The Omega Vibraphone - Vibrato (Oops it's actually Tremelo) System

The dampening system on the Omega vibraphone is unique and really great. Check it out!

Access: Anonymous


Pretty cool motor system! Some thought definitely put into this.


cool look at the vibrato system...but it says its a Dampening video on the title....Any close looks at the dampening system and
....I personally, as a medium height person (5'10') would like to see these adjustable instruments go down to the height that is right for me....that is about 30 inches...If you look at people over 6' play their arms are relaxed and they don't have to hold the mallets way up...then look at some shorter cat's playing Musser instruments and their shoulders are uptight and unrelaxed looking because they have to hold the mallets way up high....Just thought I'd pass that along so that Mallettech does not just make instruments for tall people.....
I am really looking forward to playing one of these instruments...when they make it out West....
thanks Tony. Lucky man....

It's Tremelo, not vibrato. right?

Hey Tony,

Just like you know, a "Vibrato" is a variation in the pitch, just like strings do, and a tremolo is a variation in the amplitude (volume). Indeed, the fan system of the vibraphone is doing a tremolo a effect to sound, by letting more of less resonnance to the resonnators. Gary talked about it in a little video, how the "Vibraphone" should be "Tremolophone" (heh) or something.

But...! The role of the resonnators is to make the harmonics of the given note ring more. So, by blocking and opening the access the resonnators, yes the fundamental note stays the same but it's "harmonic series chord" changes. That being said, the fan system actully affects the pitch, so it is acting like a vibrato. Our Vibraphone can then stay a Vibraphone (screw the "tremolophone").

Guys, correct me if I'm wrong!

On another note (heh), the oscillator system is the Omega is looking so smooth, and I like the option to half-cover the resonnators, it brings an in between effect. I sometimes feel like the conventionnal systems are to much "binary" (1 or 0, Full resonnance or zero.)

Victor B.

According to all my experimentations and understanding, that is not correct. The fans and/or the wing or blade used to manipulate the tremolo effect doesn't change any pitch. It accentuates or supports the notes and harmonics to varying degrees.

The resonators support a note and harmonics to different volumes but it does not have the ability to bend a note or change one. It adjusts the difference between how much it supports one note and/or harmonic over another. If the harmonic that is a fifth and two or three octaves above the fundamental is supported with the opening of the resonator at a certain place and then that opening or distance from the bar changes or moves, it does not change the pitch of it, it just makes it less loud or more loud. FWIW

Hi John,

I just red a website that corrected my thoughts. The resonnators does changes the amount of harmonics and it changes the shape of the frequency. But, I quote: "even though the shape is different, the period and frequency are the same as the fundamental above." ( My deduction about changing the shape --> somehow changing the pitch was wrong.

It is always fun to learn new things about the science of sound in a musical context. It seems like we really are playing a "Tremolophone"...

On your Musser vibes, in what angle do you adjust the wings?

Victor B.

I've done so much experimenting with resonators and they're both very simple and yet extremely complicated at the same time. I still have a set of bars Musser made for me with a quarter-inch hole drilled right through the center of them so I could drop a tiny mic down through the hole of the bar and into the resonator. I then recorded, listened and learn how different depths of the resonators effect sound different, different angles of the fans, with/without fans, distance from the bars and many other variables. When doing so you can hear where the nodes are inside the resonators that are very similar to the nodes on the bars. I learned that there are "sweet spots" in a resonator were you get the perfect mix of harmonics and fundamental. I never read anything about it, I just dug in and started experimenting. At one point, I did contact a professor of acoustics at a university (can't remember which one) and had a very in-depth conversation with him to see if what I was learning was correct and he confirmed that it was all scientifically correct and I was on point and I'm sure he's read a lot of books.

To answer your question about the musser fan angles. THE best answer is to position them to the angle you like the sound the best. That's it. I'll explain what's happening but it will probably go in one ear and out the other because the bottom line is "put them where the instrument sounds best to you".

