Musical wood (Is that "Timber" or Timbre?)

Hey All, I just did a google search for building a xylophone and got several potential links. Just curious if any of you had ever constructed any percussion musical instruments from wood. I have been intrigued by the sounds made by the various tropical woods I've worked with and though about whipping one up from the scraps. It does not need to be tonally correct (Not Ruth Underwood approved) but if anyone has any suggestions or hands on experience I'd appreciate your feedback. Marc
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On 4/18/2010 10:41 AM, marc rosen wrote:

Probably everything your want to know about the tonal properties of wood either here, or linked.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tonewood
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On 4/18/10 10:41 AM, marc rosen wrote:

Hi Marc, I build drums, but I know they are a much different animal than mallet instruments. From my experience, I will offer a couple bits of knowledge.
In order to get the most resonance from a percussion instrument, two basic principles play out. - the harder the material, the better. - one solid piece is better than segmented or plied
Hard materials will resonate (vibrate) longer. There's a reason bells are made of brass and not lead. :-) One piece of wood will resonate longer (and in phase) than two or more pieces glued together. Especially when the grains are polarized, as with plywood.
This holds true for a xylophone or drum shell. As mallet instruments go, don't reinvent the wheel. Lets the hundreds of years of experience of our predecessors work for you. There's a reason professional Marimba are made of Rosewood bars.
Rosewood is one of the hardest woods on earth and it has a very tight, and long grain pattern. These properties allow it to vibrate for a long time. Long is relative, of course, but those same properties help produce volume, too. Rosewood will be louder than maple or beech, etc.
There are other physical traits which contribute to achieving a nice musical tone, other than just hardness and straight grain. After all, Hickory is a little harder than Rosewood, and it's certainly cheaper. So, why don't you see Marimba made from Hickory?
I'm left to presume there are other physical traits in the woods that allow one to produce a more musical tone than the other. That's where I'll trust the experience of those who've made xylophones and marimba for decades and decades. :-)
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-MIKE-

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marc rosen wrote:

Do marimbas count? I used to live in Veracruz and marimbas were all over the place.
I never examined one closely but the "keys" appeared to be mahogany. Might have been cedro (Spanish cedar) though...mahogany seemed to be used more like we use Home Depot 2x4s, cedro for doors etc.
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On 4/18/10 12:20 PM, dadiOH wrote:

Essentially the same thing. Marimbas are generally lower octaves and have longer resonant tubes.

Yeppers. The real stuff, like you'd have found there, is very hard and dense... and like you said, about as common as Maple, here.
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Aside from the resonant frequencies as they vary from wood to wood given an equal amount of mass, shape and length, there is another factor that comes into play. The 'Q' of the resonating material. Assume the following, for argument's sake: three pieces of wood from different species can be cut to generate the same fundamental note...say a MiddleA (440). Yet, when struck, will sound very different from each other. On a spectrum analyzer one can see the shape of the 'spike' at the fundamental frequency at 440 and a whole bunch of related and unrelated harmonics. The narrower the spike, at the same amplitude, the higher the 'Q' It is that 'Q' that would make one wood more suitable to one's taste than another. Some would have more second order harmonics than another making the sound 'warmer'. Besides, rosewood is pretty, durable and finishes beautifully. (Then there's the dozens and dozens of different kinds of rosewood...later...lol)
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On Sun, 18 Apr 2010 08:41:01 -0700, marc rosen wrote:

I made a xylophone and used cherry for the bars. It worked fine except for one bar that had considerable non-straight grain. I replaced that one.
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On Sun, 18 Apr 2010 08:41:01 -0700 (PDT), marc rosen

You might consider asking at www.mimf.com. The folks over there seem to know everything there is to know about all sorts of musical instruments and the materials they are made from.
Tim Douglass
http://www.DouglassClan.com
Definition of a teenager: God's punishment for enjoying sex.
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Hey Everybody, Thank you for those links (new ones to me) and suggestions. The woods I was thinking of using (that I have scraps of) are a couple of Rosewood species, Cocobolo (if you don't think of that as a Rosewood), African Black wood and Pau Rosa. This is a low priority project but I'll try to do a little bit of it between the bigger ones. Thanks again, Marc
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If you need a particular wood for an instrument, these folks probably have it:
http://www.gilmerwood.com/
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Unfortunately their web site appears to be nearly a year out of date...
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wrote:

It usually seems that way, but you can give them a call and they'll find whatever you need. If you are in the area, they are worth seeking out. They normally have wood to drool over. Look at their slabs. Even if they are out of date, they are representative of what they have in stock. See: http://www.gilmerwood.com/Big_boards.htm
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Lot's of slabs here, too:
http://www.bakerhardwoods.com /
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wrote:

Don't you just hate it when the drool gets in the keyboard ...
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On 4/19/10 7:14 PM, LDosser wrote:

Yeah, talk about hard wood. <d'oh!>
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-MIKE-

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On Sun, 18 Apr 2010 20:49:34 -0600, the infamous Dave Balderstone

Try the little guys in Carlsbad, CA. I lived 12 miles away but never did get over there, damnit. (Then again, my many crowbars can get LOUD in chorus, knowwhatImean,Vern?) http://www.anexotichardwood.com/ Tropical Exotic Hardwoods http://fwd4.me/9ry padauk or bubinga surfboards, anyone?
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wrote:

Dammit!! Stop that!!
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On Tue, 20 Apr 2010 19:10:59 -0700, the infamous "LDosser"

So get crowbars who can harmonize, eh, Lob?
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