Touring with Vibes: assembled or broken down?

Hello all,
I'm trying to find out if it is better for vibraphones to travel assembled or to be broken down every night for transportation?
For the past 3 1/2 years my vibes have been traveling fully assembled in a custom case, in the back of an 18 wheeler. Well, now my frame is bent and I'm having huge issues with the rails and the dampener as well as the motor and other things.
The vibes fit snug in the case which is totally foam lined. I'm not really sure what caused the frame to bend along with many of the posts. Is it because the vibes were traveling fully assembled?
Anyway, I'm getting a new set of vibes for the road and bringing my old ones home. I want to avoid doing damage to the new ones, probably the M58 Pipers, and am wondering what peoples thoughts are as to how a set of vibes should travel.
Also, is there a specific way that vibes should be stored?

Thanks a bunch,


first tell us all what you're doing! a set of vibes in an 18 wheeler is a rare occurance. so you must be doing something cool!!

my 2 cents. pack the vibes up, each night. if you had an instrument like a m55 it would take 5 minutes and if you have a truck, you must have roadies.

if you were to leave it set up in a custom case, i would get the mbrace or make something heavy duty to keep the legs from bending. that shouldn't be too hard, especially if you have custom cases made.

but otherwise i would get custom flight cases and take the thing apart.

Yes, three and a half years in an 18-wheeler sounds like a pretty interesting vibes story. Let's hear it! Meanwhile, I know a few people who have tried leaving the vibes all set up. Milt Jackson traveled that way for a while. The case was gigantic, and took four people to carry it. So, it was soon deemed impractical, having to ship it air freight everywhere. But, Milt hated having to set up and tear down the instruments, so he tried everything. When I was a kid and traveled around my state playing gigs on marimba and vibes, my father towed a trailer with both instruments fully assembled, the wheels in makeshift blocks. It worked pretty well, actually, and the instruments survived the experience no worse for wear. Personally I find assembling and dissembling the instrument the least fun part of being a vibist. If I wasn't so cheap, I'd hire a roadie to always do it for me LOL.

Hey Gary,
The case that I have the vibes in is huge. It doesn't get lifted at all. The vibes get taken out then brought to the stage. That usually takes place side stage but sometimes they are removed on the loading dock or even in the truck.

I wanted to put wheel blocks in the bottom of the case figuring that would help with movement inside the case. Then I got lazy and figured the wheel locks would do the same thing. As usual I was probably wrong. lol. I've been thinking that the blocks would have help some of my issues.


I recently saw you play in kalamazoo and thoroughly enjoyed the show. I wish that I was able to see what you were doing on the malletkat but that stage was just too small for your group and you seemed to be tucked back in the corner. I noticed you were running some sort of pedal through your k and k pickup system and was hoping you could tell me what it was. I asked your road guys after the show and no one seemed to know. Also, was wondering how you decide when to play the vibes/ malletkat, and when to play hand drums/ auxiliary. I saw your band play a free show at a coney island in Ohio about ten years ago so it was great to finally see you play again.
Hope to hear back from you,

Hey there, my name's Dan, and i was lucky to score an M48 pro traveler. it was slightly used, but in excellent condition for the price. ive been doing gigs in sf, and was wondering if from your experience you felt it was safe enough to simply store in a trunk without any special cases. i put pillows between the pipes, and wrap the keys up in a leather thing, the only problem ive run into is some times the damper bar doesnt always evenly dampen the keys. the high a-f will sustain with it up, so ive been rigging xtra velcro under those keys as a temporary fix, but would u know what this problem may be attributed to?