This is going to be a bit long...

The fans or anything that covers or diminishes the opening at the mouth of a resonator will lower the pitch that that resonator is tuned to support. Anything that is mounted near the mouth of that hole will also do the same. The closer the obstacle or bar is to the opening of the resonator, the LOWER the pitch will be that that tube is tuned to support. So, if the fans are completely closed, the pitch will be in the neighborhood of 3 semitones lower than it is with no fans at all. The fans are not acting as a "boundary" to the sound escaping from the tube as much as they are acting as a "detuning" devise of the resonators, thus weakening the support creating the tremolo. As the fan rotates to an open position, the tuning that THAT resonator is tuned to support will rise. At some point of the rotation of the fan, the tube will be at it's closest tuning with the bar.

Now that bars are being tuned up higher (A442 instead of A440) the fans have to be all the way at a 90 degree angle with the bar in order to get the most support of the bar. Back in the day, Deagan and Musser (I believe) purposefully tuned the resonators slightly higher than the bar so that at some point of it's rotation (near 90 but not quite) the bar and resonator would max out to the closest match. That's why back in the day, people would say, if you're not using the motor, put the fans at a 45 degree angle for optimal sound. Keep in mind that TOO close of tuning is not pleasant. It will sound a bit distorted or just too much mid-range and rob your bar of too much sustain. Resonators are VERY touchy and a musician's ear wants a certain tone and that tone is created by just the right mix of harmonics with fundamental. The more "out of tune" the resonator is, the more highs... just like if you remove the resonators completely. You also gain more sustain with "out of tune" resonators.

When the bars' tuning standard got raised up to 442, it shortened the distance between the resonators range of support and the bars pitch because the resonators were not adjusted and do not get adjusted when the customer orders a different tuning. That's the primary reason why A440 bars tend to sound better than A442 to most of us.

All that information, though valuable is almost completely obsolete now that Leigh has forged ahead with his work on tunable resonators and the ability to use resonators that are completely open by leaving the "wing" off and all you have to do is retune with the adjustable tuning device he offers with his instruments resonators. FANTASTIC!

Just by having the shaft and the fan in the tube and with it completely open, the tubes' tuning is lowered substantially - around 3 semitones. You can test this by simply taking your resonators into the kitchen. Turn on the kitchen sink to create white noise. Put your ear up to the mouth of the resonator close enough to hear the pitch of the white noise inside the tube with the fans wide open. Next, move the resonator closer to the boundary (your head) and you'll hear the pitch drop. Next, hold the position of the resonator just close enough to your head so you can hear the pitch of the white noise and then rotate the fan. The pitch will again drop as it closes and rise as it opens.

PLEASE don't let this confuse you about our original discussion about tremolo/vibrato. WHITE noise incorporates all the frequencies so as the resonator changes its range of support, it simply amplifies different partials of the white noise. The BAR of a vibraphone doesn't have all those frequencies, it primarily only has the ones that belong to that bars tuning (within our hearing range) and the resonator just supports those available to different degrees or loudnesses. Whew! Sorry for all the technical stuff. I spent tons of time and money learning it so I may as well share it.

(Tony, if you read this, please consider storing it someplace that can be accessed again or start it as a new thread - I've posted it many times.

>Just by having the shaft and the fan in the tube and with it completely open, the tubes' tuning is lowered substantially - around 3 semitones.

3 semitones, as in 1.5 steps? Wow, that's a lot. Is that why the tremolo amplitude depth is so large?


No that has little to do with the amplitude because the tubes are tuned with that in mind. If you take the shaft and the fan out of the tube you will have a substantially out of tune resonator that will need to be returned. The stoppers will have to be re-positioned (lower).

The amplitude of the wawawa is because of the width of the fan. If you made the fan smaller, it would have less affect and soften the wawa sound.
(correct: 3 semitones= minor third)

having something in the resonator will only change amplitude right. i get it. not affect the bar pitch. got it!

