Category: Glockenspiels

Replacement Note Bar for a Premier Glockenspiel (Job No: 1352)

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I have to make a replacement glockenspiel note bar to fill the gap in an instrument where a note has been lost. What happens is that the pin that holds the note in place and on the instrument has pulled out and the note bar has disappeared into the ether.


Almost uniquely, Premier Percussion spent a tiny percentage of the potential profit margin on the glockenspiels that they produced on nails with a twisted shank that hold the note bars in place. This incredible phenomenon meant that the nails were less likely to pull out. It is a shame that they used the cheapest wood available for the frame, otherwise their idea would probably have worked.

Maybe it is extravagant, but personally I just use screws, but then the frames that I make are made of hardwood, typically oak now for aesthetics, but I used to also use hornbeam and ash. Because the oak is a lot harder than the softwoods that are almost universally used in the frames produced by the big manufacturers, even if the holes were pre-drilled using nails would probably split the narrow note rails. If the holes were slightly bigger to prevent splitting, the smooth shank on the nail would be able to go in easier, but it would also pull out easier. Screws on the other hand have the fluting that cuts into the wood, the pilot hole is the size of the shank to prevent splitting and it is strong in the direction it is loaded. Finally I can adjust the height of the screw incredibly accurately on a note by note basis, where as a nail would have to be pressed in to achieve uniform height. All in all, I think it is worth spending the extra 20 pence on screws!

Deagan case Glockenspiel (job no 1334)

So many times I get glockenspiels with a note bar missing and enquiries about the cost of replacement. So many times people are shocked at how expensive glock notes are to be replaced.

My Dad used to drive my Mum up the wall when, for instance, he moaned about the price of restaurants when visiting me in London. My Mum’s philosophy is, that if you want to go to London you will have to eat, so it will cost what it costs. This is the same philosophy that is needed for the missing note bar on that beautiful old case glock. Furthermore Murphy’s Law dictates that the missing note will invariably be the one that is needed.

My blog posts continually demonstrate that jobs are not straight forward when done properly. If you want to replace your glockenspiel note with a shiny bit of metal with a hole drilled in it, I am not your man, there are plenty of pretenders who can do that. But if you want to fill the space in your glockenspiel with a note, then you need an instrument maker to make one and making things takes time.


So what is the difference between “the shiny bit of metal with a hole in it” and a glockenspiel note? Well first of all there is material selection – that bit of steel I used is very good quality high tensile steel which is over 70 years old. You just can’t buy this steel anymore, and this is what gives the note bar sustain. It was then cut to size and a hole drilled into it which is the easy bit. After pre-finishing the bar, I tuned it paying special attention to matching the timbre so that it blended with the adjacent notes. With the note acoustically close to where I want it, the metal is polished and plated. In this case I Nickel plated it so it will age to look like the rest of the instrument, then it got its final tune and was put on the instrument.

Because money is always an issue, I do try very hard to keep costs down. In fact I invest all the time in tools and jigs if they will both increase efficiency and elevate standards. However sometimes I just have to draw the line. My milling machine needs replacing, so thicknessing the metal had to be done by hand. I took about 1mm off, but the finished bar was still higher than the others, but it would have taken ages to get it exact.

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Compromises aside, there is an argument for keeping repairs and replacements visible. I never worry too much about getting things absolutely identical. For instance, the pitch marking is different, but who cares? For me the main thing is the musicality, making it sound like the original.

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Bergerault Pedal Glock (part 2) (Job No: 1239)

All the metal work needed to stop this Bergerault pedal glock collapsing at every inopportune moment was made in 1239 Bergerault pedal glock (pt 1).

I have a few golden rules when it comes to making and repairing percussion instruments, for instance it has to sound good, work, last, etc. In application I also have considerations to make and using experience I identify and remove potential problems before they happen.

This glockenspiel has two examples, first on the list are rattles.  Has it not dawned on the manufacturers that percussion instruments are played by hitting them, and that due to their very nature of being musical instruments they vibrate.  So anything that can work loose and vibrate will do.  Why on earth then would you choose to use a buckle on a percussion instrument?

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Needless to say, they go in the bin!

The next problem is the damper pedal which just hangs off the end of the connecting rod.  Of course this is fine if the instrument never moves and of course the world has a perfectly flat uniform surface.  The damper bar is sprung, so any movement on the instrument will cause movement in the springs – they bounce.  Low and behold the pedal becomes detached, bits snap off, get bent….

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It is only because I am also a quantum physicist as well as an instrument maker, who does a bit of neuro surgery on the side, that I am capable of coming up with solutions to these problems.  Webbing loops instead of buckles, and I remake the pedal connector with bigger sides so the pull rod cannot come off (which is fine if the instrument always stays set up). 

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With those bits of idiocy resolved, the instrument can be assembled and finished.

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Bergerault Pedal Glock (part 1) (Job No: 1239)

There is a big problem with the Bergerault pedal glock; it falls apart if you move it. Besides from being highly irritating, this self destructive characteristic also causes things to break, fall off and get lost. This is a shame, because the instrument sounds nice.  So what happens is that they get sent to me to be sorted out!

