dennis & the vibraphonette

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

New Vibraphonette Handle

It's time for a new handle! Make sure to check out the photo gallery in the middle of the blog. Also, you can click on any photo to make it supersized.

When I purchased my vibraphonette in September of 2005, it did not come with a handle. Carrying it without a handle was clumsy and awkward. Luckily, my friend Joe made one out of climbing rope - which he had done once before on an old handleless amp. I modified it a bit because it started to come un-tied. You can see the details of the old handle here. The climbing rope handle worked out great. It was comfortable and it held the mallets so they were easily accessible when the vibraphonette was set up to play. This was a nice feature for me since sometimes I quickly switch between instruments during a performance.

But recently I noticed that the climbing rope was starting to tear from rubbing against the metal fastener. I was worried about it falling apart at the least opportune time so I wrapped the worn area with some duct tape, but it was only a temporary fix.

Then a fellow vibraphonette owner (and friend and producer) Adam Druckman emailed me a link to a replacement handle on eBay. He said it was a bit difficult to fit, but he got it to work and it looked great. And it was only $14!

A few weeks ago I ordered one for myself. There were several colors to choose from but it seemed the dark blue would match the best. As it turns out it was much darker than in the picture. I went ahead with the installation figuring that at $14 I can just buy another one if I find a lighter blue color.

In order to take the handle off I first had to unscrew the top two screws which had nuts on the inside - right above the blue base for the bars. I had already replace one of them (I'm on the lookout for a replacement that looks more original) when the old one snapped as I was tightening it.

After I unscrewed the top ones I had to remove the the blue base holding the bars, motor and resonators. This is done by removing about 10 screws, with a few hidden in the middle - under the bars.

With the blue base out of the way I could access the bottom two screws. I had never taken them out before and was surprised that they were much longer than the top ones - which I realized was because they had to go through the support wood for the blue base.

The one thing I knew might be trouble was the silver brackets on the new handle. Not only was I not sure if they were going to fit, but I wanted to keep the vibraphonette as original as possible by keeping the original brackets. Sure enough - the holes for the silver brackets were too far apart. I used a flathead screwdriver to pry the handle apart at the ends - just enough to get the silver brackets out and put the original brackets in. The handle just squeezed into the space provided by the original brackets - whew!

Since I had the vibraphonette open I decided to clean it up a bit and check all the screws - and it's a good thing I did because many screws were loose. The round aluminum piece in the middle is used to support the pedal mechanism. I also tightened many of the screws to the leg joints which help with the small amount of wobble.

I also did a quick vacuuming and cleaning of the resonators. I only used a slightly damp cloth and waited a few minutes for it to dry before i put it back on.

To put the handle back on I first screwed in the bottom screws, next I put the bar/resonator board back on, then I put the top screws in. VoilĂ ! A new vibrphonette handle! It looks great!

I had the chance to put it to use last weekend for a show with The Quavers at The Living Room here in Manhattan and it performed wonderfully!

The Good:
** It looks much more like an original handle than the climbing rope.
** It is tighter than the rope handle so when I carry it, it is higher off the ground. This makes it much easier to put it in a taxi and to carry it on the stairs.

The Not-So-Good:
** When the vibraphonette is set up to play I can't hang the mallets on the handle like with the rope handle.

If you have some assembly skills I highly recommend this handle if you need one for your vibraphonette!

Sunday, May 02, 2010

Parts & Repair Shop

I've gotten many emails from vibraphonette owners about how to repair things like broken belts, felts and motors. I think I've found a place that might be able to help.

The Mallet Shop
Grand Rapids, MI

I've emailed the Mallet Shop and they responded the next day with a nice note. I've also seen that they have sold a vibrphonette in the past ($1500!).