Musser M55 Vibraphone (Part 3) (Job No: 1321)

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This will be the last installment for this Musser M55 vibraphone overhaul. In part one I had a general look at the vibe and worked on the note bed. In part two I did the main structural build. In this part I am essentially doing everything else, and I mean everything!

This seemingly happens a lot with vibraphones. I have said in the past that I think that they are probably the hardest instrument to get working correctly. Oh, it is easy to get them working OK, like most percussion instruments the common conception is that they are simple and therefore easy to repair. Indeed I seem to get comments and requests from people who intend to do precisely that, using my site as an instructional manual. This is totally contrary to the to the consistent message I deliver in the posts and the reason why I write them and make the videos. Obviously this is always going to happen, and there is nothing I can do about it, but it does annoy me somewhat, after all this is my livelihood.

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With the frame complete I started looking at the damping mechanism. The little screw above, is one of the main connections on the instrument. The damper system is a fundamental aspect of a vibraphone. Besides the mallets, this is a massive part of player expression, so why am I seemingly on my own when it comes to spending care and time making them work smoothly and silently? I had to re-engineer every single moving component in the damper system.


My best friend thinks that I can be disparaging about the way percussion instruments are made, I guess that he is correct, but what irks me the most is that I am working on supposedly top quality professional instruments sent to me by top professional musicians and orchestras, etc. These instruments are premium products at premium prices, but what I see continuously is a lack of knowledge and skill at the design stage, and penny-pinching in production. Probably the root cause of my outbursts is a frustration with myself for not ever having the time to make a selection of instruments that I can show people – I simply do not have a stock, they are made on commission and then they are gone. The instrument that I haven’t made yet is a vibraphone, and I think that this should be high on my new agenda.

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4 comments on “Musser M55 Vibraphone (Part 3) (Job No: 1321)

  1. Larry Potter

    Can you tell me a source for high quality felt in Canada (I live in Toronto Ontario)?
    What makes a higher quality felt, my vibes( Premier 751), recently had the damper bar rebuilt but the felt used doesn’t dampen properly, notes take too long to cut off etc.
    Musser felt for my instrument costs $60 plus and the thickness could be a problem.
    Really enjoy your vids! Sure wish I lived closer!
    Regards, Larry

    Reply
    • pauljefferies

      Hi Larry

      For a start the felt that Musser use on their vibraphones is low quality – it is essentially the same grade felt that I use to insulate timpani bowls in their chassis, stop two metal parts hitting, under instruments in cases and any other myriad of uses I have for cheap felt. What I don’t use this felt for is coming into contact with any vibrating surface, ie damper bar. I would not have a clue as to where to get high quality felt from in Canada, I buy directly from the manufacturers and have to purchase minimum quantities sold in linear meters. From there I cut off what I require and sell in cm². Therefore the cost to the end user is economic. I supply to musicians all over the globe; payment via paypal, parts sent through the mail. For example the felt you require will cost no more than £20 with the post being approximately £10 Prices are obviously in Sterling because I am based in the UK and I am not responsible for exchange rates and importation taxes.

      All that said, the first thing to do is to check that the damper bar is correct and set up on the instrument properly, ensure that the frame is not bent in any way, etc etc etc. This is what I do for a living – do the job properly, so when you get to the last stage which is to put the damper felt on, everything is working as it should. Finally, you have to accept the Achilles heel of the Premier vibe, which is it’s damping. Because it is reliant on solely the weight of the note bars, there is insufficient pressure between the felt and the bars – this is another area that I continually develop.

      Regards
      paul

      Reply
  2. Michel Bilodeau

    Hi

    How do you determine the age of a Mussier M-55 . I don’t seems to be able to locate a serial number on the bar or frame ?

    Michel B

    Reply
    • pauljefferies

      Hi Michel

      There is normally a plaque above the motor speed control with a serial number on it. It is also A4 which is generally stamped with a serial number. However, it wouldn’t surprise me if neither were present, things change in life – one workshop manager puts greater emphasis on documentation than the next. So ultimately the answer to your question is research and experience.
      Paul

      Reply

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