Yes, I know what you mean. Even though I pack my M-48 into cases, occasionally it seems the damper bar is a little bent, or something. I've learned to kind of bend it back if the high notes don't dampen correctly. I have sometimes also added a little shimming under the felt pad to lift it up some. I've managed to travel and play with the M-48 design for about twenty or more years now. It doesn't strike me as perfect, but certainly very workable given what I subject it to. I would have no qualms about packing it in a car trunk without cases. I like to think that vibraphones are hearty instruments, not at all fragile and sensitive like violins, guitars, saxophones, etc. Heck, me and the airlines have banged around my vibes for decades now, and they always seem to work just fine once I get to the gig and make a few adjustments. (A little duct tape comes in handy sometimes, too. LOL)

Please have your engineers work to fix this problem. It's one technical hurdle that will vastly improve this particular model in my opinion. It is the reason that I leave my M-48 set up in my rehearsal space and never move it (in spite of the fact that I have modified the damper bar to improve, but not fully correct, the situation). It is the reason that, even with all the obvious advantages offered by this great sounding and portable instrument, I would never recommend it to anyone unless they absolutely could not transport a larger instrument.

...and if the fix you arrive at is one that can be retrofitted onto the older ones, post that here. I bet you could sell a pile of those retrofit kits without even trying. This is a very pointed sales opportunity to a community that loves your instruments.

Thank you!

how exactly to you use velcro. any photos?

well, i get the kind of stickky on one side- velcro on the other side, like velcro tape and use the soft half, not the scratchy other half, and slap it on under whatever keysare necessary. it workks, but if u ever need to take it off for any reson it rips a tiny bit of felt off of the damper bar, which isnt fun..

Hey Tony,
Thanks for the advice.
I play percussion in an improvish-rock band called moe. Thus the 18 wheeler. It's a great gig because I get to play mallet percussion and a lot of latin and hand percussion. The downside is the abuse my gear takes.

I've had a MalletKat on the road for about 10 years and about 3 years or so I added the vibes and a xylophone. The xylo got broken down every night but not the vibes. They were both Adams.

I think the frame bending was in part due to the design of the frame but I can't say for sure. It's basically a design that uses a Y that fits into an upside-down Y. The top part can be cranked up and down to adjust height. The bottom part of the Y is what bent.

Anyway, I found a used Piper that's going to replace the set I have now. I guess I'll be getting a set of smaller cases and break it down for transport.


If I had the space for large crate: Here's what I would do:
1) Get a piper and use LOW strenghth loc-tite (it's purple) on mostly anything that had had threads that were metal on metal. Plastic on metal I'd use teflon tape I repeat LOW strength loc-tite.

2) I'd leave the vibe frame set up and I would remove the bars and put them in a seperate case. (it only takes a sec and it sounds oh so pretty :) ) -- The weight of the bars causes a lot of torque on the frame. Think of a fast stop, while driking a soda... We;ve all done it...

3) I would put a couple of straps (More than one) that anchor the vibe to the inside of the box, anchor to the TOP of the frame, not the legs.

4) on occasion just check everything that it's tight. Not super tite, just a little more than snug.

If the box was near, I think it would take less than five minutes to break it down.

-- do you want to sell your bent frame? (shameless request)

Thanks for the tips Glen. Some good advice there.

So I found a good deal on a slightly used Piper and grabbed it. One question though. As far as the straps inside the case go would you strap the top of the frame to the side of the case or to the bottom?

And for my old bent frame vibes, I'm gonna see what I can do about fixing it and most likely donating it to my nephews high school. The severely cut there music budget several years back and are in need of instruments. If for some reason they don't need it I'll give ya a holler.

thanks again,

Sorry for the delay. The bottom would probably be easier. I kind of like the side anchor thing, because, my thinking is that most of the weight is on the top, and the movement is back and forth. If you ancor the bottom of the legs you'll be pulling the frame as it's moving. However, the piper is so solid, my guess (especially with the bars off) you could go either way. If it were an M55, I anchor against the sides to elimnate the back and forth movement as much as possible, and it would also elimate stress on the weakspot between the legs and the frame. The final test is move it in a circle after you tie it down, you'll quickly see if there's any movement.

If you left the bars on, for sure I'd anchor to the sides to keep from pulling the vibe down while it's moving. (if that makes sense)

I just fixed a motor on a Yamaha vibe for my son's school for gratis as well. As long as your vibe is working I am sure they'd appreciate it. (although I did see the reamains a beautiful older hampton musser, with white marine pearl accents that was donated to a local high school that was left out in the rain. I almost cried when I saw it).