Tips for Purchasing a Marimba On a Budget

Mike Lawson • • February 8, 2019

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Purchasing a marimba can be extremely intimidating when you see the price ranges between ten and twenty thousand dollars.

Most people do not have the budget to pay the price of an automobile for a musical instrument. Fortunately, there are other options that teachers and their students may consider when beginning the process of purchasing an instrument. Here are some helpful ideas.

1) Consider a used instrument: There are many instruments on the market that are used. It is always nice to have something new but used marimbas can offer some very unique qualities. First and foremost, rosewood marimba bars often sound better with age as the wood matures. As a matter of fact, some marimba companies age their rosewood ten years before making an instrument. The aging of the wood tends to make them richer and more resonant, very similar in concept to fine wine! Used instruments will also be much cheaper. Sometimes you can find people who are trying to get rid of their instrument at a very cheap price. You just have to be diligent and look in a lot of different places.

2) Try eBay: The Internet is an amazing place to look for used instruments. Often times there are multiple marimbas for sale on sites such as eBay. Do an eBay search or a Google search for “used marimbas.” Always keep in mind that the rosewood marimbas will always be the most expensive and they will sound the best.

3) Consider a smaller instrument: Marimbas come in many sizes. The five octave marimbas will always be the most expensive. Look for a “four and a third” octave marimba or a “four and a half” octave marimba. The smaller instruments will be much cheaper. There are even four octave marimbas on the market.

4) Consider an acoustalon marimba: An acoustalon marimba has bars that are made out of a very hard composite material. They are always much cheaper than a rosewood marimba and they still have a nice sound. I have actually found that acoustalon marimbas can be much louder than rosewood when you play with a lot of force. So, if you like volume and a cheaper price, this may be the way to go! The only downside of an acoustalon is that you lose the beautiful and rich depth of a rosewood marimba sound.

5) Contact drum and bugle corps: At the end of every season after DCI, drum corps sell off most of their inventory of mallet instruments because they get new ones from the major companies every year. They often sell them at very cheap prices. If you contact them in September after the drum corps season is over, they will send you a price list. These instruments will always be acoustalon because rosewood does not hold up well outside in the weather.

6) Contact other schools: Sometimes there are other high schools or even colleges who have recently bought new equipment and they are looking to sell their old marimba. It never hurts to make a call and ask.

7) Always look for a strong frame: You will get the most out of your money if you purchase a marimba that has a strong frame. You will waste your money if your marimba is collapsing after you buy it. Look for metal and sturdy frames.

8) For college students, use a student loan: Student loans are for books, tuition, equipment, and supplies. So, this is perfectly legal if the student is majoring in music and/or percussion. It can be considered a necessity for your student’s college education. This way the sting of having to come up with large sums of money all at once is abolished. This is exactly what I did!

Whatever you do, don’t let your students give up on their search because of the intimidating sticker prices on new marimbas. Exploring all of the options above greatly increases your students chances of being able to purchase a marimba that he or she is satisfied with.

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.

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