Frequently Asked Questions about Making Marimbas and Xylophones…
Do I need special wood for the bars?
The great thing about this project is that it will work for you, no matter what wood you have available
Concert quality instruments are usually made from Honduras Rosewood or African padouk, and obviously the better wood you have access to the better instrument you’ll be able to make. However you can make this instrument from just about any hardwood (eg, Durian or Meranti).
How much will the materials Cost?
Depending on where you live you should be able to get all the materials you need for between $350 - $450, from the local hardware or wood supply store.
but if you wish to make an even better sounding instrument you can of course invest in a better bar timber such as Rosewood. This will cost you a little more, but will still be way less than purchasing a real concert instrument.
Does the plans include both Metric and Imperial Measurements?
YES! The plans include both imperial (feet and inches) and metric (millimetres) measurements.
Do I need to be good at woodworking to achieve this?
Absolutely not! I’m not a carpenter - I’m a musician. Most of the skills required are fairly basic woodwork – measuring, cutting and sanding.
Even if you’ve hardly ever picked up a hammer or a saw in your life I’m confident that you’ll be able to achieve a workable instrument using these plans. Of course I've picked up a few clues over my time designing and building instruments, but I've put all the important construction tips in the package for you.
Do I need lots of expensive tools?
Most of the tools you need are commonly available
All you need is:
- An electric drill with a sanding attachment
- A screwdriver
- A wood saw
- A small hammer
- Sandpaper and sanding discs
- Rivet Gun
Plus a few other bits and pieces commonly found around the garage!
Do I need any special tuning equipment?
A basic electronic tuner is highly recommended. Any chromatic tuner will do the job, and you can get a really basic electronic tuner from any music store for around $50, or simply borrow one from a friend to get the job done! These tuners are incredibly common – nearly all professional musicians or music teachers either own one or have a friend who owns one.
BUT... if you don’t have access to one, don’t worry – as I’ve included a full set of sine waves (clear and clean tones) that you can use to tune the notes by ear. If you have a musical ear it is really easy to do it this way.
Is my homemade instrument going to sound as good as commercially available instruments?
I'm not going to suggest that you can build an instrument which will sound identical to the commercially available instrument, not with basic wood that you can get from the hardware store. However - have a listen to these samples to compare it with a commercial instrument - You'll hear that you can actualy get a really good result!
and... if you use the same timbers as commercial manufacturers do, then there's no reason why your marimba can't sound JUST as good!
Commercially Made Instrument
(This particular one costs over $9000)
The Prototype instrument constructed and photographed on this page
Does it matter what the resonators are made out of?
This is definitely one of the biggest areas of misunderstanding for most people.
The fact is that it makes very little difference!
Comercial instrument manufacturers will often TALK about the sounds of different resonator materials - they want to make their instruments seem more special - BUT have you EVER seen anybody publish an actual audio comparison?
and think about it......The resonator's job is to amplify the sound – and it does this by containing a column of air which is the correct size to resonate when sound waves from the bar enter it.
So... does the column of air really care what is containing it? or does it even know? Remember it’s the column of air that is vibrating.. not the container, so what it's made from really makes very little difference!
and I've heard people argue that certain materials are a little harder and reflect sound better than others - well this is true... but here's the thing...
Extra hard metals etc only make a difference at quite high frequencies - the frequencies way above the range of marimbas. Only the upper harmonics of marimbas are in this frequency range - and guess what... these upper harmonics are actually tuned to NOT resonate in the tubes!!!
The plans included for this instrument use PVC pipe for the resonators because:
- They are lightweight
- They are inexpensive
- They are easy to work with
- They don’t require heavy duty hardware to hold them in place
And you can get PVC pipe at just about any hardware store, as it is usually used for drainpipes around just about any home! Of course - if you really want to use different materials for your resonators, there's absolutely nothing stopping you. The building guide still tells you how to get the result you are after.
Do I have to wait for anything to be shipped to me?
Absolutely not! You have instant access to the e-book and videos via download, so you can get started immediately. The plans print out in Adobe Acrobat Reader (which is a free download, and nearly every computer already has it installed anyway).
Can I adapt these plans to build a larger instrument (4 or 5 Octave)?
Yes of course you can – It is going to depend on your design ability but you could easily add another octave or two to this instrument design.
I thought long and hard about the correct range, and came upon three octaves because:
- It was large enough to cover most repertoire of the beginning student
- It can easily pack up and fit in a standard small car
- It didn’t involve any complicated resonators, such as those required for lower bass notes
If you are ambitious theres no reason why you couldn’t adapt these plans to build whatever size instrument you wish!
How Much do these plans Cost?
Your P3 Marimba building guide is just $49.95 US Dollars. You can go to www.xe.com and check it out in your currency.
So, together with approx $350 to $450 for materials, you can build this instrument for under $500…
$49.95 for the plans is not much at all when you consider:
- The length of time that I had to study acoustics in order to bring these plans to you
- The trial and error that I went through in designing frames, tuning bars and resonators and selecting materials, so you don’t have to!
- The near impossibility of finding this information out through other sources – I looked through hundreds of books on the subject – and I couldn’t find the practical, necessary information needed to just build a marimba myself.
Detailed instructions on building a serious marimba, simply ARE NOT AVAILABLE ANYWHERE ELSE!
So go ahead right now and click here to get instant access to the building Plans for this Three Octave Marimba