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In explanation of what the problem is I’ll use an analogy with our old friend Paul the Porter:

Paul the Porter is playing on the see saw, in the park with Preschool Paul.  When the two Paul’s are sat at either end, Preschool Paul gets flung high into the air which he loves.

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After a little while Paul the Porter’s nerves have been sufficiently jangled so he moves towards the centre.  Preschool Paul is amazed that they now balance and he begins to understand the mechanical principles of leverage.

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So returning to our glockenspiel and looking at the base of the instrument, it is immediately apparent (to me) that there are serious design flaws which mean that there will always be problems with this instrument falling over.  Thus the Bergerault Pedal Glockenspiel appears in my top ten bad designs, which includes a detailed explanation of what is happening.

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In brief, the picture above shows the main offender – the bottom bar has an adjustment on it to alter its length.  This facilitates removing it from the glockenspiel when it is being folded down, but also now means that the legs are not fixed at the bottom.  So when the glock is being wheeled along, this bottom bar offers no structural support.  Returning to our analogy of the see saw,  looking from directly above, the two wheels move about this point like a see saw, compressing the adjustment shorter so it actually falls off immediately prior to the instrument collapsing!

My solution, which applies to just about every instrument I look at, is to sort out the very bottom of the instrument.  It is only when the four wheels are fixed firmly in place that there is any hope for the rest of the instrument to be stable. 

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A large part of the job is getting the attachment of the new frame to the existing working well.  All of my designs keep the number of wing nuts for the player to remove to the absolute minimum; I spend time making it properly to save my customers time every time they set the instrument up.

In the first picture the screw is soldered in place so that it cannot rattle loose and fall off.  The second photo shows the screw and a bolt holding the metal in place.  In this instance I have used two points of contact (usually I have three) so that the see saw effect cannot occur.  The third picture shows the cutout around the peg onto which the pedal arm will rotate; the cut out enables the subframe to be lifted off the glockenspiel.

Once both ends are complete they can be joined together with a bar of fixed length.  The two legs cannot now move apart, but the entire strength is still reliant on the welded joint in the centre, and the screws holding the frame onto the glock.  One of the reasons why I extend the connection to the transom as wide as possible is so that I can triangulate between the two points, and therefore massively increase the strength of the frame.

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Bergerault have already got diagonals from the note bed to the legs, but because the instrument is height adjustable they come down from the top to ensure that the uprights (theoretically) remain parallel.  However they have built a castle on sand, like all the manufacturers (and me) instruments are designed from the top down, but I build instruments from the ground up making sure that the foundations are solid.  Therefore I make sure that the uprights are triangulated to the (now) solid base frame.

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With all the metal work complete, I can send the frame to the powder coaters and resolve the other problems which irritate the customer in 1239: Bergerault pedal glock (pt2)

Premier Glockenspiel (part 3) (Job No: 1226)

This post continues from 1226: Premier Glock (part 2) and started in 1226: Premier Glock (part 1)

The base board gets a fresh coat of black, whilst the frame has its third coat of varnish.
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The whole lot is then glued and screwed together.
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Now I cut the new felt, gather all the note pegs I will need and re-assemble the whole glockenspiel.
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Above is a picture of the instrument back in its case.  I am very pleased with the end result.  Notice the extra note on the accidentals – this is a high E flat I made in 1220: Glockenspiel Notes

Premier Glockenspiel (part 2) (Job No: 1226)

This post continues on from 1226 Premier Glock (part 1)

The first thing I do when building a glockenspiel frame is mark out where the notes will be.  From these marks, I know where the note pins will be going, so can position where I want to fix the note rails to the base board.

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Now I can drill clearance holes through the base board, and counter sink them on the underside.  I have only ever met a few people who use clearance and pilot holes; coincidentally I also have respect for their work.  Most people can’t be bothered (good reason!)

The clearance hole allows the screw to pass straight through the base board, so when it goes into the note rail, it will pull the two parts together.  If no clearance hole is used, the fixing will screw through the board and rail simultaneously and therefore not pull the two parts together.  This is really very basic knowledge, and should be a given, sadly it is not.  Next time you need a tradesman, see if they use them, if not, find a new tradesman (good luck!)
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The next step is to get the note rails on, and mark them out for the note pegs.

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I then remove them to drill the pilot holes for the note pegs.

Pilot holes are used to stop the wood splitting.  They are the same size as the core of the screw to be used, so that only the flutings cut into the wood.

After the holes are drilled I put in braces front to back to support the note rails and prevent them from falling over.  At this stage I put the notes on to have a look at everything.

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I like the combination of the oak on a black background, so I will varnish the frame.

This post continues in 1226: Premier Glock (part 3)

Premier Glockenspiel (part 1) (Job No: 1226)

These Premier glockenspiels, like most percussion instruments, are let down by the frame they sit on.  The problem is money.  The manufacturers need to make a profit, because everyone wants a pay rise, whereas the musician wants the best deal possible.  So how do you make a glockenspiel cheap?  You screw your suppliers, and then throw it together as cheaply as possible using a minimum wage workforce.  Only then can the upper managers get new BMW’s.