In or above or closing the mouth or ultimately, anything within hearing range but mostly those things. The tube is a nice comfy place for the sound WAVE. When anything disrupts that comfy zone or gets in the way of the wave in that zone, it's effected. That's how I think of it. The wave also has node points. The resonator in an abstract way could be thought of as a "frame" for holding the wave.

Hi John,

I took the bar off of the lowest resonator and blew across it with the fan open and the fan closed of my Deagan 592. I only heard a very slight pitch difference; not a minor third. Please listen to the attached. Am I not understanding something?


Supporting Files: 

That's not the same. Do as I mentioned in one of my previous posts to hear the difference. YOU are using the resonator as both the tone generator (blowing into it) AND as a resonator. Use white noise for your tone generator and place your ear or very small mic near the opening of tube. While the white noise is playing, close the fan. You'll hear the tuning change dramatically.

I obviously couldn't use the bars with the holes in them as the tone generator. I had an electronic tone generator and I put a constant tone on and then moved the microphone up and down inside the tube to learn the variables.

Thanks for the link, Victor. Here is a great article by LHS: In that article he references "Science and Music by Sir James Jeans (Dover Publications, 1937)", which I am just starting to read.


It's Tremolo. ;-)

Nice. I like it. Less is better. Sounds way better than the traditional tremolo! Gives it a phasing or sweeping sound instead of the wawawa sound. GREAT improvement.

To damp something, is to mute it. To "dampen" something is to make it wet. But, we here, know exactly what we mean either way.

I learned all this because I truly felt that my playing depended on it. I thought that I was not going to sound good until I fixed all the problems of the vibraphone. It forced me to also fix a lot of problems of my playing. I did it from starting with the grips on mallets. The first mallet handle grips were pencil grips from office depot and I sent them to Michael Balter to have them put on my signature mallets. I remember they had to be a specific color because they were the only ones rigid enough to feel right. Then, I forced myself to use them for a two weeks to see if I could get use to them. After two weeks, I was completely sold on them and never used a set of mallets again without the grips. I then asked my buddy David Johnson to try them for the same length of time. He too decided he loved them. Not sure if he still uses them or not. Now I see them all over the place on lot's of peoples mallets. The grips were intended to eliminate sticks clicking together but after I got use to them, I realized they also added strength to my hands for mallet damping and control. I also give them some credit for reducing back and shoulder issues caused by gripping the mallet too hard. Then I started on Piper Vibe Frame by adding the M-Braces (M was for "musser M-55 and it formed an "M shape on the frame) to the liquid-filled damper pad and the bar posts. They all contributed to my obsession with the sound of the instrument. So, I dove in completely. I'm really glad I learned it and know it but I now don't believe that it is that important for all musicians to know it unless you're just curious and you have the same obsession and your style is such that it's helpful. It is also more important for solo performing than it is for ensemble playing.

There's a term we use in my field called "Yak Shaving".
"Yak Shaving is the last step of a series of steps that occurs when you find something you need to do."


That's an awesome term BarryK and I'll use that in my daily adventures for sure. I think I call it "Squirrel" and yes, Guilty as charged! Now, if you'd like to really get down to business with understanding what I'm trying to write (but probably not very well), I can give you a call from Antarctica if you'd like to discuss it over the phone. Be in the Kitchen with a resonator rack in hand.

Unfortunately, we have a one-way phone system set up by the National Science Foundation for us that we can call out but you can't call in. So, if you can share your number with me and a time you'd like to talk resonators, I'm happy to give you a call and chat (tell me what time zone you're in because I'm basically a day minus a couple hours ahead of the U.S.) You can email me from my web site to privately give me your number or maybe there's a method here to do that. Thanks for the YAK Shaving term.

Thanks, John. I'll email you from your site. I have a ton of questions.


Excellent. I look forward to hearing from you!