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Music Notation for Vibraphone

The Craft of Notating Music for Vibraphone

Great Is They Faithfulness (sample first page)


I am continuing to learn more about writing music in written form using music notation. I’ve felt for a long time that certain aspects of notating for vibraphone are simply not necessary. There are some things, such as mallet damping, pedaling and other minor phrasing that are better left to the musician playing the piece. It can become micromanaging by the composer rather than essence of music.


I use Finale Notation and below is a first page sample of a piece that will soon be available for you.


Great Is Thy Faithfulness is a complicated piece of music and it's like working a puzzle trying to figure out the best way to put what I play in written form. Pedal markings and mallet damping indications to me are almost never necessary to include in written vibraphone music. To scribe it only complicate the music with clutter.


The first measure is an example of what I'm talking about. The dotted eighths have an articulation expression marking over them making them long but they are not connected by ties or slur markings. Therefore, the written music indicates that they should be as long as possible but with a separation. I mallet dampen these notes just prior to attacking the next and it gives it a very cool sound with a tiny space between each one. In my opinion, there is no need to indicate a pedal marking or mallet damping notation there because the traditional music notation covers it. If the musician playing it wants to use a finger, nose or earlobe to stop them, more power to them. A musician who knows how to play the instrument should use the technique necessary to accomplish the task at hand expressively. So to me, pedal and mallet damping notation are usually only necessary in educational teaching situations.I will offer lesson on how this music is played in upcoming weeks.


In my arrangement of Great Is Thy Faithfulness, there are tons of mallet damping and complex pedaling required in every measure but to indicate them would create a black page of craziness. The musician playing the piece should figure out how to make the music speak or be taught by a good instructor. Interpretation is everything and the level at which the musician plays will have everything to do with how well the music sounds.