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The Start of the PIPERvibe Grips

PIPERvibe Mallets with Grips

When I first started using grips on vibe mallets, there was no one else using them. I was a street musician in L.A. at the time and getting to know Michael Balter very well with weekly phone conversations. This was late 1980’s early 90’s and there was no one else using grips on the rattan or wood mallets at the time.

I was just starting to develop my solo vibraphone skills and I was looking for every tiny detail to make the instrument sound better. If it wasn’t the bar making the sound and the resonators amplifying it, I wanted to eliminate it. Later that same quest led me to developing my special shock-absorbing bar mounts, PIPERcushion damper pad (liquid-filled) that later evolved into the Gel Pad and eventually the Piper Vibraphone. One such extraneous noise was coming from the clicking of the rattan handles of the mallets. So I put foam pencil grips on them.

At first, I hated them but I forced myself to get use to them. After two weeks, I LOVED them and found them to be something I would no longer play without. They actually contributed to my technique – especially when strength was needed for serious mallet damping.

I presented them to Michael Balter and he started putting them on my mallets. The down side to the foam pencil grips was that they didn’t last well and started to slip on the shaft over time. Michael found a better material to use and viola, the perfect grips were developed.

Now, I see them on everyone’s mallets. They probably don’t know that they started with pencil grips by a street musician. People started seeing me with them and I convinced many to try them for two weeks and they’ll love them- and they put grips on their own mallets.

Here’s how I use them with four-mallet technique. Notice the ring finger is always touching the rattan and the rubber grips. It helps keep your place on the mallets.


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