plenty of repair guys out there that can do this and many other things for you and save you time and effort and insure the job is done correctly. :-)

Indeed a little knowledge can be a dangerous thing, and messing with one's instrument can mess it up even more. On the other hand, we all have different ability levels and the final judge whether to do a repair or an adjustment should be left to the individual. Any repair postings should be taken as a matter of opinion and conversation and should be carefully considered.

I think it does connect one to his/her instrument to be able to do some repairs. Further, reading a post about a repair doesn't mean someone would or should attempt it. There are times when a repair person is not available and one has to get something together for the next gig. Here in the US the closest knowledgeable Vibe person could be 1000 miles away. I remember reading a post by Gary Burton who said he frequently has to adjust his M48 damper by yanking it on one side or the other when it has been taken down and reassembled.

There are some low risk repairs like restringing or replacing the rubber on the posts that just about anybody can do, but that doesn't imply that everybody should do it.

Assuming your vibe is out of Warranty, if you do mess something up and send it to a repair person, swallow a little pride and let them know what you did. It will save both of you some time and headache.

A final note, Paul is one of the best guys in the business. I've seen his videos about vibes and other instruments and he really knows his stuff.
-IG