Would it be possible to put marimba bars on a vibraphone frame? I am trying to get a cheap marimba with a damper pedal, but cannot seem to find anything that isn't custom built by the manufacturer or built from scratch.

  • 4
    Just out of interest; why do you need to damp the bars? Marimba bars don't sustain in the same way vibraphone bars do. If you just want to cut the small amount of sustain the marimba bars do have, there might be an easier way to do this, with them still on a marimba frame. Mar 8 '15 at 17:15
  • My parents don't like the sound of a vibraphone, and I need to practice for jazz and concert band. I'm just trying to explore my options.
    – Sabumnim
    Mar 8 '15 at 22:31
  • 1
    Right, so is it vibraphone that you actually want to practise, but without it making a noise that annoys your parents?! If so, some users here might have advice about how to make a vibraphone quieter... Mar 8 '15 at 22:33
  • 2
    First, who doesn't like the sound of a vibraphone? Second, if it's really an issue, stay after school 3 days a week and practice on the vibes. OTOH, you can play vibes with your hands. If you're really in a pinch you can practice for vibe parts on piano using vibe hand-positions; the layout is the same as a vibraphone (though obviously narrower), but it's better than nothing. If the keyboard is electric, you can plug headphones in and practice as much as you want. Personally, I'm of the mindset: so what if your parents don't like it? You have to practice and they should respect that. Mar 9 '15 at 8:02
  • 2
    Marimba OR vibes, BOTH are expensive and it's not very common for a student to have a set at home unless they're VERY serious -- and usually have some parental support. +1 for going to school to practice -- I know of a guy who made an arrangement with the band teacher after he graduated to come in in the mornings and practice the school marimba for auditions. This is by far the most common way to practice at the high school level (and your band teacher will love you). Just organize your day so you can be at school when it's time to practice.
    – NReilingh
    Apr 20 '15 at 22:49

If the issue is to practice more quietly, there are many things you can do before frankensteining your instruments.

Adjust the vibes

On vibes, set the paddles parallel with the bars - that will cut your sound significantly and is a really easy thing to do.

Most of the marimbas I've played had springs to hold the tension on the cord. Release that somewhat and you'll soak up more sound with the cord.

Soak up the sound

I spent some time practicing with a thin case on the marimba/vibes if I felt it was too loud and ringy. It's good for playing by touch rather than sight too. You could probably also lay a couple layers of fabric or a rope on the end of the bars to soak up the resonance and get a similar effect.


If you're not practicing significant amounts of time that need to be quiet, use your fingers. This is especially useful for runs.

The next quietest is holding the sticks backwards, which is more realistic feeling but still not the right weight, hard with 4 mallets, and has an annoying tingy sound.

If you've got a pair of worn-out mallets, unwrap the yarn from them. Either use just the core or rewrap them loosely with cloth to make nice cheap practice mallets. You can also use soft rubber mallets. Just be careful about the color of the core - my favorite practice mallets sounded great but left blue marks on the keyboard.

Softer mallets can make the sound quieter as well. I use marimba mallets on xylophone and bells especially to keep myself from going deaf during practice. Bass drum beaters are very quiet on vibes, but hopefully just getting the softest marimba mallets you can find will do the trick.

Put a pedal on a marimba

If all else fails, take the kick off of a drum set and put it under your marimba. It won't do anything, but at least you can practice pedaling and playing at the same time.


Short answer: No.

Long Answer: Could it happen in this universe? The laws of physics do not prevent marimba bars from existing on a vibraphone frame. But I find it highly unlikely that you would find a set of bars that would fit. For one thing marimba bars are thicker vertically than vibraphone bars. The holes would need to line up with where the string supports are on your vibraphone and each bar would need to fit in the X&Y directions. Probably not going to happen.

  • 1
    Marimba bars are also graduated, meaning they are wider and further apart the lower the pitch. Vibraphone bars are not, they are all equal width regardless of the pitch. Unless you have an 8ft vibraphone, it very likely isn't going to happen... Mar 9 '15 at 7:55
  • Modern vibraphones have graduated bars. The degree to which the bars are graduated on both marimbas and vibraphones is a design decision, the tradeoffs being sound quality vs. playability. tinyurl.com/kbq27kx Mar 9 '15 at 17:54

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