Road Trip? How to Protect and Care for a Marimba

Mike Lawson • GoodVibes • October 3, 2019

Share This:

The marimba is one of the most challenging instruments to transport; the pieces have awkward shapes, and it is a tough instrument and a fragile instrument all in one.

In order to show proper care for the instrument, there are things that your students need to know to maintain and transport it. I will share these tips with you, as I have played over a thousand concerts and have moved it every time.

1. The marimba is not a table. Never place items on the instrument, especially food or soda!

2. Every month, the marimba needs to have the bars oiled. Otherwise the bars become dried out and can crack over time from lack of moisture. I recommend “Old English.” You can buy it at any grocery store in the cleaning isle.

3. When you purchase an instrument, always buy cases! The extra $1,000 may seem like a lot, but in the long run it is well worth it! The instrument will get banged up just from sitting in the back of a van.

4. Try to avoid transporting the instrument while it is assembled. When the instrument moves and flexes in a vehicle, it puts stress on the frame.

5. If you don’t have cases, wrap everything in packing blankets. You and your students will be surprised how many dings and dents the instrument will take over many years of travel!

6. Always replace the rubber washers over time. These are the rubber pieces that go on the metal part sticking out of the rails. These rubber washers cover the metal and are in between the bars and prevent the bars from vibrating into the metal while your student plays the instrument.

7. If you use a marimba for marching band, have a marching frame built! You can contact Yamaha and other manufacturers and find out about getting these. They aren’t cheap, but you can safely roll the marimba across rugged outdoor terrain during practice and marching shows. They are like getting monster truck tires for a marimba.

8. Every once in a while, you will have to replace marimba bars for your students. Even with proper care, they will crack. For all marimba repairs and replacing bars, my favorite place to call is Century Mallet in Chicago. Their number is 773-248-7733. They do all repairs and they can refer you to marimba bar makers, which is a very rare trade that does exist!

9. Always choose proper mallets. Your students need to learn which mallets are appropriate for the instrument. A xylophone mallet, for example, should never be used on the instrument! The wrong mallets will damage the instrument.

I hope these hints have helped you. I speak from experience, and not all of them have been good! To end this article, I want to share with you a high school story. My band director let us use a marimba for a church service. We hauled it fully assembled in the back of a Ford pickup. Since I had not paid attention in physics class when the concept of lift was taught, I was helpless when the marimba went flying through the air like a UFO, crashing on a Cadillac and onto the road. The marimba was in pieces, but with a little help from the school wood shop, it survived! They are very tough, but never push these beautiful instruments to their limits!

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. Lucas performed with the Madison Scouts Drum and Bugle Corps from 1992-1994, and won the DCI Midwest Individuals in 1994 for keyboard percussion.

The Latest News and Gear in Your Inbox - Sign Up Today!