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I'm playing a faster, pretty heavy chart with the big band I play in, and I've found that when I play loudly, my ring fingers on both hands press into the mallet really hard and it becomes painful after playing for half an hour or so. I've tried to relax my hands, but then I can't get to the dynamic I need to play. Anyone know of any tricks to fix this, or should I just be using harder/heavier mallets? I'm playing a set of pretty soft Malletech JC12 mallets, and I play Burton grip. Thanks!


gmstxfour Thu, 01/07/2016 - 18:44

Hi Josh- The vibes are no match for a big band. If you look at many of the great big band vibists of the past, they used glass-hard mallets and played very aggressively. Often they miked their instruments. Most of them used 2 mallets. You will have some better luck with harder but not necessarily heavier mallets; however, if you are playing un-amplified and trying to match (compete with!) the dynamics of a big band, you end up changing your technique and sound, plus you have little dynamic range yourself. This can be very frustrating. My best advice is to amplify your vibes with a couple of good mics through a solid PA system. If you play in loud ensembles all of time, consider a MalletKat. It is a fine instrument, although quite different from a vibraphone, and you can increase your dynamics electronically. Your ring fingers will thank you. Your sore hands are telling you that whacking the mallets harder is not a good thing. Good luck

Rogerhdg Fri, 01/08/2016 - 09:12

Our senior center band is 14 pieces with good horns and sax sections. Even the amplified MalletKat sound can get lost in that sound-blend when playing chords in the background. I usually pair off with piano when taking the lead, while the horns quiet down. The unamplified piano has much the same problem being heard over the horns. I use MalletKat mostly because at 69 years of age, carting around an acoustic vibes is impractical.

bob leatherbarrow Fri, 01/08/2016 - 13:54

Hi Josh- here's my 2 cents - I would keep working on relaxing your hands when you play, to me it's the key to getting through a long gig, and for a good sound. You want a good grip on the mallets of course, but if you have the pivot thing together with the Burton grip (where one mallet in each hand pivots off the other) you should be able to get plenty of power. I would suggest mallets that cut a little more - I don't like them too hard, but I like them to sound big (I like more sound, not just a harder sound). I use Innovative Percussion AA25's a lot of the time - they aren't too big or heavy, they are just hard enough to have a nice bite, but have a nice, big, medium-hard sound. They really pull the sound out of the instrument. You may have something like this that works for you. The malletech 12's may be a little soft for the situation. Hope this helps-

John Keene Fri, 01/08/2016 - 14:31

30 years ago, I used to play vibes with the LA City College Big Band and tried several types of mallets to see which blended the best. The winner was the Musser M229's which at the time were known as the David Friedman signature mallet. Although David is endorsed now by a different brand, the M229 is still for sale simply as the M229. Not only did I never have a problem cutting through, but the blend with the other instruments was just exceptional.

For soloing, any fine model will work, but ensemble blend is a different thing. Other models were very good quality and sounded good in other contexts, but the Friedmans just had that special something that just clicked in the big band format.

tmackay Wed, 01/27/2016 - 07:32

Aloha, over the years i have dealt with many hand problems including the one you describe .. Two choices you might work with. 1. use a harder mallet like the malletech MM17 these cut thru large ensembles. 2. RElax relax relax your fingers. if you are having to play so hard that your coming from the ceiling to be heard. Stop!!! this will only damage you .. isnt not worth it musically or physically. however always make shure that your using a relax grip and no death grip ..balance your fulcrum and let the fingers move and help you with the faster tempos' pay attention to mallet heighth of the bar. keep it close ...

alonzo Fri, 01/29/2016 - 13:14

If you have no access to sound reinforcement (mikes, pickups, electric keyboard) there are still things you can do. Start by placing yourself up front, if you are by the drummer your vibe sound will never go over the band, be the featured player. Second, use a harder mallet.I use Malletech DS19H.
Watch the video on this site by Gary Burton called "Attack," it outlines everything you brought up. Particularly near the end of the video, his advice is gospel.
I liken Burton's description of attack to Bruce Lee's "one inch punch."
Center yourself and let the power explode close to the keyboard and definitely relax.