Orchestral Percussion

Recommendations for Purchasing Percussion Instruments for our Concert Band

  • 1.  Recommendations for Purchasing Percussion Instruments for our Concert Band

    Posted 06-25-2014 16:51
    I'm looking for recommendations for purchasing "large percussion instruments" for a 90-piece community band.

    We need instruments that can be moved easily (wheeled within our building), but that can also be protected easily (xylophones can be damaged in a truck), so we're also looking for cases.

    We'd appreciate any suggestions for makes/models of the following, or any other advice you can offer.  Thanks in advance!

    - Bells (and rolling stand) - most sets we've seen haven't stood up well, with the bars on both the high and low ends losing their tone quickly, so something a little higher level is preferred.

    - Xylophone - ideally, one that would be relatively easy to take apart and pack in a case (is that really practical?).

    - Vibraphone - prefer a pedal that runs the length of the instrument

    - Marimba

    - Chimes - that can withstand lying down in a truck

    - Cases/covers

    - Performers' stool - any suggestions for someone who needs to sit while playing, need adjustable height, foot rest, back rest . . . 

    - Concert bass drum

    - Timpani, set of 4

    - Rolling percussion cart, with doors and shelves

    Our primary mallets player is 5'3", so the bells stand/xylophone/vibraphone/marimba either need to be adjustable for a short person, or come standard for a short person!

    Thanks for any suggestions.

    Ruth Bandler
    City of Fairfax Band
    Fairfax, VA

  • 2.  RE: Recommendations for Purchasing Percussion Instruments for our Concert Band

    Posted 06-26-2014 04:37
    Hey Ruth!  I realize budget might be an issue, but here are some suggestions:

    Bells - don't get aluminum bars - make sure you always buy an instrument with steel bars, at least 2.5 octaves.  The Musser M645 is a good option that is popular with many ensembles.  If you have a larger budget, Demorrow and Malletech both make a beautiful instrument.  Does the stand need to be a rolling stand?  A strong, heavy-duty keyboard stand will do the trick.

    Xylophone - do you play a lot outside?  or indoors?  For outdoor performances, where the elements can possibly affect the bars, using a synthetic bar is a safer bet.  The best sounding option is rosewood, though these are much pricier and can easily be damaged.  Portable instruments do exist, though you often sacrifice both range and sound quality. 

    Marimba - How much marimba playing do you actually do in the wind ensemble?  I realize many newer works call for such an instrument, but this is an extremely expensive investment.  And often, marimba parts call for a 5 octave instrument, which can cost an arm and a leg!  If you really want that sound, though, the most cost-effective solution is Majestic's 4.3 octave instrument, which is made from a cheaper yet still resonant and characteristic sounding Padouk wood. 

    Vibraphone - again, this is an instrument that is not used as frequently in the symphonic repertoire as xylophone or bells, but if you are looking for an instrument there a few options.  The cheapest option is the Musser Combo Vibraphone, which has the standard 3 octave range and breaks down easily.  The downside is there is only one speed for the motor.  How often will you be transporting the instrument?  As a professional vibraphonist, I can attest to the importance of a portable instrument with cases.  This makes all the difference in the world.  But again, you can substitute vibe parts on chimes and bells in the symphonic repertoire, and since it doesn't appear very often, it is not a top priority on this list (good drums, timpani, accessories, bells, xylophone and tubular bells are more pertinent).

    Chimes - Yamaha makes a great sounding set that cut through a band and possess a rich sound with their "Deagan Silver" model.  For something cheaper, Majestic makes some beautiful instruments as well.

    Bass Drum - this is very important - don't skimp on this investment!  Pearl, Adams, Ludwig, Yamaha, and Majestic all make great instruments, but make sure you are getting the finest model you possibly can.  There are free floating drums, which resonate more, as well as a suspended stand - these types of stands cost a little more, but open up the sound of the instrument so much.  For a cheaper option, all the aforementioned companies also offer folding stands.  This can be great for an outdoor setting.  Investing in a variety of beaters is also significant.  Have at least 3 types in 2 pairs each - general purpose mallets, soft mallets, and a harder, wooden staccato mallet. 

    4 Timpani - also very important, and a good set of drums makes all the difference in the world.  Ludwig makes a very popular set of fiberglass drums which, if impeccably cared for, provide a round, warm sound.  For outdoor concerts, Adams makes an excellent sounding set of portable copper timpani through their Universal Series.  The copper makes all the difference in regards to sound, though the price is considerably higher.  Their "Rolls Royce" model is the Philharmonic Classic Series, which sound AMAZING.  Seriously, its a lot of money, but one of the best investments you will make.  The drums are Dresden style and have one of the richest sounds on the market.

    And now for the accessory gear.  Cases are very important, so invest in the best hard cases you can, especially for the 4 timpani.  Instruments like cymbals, triangle and tambourine should be protected with bags and/or casing. 

    This is but a brief overview to help you on your journey.  I wish you the best of luck!

    Jason DeCristofaro, MM
    Adjunct Faculty, Brevard College and Asheville-Buncombe Technical Community College