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My daughter has become quite an impressive mallet artists and I'm considering purchasing a set of vibes. She's past the beginner stage, so graduated bars are a must. When I first entered the high school band room, I was shocked to see a long line of four octave Yamaha vibraphones and a whole bunch of high end marimbas. By my quick estimate, I think they must have at least $100,000 worth of mallet instruments. This all feels to me like getting a new Cadillac before taking driver's training! I bring this up because I'd like to get a high quality instrument, something that will provide years of enjoyment. Looking around, I am quite surprised that the lowest priced graduated bar vibe is over $3200, plus shipping. Used may be the way to go. Would appreciate any thoughts, since most of the used items I see are too far for a 'test drive'.




IndianaGlen Thu, 10/24/2013 - 09:57

Just to add the the Tony's article TP mentions above:

Skimping on a set of vibes now may be problematic down the road:

1) If she sticks with playing the vibes, she may quickly outgrow a non graduated bar instrument. A mallet player can outgrow an instrument much faster than say a trumpet player just because of the nature of the instrument. -- Especially if she is planning to play with four mallets, the chords spacing is much different on a non graduated instrument, and she will have to do some re-learning if she plays at school or advances.

2) If she doesn't stick with it you will be in the same spot as #1, i.e. having to sell a non graduated bar instrument, and it's harder to sell as there are fewer people interested in them

There's always a market for Musser M-55s, and the Yamaha Graduated Bar instruments. If the Malletech Omegavibe was generally available, it would be worth taking a look at as well. I haven't played one so I can't vouch for it. Um, If I didn't own 5 vibraphones (in various stages of repair) I'd get either a new or used M-55 hands down.

A couple of other considerations:

A=440 vs. A=442 tuning. A=440 is preferred in the U.S.A, Some come from the factory A=442. It is possible to to have a 442 set tuned down, but it's a few hundred bucks to do it. If you don't have a piano in the house to play along with, and/or don't plan to gig for a while it's not as big of an issue. If her school band has A=442 instruments, it may be easier and quicker to get an A=442 set if you get one through a school contact, see next paragraph.

Talk to your daughter's band director. It sounds like he is a good customer, and he can probably get you a good deal. He (or the music store/yamaha rep) may have a contact for a GOOD used set; I have seen some in schools that are trashed. $100,000 in sales says there's a rep somewhere who will do some serious butt kissing to keep the director happy. In that case, I'd have no qualms about getting a Yamaha, I would get the 3 octave brushed bars, not the 'shiny' bars due to my sound preference (I agree with Tony).

If it's any consolation, at least you aren't buying a decent tuba, bari sax, violin, or Bassoon. A well taken care of set of vibes needs little upkeep, no reeds to buy, etc.

auto.pilot Sat, 10/26/2013 - 01:06

Much to my amazement, I was told tonight that we will be bringing home a school owned loaner vibraphone. I have not seen it yet, but aparently in addition to the 5 at the school, some students are offered the opportunity to borrow a set of vibes. No fees... It will be at home for the next 3 years, even through the summers when school is out.. thank you for your thoughtful replies.

Randy_Sutin Sat, 10/26/2013 - 12:22

In addition to the other comments here, please know that a good set of vibes, well cared for, with cases, etc. is a good investment.

I have an instrument that I bought in 1977 and have maintained reasonably well. The purchase price with cases back then was around $3K. Even though it now shows its age a bit from being played a lot in a professional setting, it is now worth more than that.

Perhaps one could do the calculation with the inflation rate and show that it has depreciated, but it is still a pretty stable value that can be liquidated later at very little loss.