malletjazz.com FAQ pages

“I just bought a mallet synth - what module has the best vibraphone and marimba sounds?”

I’ve got to be honest - I’ve not heard any vibe or marimba patches that I really like, and I’ve checked out a lot of synths, including synths from Yamaha, Roland, E-mu, Alesis, and Korg. Some sound OK in certain ranges (the Yamaha XG-series synths have a decent marimba patch that really doesn’t sound bad in the lower range, but it gets kind of tinny in the upper range, at least for my tastes), but overall they just don’t do it for me. I haven’t pursued the sampler route just yet, but that might be the only way to get usable vibe/marimba sounds for your mallet synth.

I’ve made a conscious decision not to use my mallet synth to play acoustic mallet instrument sounds - I’d rather use my synths to make sounds that my acoustic instruments can’t make; if want a vibraphone sound, I’ve got a vibraphone I can use for that. I think that the fact that so many mallet synth manufacturers advertise their instruments as a “more portable and versatile vibraphone, xylophone, or marimba” (to quote one manufacturer’s ad word-for-word) really has hindered the acceptance of mallet synths in the percussion world - it raises false expectations (“it’ll be just like my marimba!”) and it really fails to take advantage of what a synthesizer can offer in terms of new sounds.

(Click here to see my lesson page on this site, regarding the issues surrounding mallet synths, for more thoughts on this topic.)

- JW