Key Information (no pun intended):
- 4-6 RR, 3 velocity layers. Very dynamic sound.
- 3 mixable mic positions: Main, Close, and Ribbon.
- Pre-recorded rolls at different velocities.
- Performance by professional mallets player.
The Marimba is a relative of the xylophone, distinct for its large, typically semi-tubular resonators found underneath the keys, and larger range than its smaller counterpart. Its history is complex, having early origins in Africa and Central America, but it found a prominent home in the halls of America's Vaudeville at the start of the 20th Century. The marimba is unique from many modern instruments in that its playing style is still evolving quite rapidly, with new applications and playing techniques coming forth every few years.
We really lucked out with our choice of marimba. Although it has synthetic keys, it was brand new (so new we were tasked with assembling it before we could use it). With a 4.5 octave range, it has a range very common to most marimbas around the world. It was a solid, average specimen in mint condition.
We also lucked out with our choice of performer. Justin Bélanger, now a regular member of the VS team, is a professional percussionist and, you guessed it, marimba performance major. I don't think any of us at the session had ever heard someone who can do straight rolls so fast without falter, not to mention, he really knows the sweet spots on the instrument and has great dynamic control, giving us a smooth gradient.
This instrument, like many that will be released this year and in the future, was recorded on the stage of a large auditorium, which provided a great deal of realism to the sound. We took steps to keep the samples very much so on the dry side, however, so to still allow you flexibility with adding your own favorite 3rd party reverbs.
Unlike some of our older libraries, we also had the luxury of using and mixing out multiple microphone stems. We opted to set up the stage with a stereo pair of "mid" mics to get the full stereo scope of the instrument and capture a solid perspective of the instrument if it were in a small ensemble setting. In addition to that, we also placed a ribbon mic and a condenser mic as overheads ("ribbon" and "close"). The ribbon was sent through a tube preamp which cut down on the noise and warmed up the signal nicely, giving it a gentle, intimate resonance. The close mic captures the more percussive angle of the instrument, providing a more orchestral perspective.