Dolphin Dance and Resonator Pro Tech 1

While I was back in the states for just a few weeks, I did a number of videos to share. This is the first of several that I'll share one at a time. It includes a short sample of vibe performance followed by a brief, first basic look at resonators. More interesting experiments and demonstrations will follow on the same topic. I hope you enjoy them.

I'm currently in McMurdo Station, Antarctica preparing to leave for a 4-month deployment to the South Pole beginning next week (Nov. 11, 2019). I'll return to McMurdo Station in February and finish out my deployment there until June/July 2020.

I hope you enjoy my little infomercial.

Access: Anonymous


so, if you have a pick up system and you don't use resonators, the notes will be amplified and ring for a long time right?

and yes leigh says it's never the bar on the vibes, it's the resonators!


Fantastic video, John! Thanks for posting. Looking forward to seeing the white noise demo.


I can't wait to see it either. I was in such a hurry that we just shot it and I left. The team at Panhandle House is taking care of all the editing and such. When I have more time, I'm going to spend a lot of time in the studio. I loved doing it.

Leigh is one of the few people who understands the nuances of resonators like I do. I have more detailed vids coming up. You'll see my "White Noise" demonstration and sea shell comparisons. I show the fans function of "detuning" the resonators to quiet them NOT blocking the sound as many people think. I try and make it very clear. When I return, I have many other projects slated. Thanks Tony.

Question for Piper: I have a standard-issue M55 - I'm currently not using the motor (took if off actually) - I'm curious how removing the motor fans from the resonators would impact the sound, if at all. When they are in the vertical position they still take up quite a bit of space at the tops of the resonator...are the resonators tuned/built with this in mind? Would removing them possibly provide a little more volume...or maybe not? Thanks!

Excellent question. Just having the rod and the fans mounted over the tubes, even in the upright position definitely changes the tuning of the resonators. Musser did take that into account when they made their jig for resonators' caps positioning. Don't remove the fans unless you have the means and know-how to return the resonators. I did it and it was a rather large project but I learned a ton doing it. The resonators (if NOT retuned) will be very, very weak if you take the fans out.

FYI: The next video coming out will demonstrate that fact very clearly.

Exactly the info I was looking for - thank you. Look forward to the video!

John- that's an amazing tip. I can imagine so many schools that pull their creaky fans out of their vibes and don't realize how much they're changing the sound. Also wonder how many marching vibes come without fans but with zero adjustments to the resonator tuning? Could be a blind spot. Thanks much!

The pickup system, minus the resonators should have a very long sustain but I don't know that from experience because I don't like the sound of pickups for my playing. I like it for Mike Mainieri's playing and others but not mine. If the resonators are involved, and they are closely tuned to support the bar they are under, the sustain will be greatly reduced.

I can't watch this now now due to poor internet service but I've seen it in the past and as I recall, it's great. As I've said before, Leigh is very knowledgeable for sure. This is one of the reasons companies like Malletech who have an artist, engineer, businessman all in one package making decisions for the company are so important. That's also why I will never be able to do that... (I'm not a businessman). Also, Leigh is very creative and thinks outside the box. Very important.

Excellent video - can't wait for more of them! Thanks Piper!

Here's to you're safe deployment as well!

Thanks for the comments!

Great playing! And the story-telling feature is cool. Did you write that before, after, or while putting the arrangement together?

On the technical stuff, I have an old Musser M75 that has beautiful bars, but a few of them have some sustain issues that I have been concerned about. Like others, I was thinking maybe it was a bar issue. But now I want to test them out without the resonators. What can one do to fix faulty resonators? Moving the caps can't be a simple matter, unless you have one of the new Malletech vibes...

Percentages are that it's not the bars but the bars CAN be the problem at times but check the bars without the resonators on and see how they do. Note that the M75 also seems to have an "incidental" resonator effect created by the bar rails and side rails that may also over damping power over some frequencies. Try adding a little water to the resonator that is damping the bar. This will change the tuning of that tube and you can easily experiment with that (if it doesn't leak on the carpet). Please report back what you find.


Yeah, it's a pretty old axe. I am hoping it's not the bars, as I'd rather not have to replace any of them. One thing I noticed is that the accidental bars usually seem to ring longer than the naturals. Is that an "incidental" resonator effect too? I'll try the water in the resonator method and report back.

My theory (not fact) about the M75 is that it does have an unintentional residual resonator affect AND reflective attributes that are created by the presence of the side walls on the leg frames. This *may* have a different subtle but potentially noticeable effect on the bars depending on the space the instrument is in. In a smaller space, it should (in theory) have more effect on the bars performance than in a concert hall. Also, the reflective attributes seem to aid the instrument in being very pleasant to the player... just a theory that a lot of my experiments seem to point to.