So when Paul the Porter starts to move the glock around, everything starts to self destruct.

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As can be seen in the diagram above, the weight of the glockenspiel note bars, which are steel, tears the note rail off the base board.

So this is the first thing I look out for when overhauling a glock.

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There are also pins that are missing, but I will get rid of them anyway.

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In the photo above, daylight is visible under the note rail, so I need take it off and see if it can be repaired.  Although the holes for the note pegs had been filled with matchsticks, and there were a lot more holes than needed.  So the likelihood is that I will have to replace them with new note rails.

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As can be seen above, the note rails are beyond repair,  one split trying to remove it from the base.

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In the above picture, I have zoomed in to show the collection of ironmongery holding the note rails to the base.  A pathetic of upholstery and panel pins, with a few of those square twisted nails that were impossible to get out (the reason why I snapped a rail).  Regardless of the type of nail used, the note rail still lifted – this is because nails are exactly the wrong thing to resist a torsional force.  This really obvious; how does a claw hammer work, or pry bar, pincers, etc etc, in fact every tool for removing nails demonstrates where nails are least effective.

Furthermore, because the note rails were made of such low grade softwood, they split really easily, and because the wood is soft, any hole in them will just enlarge.  The replacements I made were out of Oak.

The project continues in 1226: Premier Glock (part 2)

Bergerault Pedal Glock (Job No: 1202)

Bergerault have secured a place in my top ten bad designs with this pedal glockenspiel.  In order to minimise the number of removable parts and create a glock that is really quick and easy to assemble, they have this “great” idea of being able to adjust the length of the pedal.
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In itself this is a stupid thing to do, but they were forced to do so in order to make the rest of the design work.

The problem is that the legs fold out, and are secured in place first (albeit with diagonal braces that are also badly designed), and then the bottom bar is put in afterwards.  The bottom bar sits on little pins at either ends to enable it to rotate and thus becomes the pedal.  These pins are the problem, the bar has to be reduced in length to get it over,  then lengthened to “secure” it in place.

As a finishing touch, the method of holding the bottom/pedal bar at its full length is a throw back to the 1970’s, a wing screw and a nut.  I remember when certain makes of cymbal stand first started using nylon inserts, now they all do and with good reason as any percussionist will agree, finally something that consistently works.

The end result of all these stupefyingly bad design errors is an instrument that collapses as it is being wheeled about.

The next problem on the list are the connecting rods to the damper mechanism.  At the bottom they hook over little nylon wheels on the pedal.

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These just become detached while you wheel it about making an irritating noise and becoming hooked on things and being bent, except when they don’t become detached and then get bent when the instrument collapses.

The real problem with these rods is at the other end, where a leather belt is used to connect them to the damper bar.

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Yes that is a leather belt.  The photo is actually off another instrument.  This glock had a variety of materials including string, gaffa tape and cable ties.  Leather needs to be cared for, otherwise it dries out and degrades.  The buckles just rattle.

There are a lot more design issues with this glockenspiel, but those three were the problems on this instrument.  However it is not all bad, the notes do sound really good, and after all that is the most important part of an instrument.  It is just a shame that the rest of it is, well, basically shit.

So what did I do?  In reverse order: 
I took the damper mechanism out and sewed two webbing loops to replace the missing leather straps, and eliminate the rattling buckles.  There is no need for the length of these loops to be adjustable, and the webbing won’t degrade as quickly (3 years to 30+ years).

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One of the nylon wheels on the damper pedal was missing, so I made two new ones that prevent the connecting rods from coming off.  This instrument is never folded down.

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I made an additional bottom bar that fits behind the pedal bar.  This secures the legs in one position; they can neither be pushed in or pulled outwards.

Finally I put on better castors.
 

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Glockenspiel notes (Job No: 1220)

There are actually two glockenspiels in the workshop requiring new notes, so obviously I make them all at the same time.
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The main difficulty I have is finding material of the correct thickness; a lot of old glocks use imperially sized materials, whereas metal now has to be sold in metric sizes to conform to stupid government legislation brought in those self serving idiots in Westminster. Now I can’t buy 1 inch metal stock, but sometimes after searching I can find 25.4mm stock. Anyway, that is a chore, and actually takes time to go through all my stock of metal looking for a suitable piece, because not forgetting it also has to ring.

I was lucky with one of the notes, I found something that matched, but for the main job, I could only match the thickness, not the width. In the photo you can see a wide piece of metal at the back; I have to cut it down it’s length making it 1 inch wide, then dress the edge ensuring that the sides are parallel. After that, it is easy to drill a hole and cut to length!
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At this stage I tune the note bars around 10 cents sharp, to allow for finishing and polishing, which detunes the bars. This is part of the job which takes time.

The project continues in 1220: Glock notes (part 2)