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I'm looking to find someone who can give me advice on whether I should purchase a xylophone, marimba or vibraphone. Since I can't see and play them at any music store I know of in Charlotte, NC. I have searched online and looked at videos but that still doesn't give me a warm and fuzzy when it comes to spending thousands on an instrument.

Any suggestions? I have done a Google search and can't even find any teachers in Charlotte.

Currently I am taking violin lessons, learning music theory and have watched some awesome Evelyn Glennie videos and Gary Burton too. After 2 years trying to learn the violin, I have improved, but at my current 63 year age, I will be in my 90s before I get any good at this instrument. I feel certain with my 6 years in a Drum and Bugle Corps going from cymbals, to tenor to snare soloist, that I could learn the mallet keyboard much quicker with less frustration and more satisfaction.

Please...any suggestions on where to see these instruments and how to find a teacher?

LeAnn Swieczkowski, 704-560-4322


John Keene Thu, 12/13/2012 - 11:22

LeAnn, I recommend starting by contacting the percussion teacher at University of North Carolina at Charlotte. Your best bet is to go to a school and try out several mallet instruments in the percussion studio and see which instrument (xylo, marimba, or vibes)resonates with you. If they don't have a percussion studio, then ask him where in the state you could drive and explore.

Generally speaking, a music store won't carry mallet percussion in stock since it's not a high-demand instrument like electric guitars. Steve Weiss in Philly may be an exception.

You may also want to consider the MalletKat electronic keyboard as an option as well, and there are numerous threads here on the Kat.

Randy_Sutin Thu, 12/13/2012 - 14:16

In reply to by John Keene

I will second what John has said. Steve is the exception.

Once you figure out which instrument you want, give Steve a call. He has a lot of stuff in stock and, just a few weeks ago, he told me that he has several used instruments that are in one of his warehouses... if you can't afford new, one of those may fit your budget.

Steve's a great guy to deal with.

Good luck. Let us all know what you wind up with.

jemdrum Wed, 12/19/2012 - 22:30

In reply to by Randy_Sutin

for jazz it's got to be the vibes. Steve Weiss has a good rep but I'm in Australia and he won't or can't ship there. I ordered and paid for a gigvibe from Vanderplas in March and was told of a 5 month wait. Nearly 9 months later I am still waiting, so I would not recommend that option

c.stallard22 Thu, 12/13/2012 - 11:39

LeAnn, welcome! Playing a mallet instrument is a ton of fun. I play all kinds of percussion, but when making the decision to finally buy my own instrument, I chose the vibraphone because it is by far my favorite mallet instrument. What you choose will depend on what kind of music you want to play. I like the vibes because you can do SO MUCH with them: jazz is of course the norm, but you can play classical pieces, beautifully eerie contemporary works, Eastern-sounding music, etc.

Marimba offers a whole other world of possibilities, but you will also find that a marimba costs a ton more money. The marimba literature selection is much more vast than vibes, but there's a good amount of stuff out there for both. Xylophone would not be the instrument to invest in, in my opinion, unless you want to play a lot of rags and orchestral etudes.

I agree with John that checking out the university would be a good bet. See who teaches there and I bet they'll let you see the instruments in person there too. Any mallet instrument can be really rewarding if you put the time into it, and with your background I know you'll do well with whatever you choose!

Good luck,

PS: Funny Evelyn Glennie story: She came to my college to do a Masterclass a few years ago, and after I played my piece, she was explaining how to hit the bars and took my mallet to demonstrate in the air so everyone could see and...the shaft cracked in half and the top half went flying into the audience! I think I might be the only person in the world with a broken mallet shaft signed by Evelyn Glennie! ;)

vibraman Thu, 12/13/2012 - 18:01


of all those mallet instrument the vibraphon is the one with the most musical expression possibilties because of 2 reasons:

1) the motor offers you a different sound structure all other mallet instruments don´t have

2) the pedal: offers you musical expression like a piano which also all other mallet instruments don´t have. this plus the dampening technique are the biggest advantages of the vibraphon

if those facts don´t thrill you just get what you think you would like most.

another aspect i think could be that girls love the sound of the vibraphon :) at least that is what i still hope...