The percussion instrument: Vibraphone


The vibraphone is a musical instrument, the family of percussion instruments and more specifically the branch keyboards. The name consists of two parts:

* Vibration (for vibrato): the system to produce vibrato is one of the peculiarities of the vibraphone
* Phone (for phonos): the Greek.

It was invented in 1916 by Hermannn Winterhoff, based on the marimba, another percussion instrument keyboard close to the xylophone, and gamelan orchestras of Java. If the first vibraphonist talent was the jazzman Lionel Hampton, he quickly found his place in jazz, but also in classical music of the twentieth century by composers like Edgard Varese, Pierre Boulez and Steve Reich. The vibraphone has over the years been used in very different musical styles, even if it truly plays a central role in certain formations of jazz.

Presentation of the instrument
The vibraphone is a frame topped by blades horizontal Metal lunnaire, under which there are resonance tubes called "resonators". These are usually metal or plastic.

One of the characteristics of the instrument, giving rise to its name, as already mentioned, is the presence on most models, a vibrato. In the case of so-called "fin" (most prevalent), each tube has a valve actuated by a motor, the opening and closing produce vibrato. The speed of oscillation can also be adjusted using a variable speed. Apart from the engine, the blades can also be adjusted manually in order to restrain or not the overall volume of vibraphone.

The term "vibrato" was used improperly as part of the vibraphone, given that the effect of rotating blades is a kind of intermediary between vibrato and tremolo, which would be comparable to the effect by Leslie cabin.

The blades of the vibraphone are made of metal, natural finish (silver) or gold, shiny or matte, or, more rarely, glass. This feature gives the instrument a holding of notes outstanding (much larger than a piano for example). The blades of the first prototypes were vibraphone made mostly from steel, producing a sound bright and rich in harmonics. Soon, alloys based on aluminum replaced steel because they offered a softer tone, with harmonics easier to manage. Since then, aluminum has remained the standard material for the blades vibraphone, and over the years manufacturers have made small changes to their alloy to produce a generally less glossy and more balanced in harmony.

The blades are arranged in a keypad similar to the xylophone or marimba, the difference lies in the fact that all the blades are in the same horizontal plane, while the "black keys" of the marimba and xylophone are elevated. An exception, however: the Neo Classic Deluxe Musser Concert Grand Vibraphone, designed by Clair Omar Musser in 1941, and where the Percussive Arts Society has the only copy, duplication of this "black keys" (elevated) and "white keys" , Whose simultaneous suffocation is controlled by the synchronous two rows of dampers.

Finally, the width of the blade can be constant or increasing towards the serious, like a marimba.

A strip of felt, under the blades, allowing them suffocate. The band felt, kept in contact with the blades by springs, can be lowered by a pedal to allow vibrating blades, a little piano, except on a vibraphone, we must operate the pedal before playing the blade, so that it can vibrate freely.

There are 4 main types of pedals:

* The long metal bar, known Bergerault (used especially by Bergerault, Studio 49, Premier, Marcon, Dynasty or Saito on some models);
* Early pedal Central pivoting, said Musser (in force on instruments Musser, Yamaha Ross, Adams, Vancore and some instruments Saito);
* Early pedal, but broader fixed (as on the vibraphone Van der Plas).

The tessitura
The majority of current vibraphone have a range of three octaves (from FA2 to FA5, or more rarely Do5 to DO2), although the models four octaves (of DO2 to Do6) begin to be used by some vibraphone. Finally, few models have a range of three octaves and a half (the DO2 to FA5). going to the grave, like a marimba.

In terms of frequency, the vibraphone 3 octaves standard has a range between 175 Hz and 1397 Hz.

The rods
The rods are composed of a handle more or less long and flexible (mostly rattan or wood, such as maple, and occasionally plastic) at the end which is fixed to the head will strike blades. The latter consists of a core more or less hard depending on the desired sound, and covered with a textile in the manner of a ball of wool.

The rods produce the sound muffled most are described as soft, and have mostly a rubber core. The medium mallets produce a more clear, while the rods produce a harsh sound bright. There are all kinds of intermediaries and derivatives to these three categories: medium-sweet, extra-hard, and so on.

The choice to use chopsticks depends on the context and musical acoustics. The baguettes fresh produce bass sounds round and warm, but show an attack made little note, which reduces the overall volume of the instrument and makes high-pitched sounds difficult to make. In contrast, chopsticks hard to play with ease acute blades of the instrument, but often sound cold and metallic in the grave, with great harmonics. To overcome this problem, some vibraphonist playing four rods use a fresh baguette for serious (wand outside of the left hand). Vibraphonist French Lucarain Norbert, for his preferred develop, in collaboration with the French factor Resta Pierre-Francois, the mallets whose head has a patented core to produce a sweet bright following the dynamics of Thursday.

The technical game
Historically, the vibraphone is played with two sticks, like the xylophone. Lionel Hampton and Milt Jackson, for example, have always played with two sticks. Then came the game with four rods, which helped expand the possibilities of the instrument by giving it a harmonic, melodic and over only, and facilitating the delicate passages of fingering (especially with major differences or arpeggios).

Four rods, the techniques involved are very varied. Taking chopsticks is very free, the rod "external" may be taken between the index and middle finger (taking the "Burton", the most common), the major and annular, or ring and the Atrial. Sometimes, some vibraphonist adopt an asymmetric. In addition, melodic passages (one vote) can be played with sticks internal (most common) or with the baton inside the left hand and the baton outside of the right hand (technical "Burton"). Gary Burton was one of the innovative technology to 4 to vibraphone mallets. Finally, very few vibraphonist and marimba virtuosos have developed a set of six rods.

The blades of the vibraphone are usually affected by their environment, where the sound will be the best. However, in order to allow the play of certain agreements, the blades are sometimes beaten on their end above the dampers.

The stifling of notes is an important part of the game and musicality. The game pedal must be precise to avoid mixtures of notes that may be unpleasant to listen, because of the extreme resonance of the blades. In certain situations, such as maintaining a note while the agreement or change the melody, suffocation is using a stick or finger on the blade to stifle so to stop its vibration; they say that 'on "dampe" note, the English verb to damp, choking.

Some major works using the vibraphone
One of the works of contemporary music's most important minimalist movement uses the vibraphone as a true officer and conductor of the whole concert. This is Music for 18 Musicians by Steve Reich composed in 1976 when the vibraphone triggers and provides transitions throughout the fourteen sections of the room. More generally, Reich has written many compositions using the vibraphone or metallophone.

Read also Gamelan


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