How to Properly Maintain a Rosewood Marimba

Kevin Lucas • December 2021GoodVibes • December 18, 2021

If you or your students are going to spend ten to fifteen thousand dollars on a rosewood marimba, knowing how to properly maintain the instrument so it will last a lifetime is very important. I am going to go over some very helpful advice regarding this topic. A marimba is meant to be a lifetime purchase that you should only have to make once.

Buy cases: This should be obvious, but many people feel that they are saving money by not spending the extra money for cases. When I bought my marimba, the cases were $1000. This was a mistake I made. I was a college student at the time and that much money seemed like a lot back then! It would have been well worth it, given the fact that I travel with the instrument so much!

Keep the bars oiled: This is one of the most important pieces of advice! Keeping your marimba bars hydrated avoids cracking and it will protect the wood from the natural elements, both indoor and outdoor. The best wood oil to use for rosewood is Old English. You can find it at almost any store in the cleaning section. Put it on generously and let the oil sit for about 30 minutes so it can soak in. Wipe the excess off with paper towels or a rag.

Always use a cover: Keeping the instrument covered when it is not being played is very important, indoors or outdoors. This will keep it out of the sun when outside and will protect it from students scratching the wood when it sits in the music room.

The marimba is not a table: This is one of the most frequent terms I heard from my percussion professor at Illinois State University. It is so easy for students to get into bad habits of setting books, other instruments, or drinks on the instrument. Students would never set a drink on a 10k violin. A marimba is no different!

Buy a marimba with a strong frame: People always say that sound is the most important aspect when selecting a marimba to buy. I think the frame is most important because a weak frame with cause the instrument to collapse within a couple years. Luckily I bought a Kori, which had amazing frames at the time I bought mine. Yamaha marimbas have awesome frames as well.

Bar repair: It is inevitable that eventually a bar will crack and you will need a replacement. A great place to call in order to find companies that make marimba bars is Century Mallet Instrument Services in Chicago at 773-248-7733. They are also an awesome company if you need general repairs, wood refinishing, or tuning of your instrument.

No marching band: Never use a rosewood marimba for marching band. There are plenty of synthetic marimbas that are much cheaper that can be used on the field.

Room storage: Always store a marimba in a room that isn’t too hot or cold and has a dry environment. Moist air is not good for any wood in the long run. The same holds true for extreme temperatures. 

In 2016, The Huffington Post called Kevin Lucas “the most talented percussionist since Lionel Hampton, Ginger Baker and Tito Puente”. He has been nominated for 38 music industry awards for his Echoes in the Sand album, and he won the 2016 American Songwriting Awards. Kevin Lucas performed with the Madison Scouts Drum and Bugle Corps from 1992-1994 and won the DCI Midwest Individuals in 1994 for keyboard percussion. He placed 2nd in the United States for concert hall percussion at the Music Teachers National Association collegiate competition in 1997. 

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