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Thread: Marimbas don't play the written notes

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    Senior Member Enthalpy's Avatar
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    Default Marimbas don't play the written notes

    Hello everybody and everyone!

    Marimbists puzzle me... In every piece I hear on a marimba, some played notes obviously aren't the written ones. It's even sometimes shocking to hear ones that belong clearly to a wrong key.

    Is the instrument just so difficult to play that marimbists make mistakes in every piece?

    Or is it maybe a tradition among marimbists to replace a note difficult to play by any random note that fits well under the mallets?

    Or do they "improve" the pieces according to their (bad) taste?

    Thanks for any information!

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    Senior Member Vasks's Avatar
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    Unless the marimba player memorizes the piece, they are constantly moving their head back and forth from the page to the keyboard. This is bound to create mistakes if the passage is long and or challenging. In addition, if they are not playing on the exact make and model instrument that they practice on, the distance/space between the bars or the width of the bars can be slightly different causing miscalculations.
    Last edited by Vasks; May-01-2021 at 02:51.
    "Music in any generation is not what the public thinks of it but what the musicians make of it"....Virgil Thomson

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    Senior Member Enthalpy's Avatar
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    So what I heard would simply be mistakes. No local culture of spoiling the part just to make it easier.

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    Senior Member Enthalpy's Avatar
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    Would a marimbist prefer two mallets to play fast arpeggios? That is, music around the arpeggios should be written with at most two simultaneous notes?

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    Senior Member SanAntone's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Enthalpy View Post
    Hello everybody and everyone!

    Marimbists puzzle me... In every piece I hear on a marimba, some played notes obviously aren't the written ones. It's even sometimes shocking to hear ones that belong clearly to a wrong key.

    Is the instrument just so difficult to play that marimbists make mistakes in every piece?

    Or is it maybe a tradition among marimbists to replace a note difficult to play by any random note that fits well under the mallets?

    Or do they "improve" the pieces according to their (bad) taste?

    Thanks for any information!
    I studied mallet percussion, and regularly played Bach fugues on marimba using four mallets. I don't have a clue what you are referring to, marimbists do not routinely play wrong notes, no more so than a pianist or any instrumentalist. Sometimes when transcribing a Bach fugue or other work a note will have to be raised an octave since it would otherwise be out of the range - but the music is performed accurately in any event.

    Here is a good example of what I'm talking about

    Prelude and Fugue B flat Major, WTC Book I by J.S. Bach, Kevin Bobo, marimba (fugue starts at 1:30)

    Last edited by SanAntone; May-12-2021 at 22:23.

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    Senior Member Enthalpy's Avatar
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    Thanks!

    Looks like I had bad luck when listening to a few records.Others, like the ones you linked, are simply correct. Relieved my concern.

    If a part contains nearly a page of arpeggios only surrounded by long rests, monophonic, thirty-second notes while beating 72 quarter-notes per minute, would a marimbist use two or four mallets? Same for a vibraphonist?

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    Senior Member SanAntone's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Enthalpy View Post
    Thanks!

    Looks like I had bad luck when listening to a few records.Others, like the ones you linked, are simply correct. Relieved my concern.

    If a part contains nearly a page of arpeggios only surrounded by long rests, monophonic, thirty-second notes while beating 72 quarter-notes per minute, would a marimbist use two or four mallets? Same for a vibraphonist?
    Two mallets are the norm unless the part requires playing chords, or counterpoint.

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    Senior Member Enthalpy's Avatar
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    That's clear now. Thank you!

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