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Steve Weiss Mallet Workshop

 

HI Everyone, its my first post, and I am hoping that some knowledgeable folks may be able to help with some troubleshooting on my (mostly unused!) Yamaha 3710. 

I am a professional percussionist in Australia, and also teach at tertiary secondary and primary levels. Previously I have owned a second hand M48 which was good for me for 20 years, but I took the chance to upgrade to a brand new Yamaha on a decent deal. It is a relatively new instrument- 3 years old, but only done 3 gigs due to COVID, where it sat idly in my studio for 18months.

In my first recording session last month, I discovered  2 main problems- buzzing between the bars and the felt (probably around 20% of the bars have a noticeable buzz on the recording, but there are several notes which are very obvious and under the watchful gaze of Neumann microphones, very distracting and unforgiving. Live and in the room, these buzzes are there, but not as pronounced as what is heard in the recording (see attached).

The other problem is that when playing repetitive notes (pedal NOT engaged) from around B4- E5, the string does not stay in the groove of the pins, and after about 10 notes  the string moves out slightly and the notes sound about double the length of the rest of the instrument- ie inconsistent. (EDIT- I was able to fix this issue by tightening the spring underneath the dampener bar, however it did introduce other bar buzzing anomolies on other notes.)

For recording sessions, it has been a stressful experience for me with hours of time trying to mitigate particularly the buzzing bar issue. I am now looking at the distinct possibility of hiring another vibraphone to complete this project on my own dime, which is definitely not what I expected to happen on purchasing this instrument, especially with it having so little use.

In terms of moving it, where I imagine damage is most likely to occur, I have been careful with it, packing it down for the first gig only, and then hired a van for the remaining gigs to protect the frame, so I feel as though I have looked after as well as I could.  

I have tried tightening and loosening the dampener screw, rethreading the bars using a musser vibe chord, rebuilding the frame to see if it was a little bit off kilter. Today, I also borrowed my colleagues felt and bars from a different 3710 (purchased the same time as mine) after he reported similar problems with the buzz. Swapping felt bar and bars did not change anything. My fear is that it is coming from the bars themselves, but I cannot rule out the relationship with how it is dampening. Does anyone have any insight ito this issue? If so, I would be extremely grateful.

         I have taken this up with Yamaha Australia and am waiting patiently for a response, but in the meantime, I thought I would put it out there to see if anyone else had             experienced a similar issue, and if so were you able to resolve it? 

I have attached the link to a recording of me going up the instrument chromatically. Recording chain- matched pair of Neumann km184's, spaced at ear level into a Metric Halo ULN8.          

 Kind regards,

           Steve 

Comments

Randy_Sutin Mon, 08/29/2022 - 17:20

Would you say the cord is on the loose side or the tight side? It kind of sounds tight, but I could be wrong...

Does the problem occur with the resonators off?

Does the damper bar look aligned properly (as much under the accidentals as it is the naturals)?

How thick is the felt on that model Yamaha?

...and one answer/supportive statement... yeah, 184's will accurately pick up every noise your axe makes and if the engineer uses any compression in the mix on your vibes, which is normal, that will become an even larger part of the sound. That's not your vibes and a big part of why vibes players are noise detection/mitigation experts. :)

Stevealtered Mon, 08/29/2022 - 23:20

In reply to by Randy_Sutin

Hi Randy,
thanks for your comments, I appreciate you taking some time to think this through :)
Here are some observations from your q's:

Would you say the cord is on the loose side or the tight side?
Definitely loose actually, especially on the #'s - I have adjusted the string tension both ways and no change unfortunately.

How thick is the felt on that model Yamaha?
I dont know exactly- I'll have to measure it.

Does the damper bar look aligned properly
There is a slight angle on the dampener bar, but even with the naturals removed completely (only the #'s are on the instrument) which increases the tension on the #'s, the buzz is still detectable. I also compared this to another instrument (same model), and the angle on the bar was the same as mine, so I dont think there is a problem there, because the buzz only occurs on some notes and not others (could be wrong here though...)

Does the problem occur with the resonators off?-
The resonators are off in the recording already. The frame noise (or lack thereof) is great on this model actually (so far)

if the engineer uses any compression in the mix on your vibes, which is normal...."
I am the engineer on the recording, so there is no compression on the way in aside from what is imparted by the preamps which is a small amount of colouring through the transformers. Because its neo soul though, the mixer will for sure put some compression on the mix. He's already talking about RX-ing (a plugin called Izotope RX) which can get rid of some of these frequencies, but ideally the recording should be clean. Also RX is expensive, (though he might already have it). I think part of the issue is that my vibraphone is the lead voice on this track, so it's going to be up front in the mix. If it was just a texture/ colour in the background, it most likely wouldnt be a big deal.

Other thoughts- I was lucky enough to be able to record another instrument (same model) at an institution in my home town last weekend to compare with mine. The take away was that the buzz was also on that instrument, but was even more pronounced! Yikes! That particular instrument was a bit older than mine by a couple of years, and obviously I dont know the history, or what bumps and bruises it sustained over its life, but the sound was still there which makes me think it could be a design thing..
If others are reading this I still reckon this is a solid instrument for gigs/ rehearsals, but getting a clean recording out of it when the vibes is upfront in the mix is the problem.

Randy_Sutin Tue, 08/30/2022 - 18:06

In reply to by Stevealtered

I am an RX specialist. Yes, it can get rid of a lot of that. I own the full suite, so if he doesn't and that is the route he'd like to go, please let him know that you know an engineer who would be glad to lend a hand.