Thanks for asking about the text and music and sorry I forgot to answer the question. The story text and music kind of evolved along together. I'd get a little of one and that would instigate the other and then back and forth they'd go. I wanted to create a wave motion and buoyancy feel in the beginning within the music and then coax the listener into joining the world of the dolphin by suggestive text storyline.

That's cool. I've always been fascinated by the limits of words w/o music to convey meaning, and vice versa. Your method is a neat alternative to vocal music that I hadn't considered.

You know... I actually didn't know how well textful thoughts would work until we did it here and I really like it. I actually didn't come up with the idea to do that until I was in the studio. I've had the text for a long time and I've tried having actors recite it and I've tried passing out the flyers in concerts but neither worked very well.

In addition, I took into consideration that today's listener in general needs to multitask in order to keep their attention. It seems that very few people just listens to music these days so I am trying to give the listener something to jump start their imagination and keep them engaged.

The other thoughts behind this approach is (and I'll share this here because we at VW are all in the same boat) that I really don't like to give away the store for free all the time. So, I'm giving samples of performances instead of full tunes and offering those little tidbits of things I've learned through experiments and just living and playing music. Then, (maybe) people will come to live performances to hear the complete pieces and my stories. Future projects will include intensely cool photos, videos and stories of Antarctica and other trials and tribulations.

I skipped over the obvious possible problems. Of course, make sure there's no bent bar hangers or anything touching and slightly physically muting the bars and other obvious issues.

I tried what you did on my instrument's natural bars. With the resonators on, I was getting less than 4 seconds of sustain on the lower end bars. It goes up to 10-11 with the resonators off. I think some of the bars are being partially muted by the bar-posts. What is a normal sustain time for the natural bars? Is it normal for the higher end to ring longer?

I do the "timing of the sustain" like I did on the video where I begin the counter on the first bar I strike and stop it when the last of the bars are finished. I don't like to time each individual bar because that's not how music is presented and I think there will be variation that is for the most part not that important when playing music. But, if you have specific areas that seem to be muted, then your method may identify problem area. I don't have my instrument set up (it's at the south pole waiting for me) but I can try it there and see if it's different. Some of the science I'm going to look at is how the bars and resonators sound and respond at the South Pole where the altitude is almost 10,000 ft and equivalent to 13,000 ft - the air is thin. Should be interesting. Let's see if we can get others to do a bar for bar match up and see if we can find an average for you. (Volunteers Needed for this).

In the mean time, make sure all your posts and insulators are clearing the bar and no goo from the deteriorating insulators are on your bar. Clean your bars gently with warm water and blow your or vacuum your resonator tubes. Check down the line under the bars to insure that the damper is completely clearing all bars.

Thanks for participating in the discussion.

What happens if two resonators (one under the bar and the second above) are used?

Looks like twice the muting power with half the support - canceling each other? Nice demonstration! Thank you Paul!

FYI: I'm sure you know that tapping the tube without a boundary (bar) mounted over the mouth of the tube is not the most inaccurate tuning? You have to tune the resonator a bit sharp when you do that to get the most out of the resonator. That way, when you place the boundary over it (like a bar) the resonator drops into place.

"Looks like twice the muting power with half the support - canceling each other? Nice demonstration! Thank you Paul!..."

Yes - it's all physics.

"... I'm sure you know that tapping the tube without a boundary (bar) mounted over the mouth of the tube is not the most inaccurate tuning?... "

I think it is a very good tuning for 95% of the vibe players, but...

First, the maximum vibration excitation is outside the tube with a certain distance to the bar, because otherwise there would be no sufficient opening for the exit of the sound.

This results in a small difference in the length of the tube to the acoustic wavelength.

Second, this opening results in a so-called end correction. This is scientific described for organ pipes or Helmholz resonators. But these mathematical approaches are not suitable for vibraphones.

I like to tune the resonant tubes of the high notes a bit too low to get less power. They otherwise sounds usually too shrill for me.

Yes Paul and it's also some of the preference in sound for the individual (which is why it's so nice to have an option like Leigh offers for moveable caps for some, refined players who have an ear that is very keen on a particular sound. The one thing I learned when experimenting is the presence of node points inside the resonators. I never knew that, I didn't read about it, I found it through experimenting with very small mics moving them up and down the resonator. The center is the most powerful but not pleasant. Same with a resonator that is exactly tuned to the bar. It becomes too full or something - anyway, it's nasty. Finding the right tone is like a natural EQ. Just a tiny bit off one way or the other will give you just a bit more highs or more mids - warmer, colder sound. And as you pointed out, the higher notes need to be a bit "out" in order to have any sustain and clearity. You know your stuff for sure!!!

Thank you John.

It's a pity that I wasn't able to sent you "My Frame" to antarctica, but I still hope to see and hear you playing it one day. May be I know my physical and technical stuff, but additional you know how to play the vibe fantastic. I envy you for that!

You're an amazing artist at engineering and you're also an excellent vibist. Thank you so much for everything you're doing.