The Musser 3PM Practice Marimba
Creating a Useful Tool for the Beginning Percussion Student
In the realm of percussion, the goal for every music educator is to create a percussionist who is a musician. As teachers, we dream of a highly disciplined group of students in the back of the band hall who are every bit the musician as their brass, woodwind or string counterparts. All too often we are roused from this fantastic dream by the eardrum shattering sounds of the dreaded bell kit. Many of us experience the sound of a dozen or more first year percussionists playing on these tiny hearing-loss creating devices and say, “there has to be a better way”. And now there is.
The Musser 3PM practice marimba has taken the place of the bell kit and has created a useful tool that will help create young percussionist-musicians. Made from real graduated Padouk bars, the 3PM practice marimba creates a true characteristic tone. Students using the proper mallet and stroke will create the desired sounds from the first day of practice. Because bell kits have such a high-pitched and displeasing sound, student often strike the bars in a very timid fashion. This timid stroke doesn’t create the proper technique or muscle memory. Students and parents were so turned off by the sound of the bell kit that practice was discouraging. Proper stokes are analogous to tone production in wind instruments. If students have a beginning instrument that does not promote proper strokes, they will be creating poor performance habits. The 3PM can be performed with a full stroke and produces a far superior sound to other alternatives.
For young mallet players, the ability to keep their eyes on the music and be able to hit the bars accurately is enhanced by full sized, graduated bars. Bell kits, with their tiny bars and mounting screws, are very difficult to hit with any consistency or accuracy. The larger bars of the 3PM more closely imitate the peripheral vision playing situation of a full sized marimba. The graduated bars also create the proper muscle memory which is vital for accurate playing on full sized instruments. Students who practice playing scale patterns on the 3PM will have little or no trouble transferring to a full sized 4.3 octave marimba. This cannot be said of a student who practices on a bell kit.
Because the Musser 3PM marimba is a three octave instrument, students in their 2nd or 3rd year of instruction can perform virtually all of the etudes found in band method books, concert band literature and district honor band audition music. Students can practice all of their major scales in two octave patterns as is often required of honor band auditions. Again, the graduated bars and three octave range create a seamless transition to a full sized instrument in performing all types of literature. Even beginning for mallet technique can be started on this instrument. The ability to give students an instrument that enables them to do focused, deliberate and accurate practice at home is an immeasurable advantage to any alternative currently available.
Each and every beginning student with a Musser 3PM practice marimba under his or her bed or stored in the closet can have a fully functioning tool for high quality practice in just seconds. The instrument and stand fold up simply and can be stored or set-up just about anywhere. The advantage of this favorable at-home scenario over the bell kit option, or attempting to find practice time on a school owned instrument before or after school is profound. Students will become self reliant with their practice habits and excuses for not practicing will be eliminated.
In addition to being a useful tool for beginning students, the Musser 3PM is also a huge asset in the classroom. A few additional sets of practice marimbas in the classroom can allow entire classes of percussionists perform at the same time. This would be a cost effective way to have enough mallet resources for every student. Small practice rooms that may not be able to fit a full sized instrument can certainly fit the Musser 3PM. A school with few of these instruments would create even more opportunities for their percussionists to practice.
Talented mallet percussion reading & technique is vital to developing a percussionist-musician. These abilities create musicians that are just as capable as any other instrumentalist in any band or orchestra. The ability for students to do daily practice is a must in order for these mallet skills to develop and the practice marimba is the perfect at-home practice tool. There is a better way, and that is the Musser 3PM.
Mr. Michael Huestis, Asst. Director of Bands, Percussion
The Colony High School, Lewisville ISD