That said, obviously it would be more optimal to have a clean track. Barry may be onto something with the posts, but it really sounds like it's buzzing against hard felt. I think you are on the correct track to try to resolve it and re-record rather than process it out. I would save RX for things like pedal clicks, mallet clicks (if you're a 4 mallet player who crosses sticks like in Burton grip, this happens from time to time), and excess breathing which is too close to the mics.

I wish I were more familiar with the Yamaha instruments to give you a concrete recommend for alternate felt. It really sounds like that is what you need to do, given that it appears to be a design flaw. I use piano felt (the strip that goes under the keys) on my old Deagan instrument and my oldest Musser; That may be a viable option. My best recommend at this point is that you should reach out to John Mark Piper if he doesn't see this post here. He's the the most expert at resolving such issues. The other options would be to see if Leigh's progressive dampening pad has the correct dimensions to work on your axe. If so, it's another option, which I think you may find would not do what you are experiencing.

Stevealtered Thu, 09/01/2022 - 11:32

In reply to by Randy_Sutin

Thanks Randy, all good food for thought, and thanks for the RX offer- very kind of you!
The piano felt idea is a good one- Ill try it out while waiting to hear from the company..

BarryK Tue, 08/30/2022 - 11:36

I have a used YV-3710 (SN: 1132) but do not have this issue. I used to have an old Deagan where I replaced the bar post insulators, which caused buzzing, until I tried a different material for the insulators (I forget whether it was from Silicone to Rubber or vice versa). I am wondering if the bars are rubbing on the post insulators. Is the buzz just with the pedal not depressed? How about slightly depressed?

Barry

Stevealtered Thu, 09/01/2022 - 11:20

Hi Barry,
thanks for the idea about the insulators. I have checked this and it still occurs even if the bars are not touching the rubber, so the insulators are not the problem.

The buzzing is not noticeable when the pedal is down, but that may well be due to the sound drowning out the buzz. Basically its only a problem on staccato notes, pedal up.

Randy_Sutin Thu, 09/01/2022 - 12:28

In reply to by Stevealtered

On older instruments (not saying your axe is old, just referring back to something I know from playing the older axes), there are two things one has to do to get a good sound which are not as necessary on new instruments: One must strike the bar in the correct way and in a correct spot to light up the fundamental without having all the other overtones throw a noisy and unwelcome party... AND... one can never strike the bar with the damper engaged unless one is ok with an incredibly staccato note and possilby some degree of buzz against the damper.

The reason for that second element is what is at play here. Those instruments (old Leedy and Deagan in particular... Claire Musser changed this element when he went to Ludwig and started the Musser division there) had relatively firm and relatively thin felt on the damper bar. With that design the damper either fully engages the mass of the metal/felt damper with the bar thus muting it or, if the bar has room to vibrate for a time, it will create a buzzing/distortion sound. If you listen to a lot of recordings of Milt Jackson you will hear this quite a bit. This along with what I call "damper slap" (when you strike the bar with a soft, heavy mallet and the damper disengaged, but only a short distance from the bar causing it to bounce off the damper bar and generate a very loud accent in the line) are the main ways one can know that they are listening to one of those older instruments.

It sounds horrible, but it's not. There is a payback. Unlike more modern instruments, the pedal is a lot more functional. It's the difference between having the kind of brakes you have on a Cadillac (Malletech Omega... smooth, silent and comfy) and the kind you might have on a small BMW Roadster (able to stop on a dime, maybe too much/hit-the-windshield if you're not used to the feel of the pedal and often given to being mildly noisy). Depending on what kind of driving you do, one or the other may be more appropriate. If you like to play bebop, as I do, it is entirely possible that learning to deal with the buzz by using different pedaling technique is preferable to not having brakes when you want to stop a note within a rapid line and mallet/hand dampening are not really viable options. I have, as have many before me, learned to play those axes with a reasonably quite pedal technique. HINT: it's going to involve a LOT more mallet dampening and dead strokes than you were previously using because the rule of thumb is to only strike notes with the pedal engaged or not engaged. A slight amount of pressure on the pedal as you might do on a modern instrument (to get a little more sound out of the bars but still keep them from ringing together on rapid lines) will yield a very noisy line.

Not sure what to conclude from all this in your case... If you have tried three or more Yamaha axes and they are all doing the same thing, I guess it is possible that they are designed somewhat in this way. There may be a way, by altering your pedaling technique, to have a much quieter performance and still retain excellent ability to dampen within a line using the pedal. This may be at least in part, a design "feature" rather than an explicit flaw.

Stevealtered Mon, 09/05/2022 - 19:55

Thanks Randy, your last is a fascinating post with so much insight and info. I particularly resonate with the car breaks analogy re staccato playing/ bebop as I tend to enjoy playing fast lines also, so staccato playing is an important feature for me.
I think my pedalling technique is pretty smooth, though you pose some interesting technical thoughts with using more dampened mallet head notes vs using the pedal to achieve that sound.
What I will be clarifying about my instrument is along the lines of your last point re design vs idiosyncrasy. It is a pretty new instrument, and whether or not the sound is something to accept and live with vs an inherent "problem" is the issue I feel.
Kind regards

campb3ll Wed, 09/28/2022 - 19:59

The first thing I did when I bought my Yamaha 2700G back in the 1996 was to replace the the felt damper bar with a silicone filled one for this very reason. That took care of the buzzing and I still use that same replacement today. I had a musser prior to that also buzzed as I released the pedal. A piano technician friend of mine noticed it and suggested I redo the damper with french larou felt which he did. that also worked.

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