male student holding four mallets and playing the marimba

After a semester of percussion activities, it’s time to assess all your instruments, including marimbas, vibraphones and xylophones, and take proactive steps to protect your equipment.

With performances, rehearsals, and transportation to venues and practice facilities, mallet instruments undergo a lot of stress and strain. The good news is that keeping your mallet instruments in top shape is a matter of following four steps.


The Four Key Stepsclose up of marimba with attached cymbals

Step 1: Take Inventory Take a complete inventory of all your mallet instruments at the end of each semester. This eliminates the question of “what do we actually have” and will help cut down on “disappearing” equipment during downtimes. Ensure that every instrument has a proper cover. Take note of every instrument model number, serial number and any pending repair issues.

Step 2: Designate a Contact Select an individual — it can be a member of the percussion staff or a student leader — to be responsible for all the mallet instruments during the semester. This person will make sure that maintenance checks are done after every performance. The best way to ensure that mallet instruments are well-cared for and ready for the next performance is for ensemble staff members to be diligent about post-event care.

Step 3: Find the Proper Environment Keep all mallet instruments in a cool, dry environment all year. Extreme changes in temperature can cause extra wear and tear on equipment, so, for example, do not leave mallet percussion instruments in an equipment truck for any length of time. To ensure the integrity of the equipment, keep all instruments in a safe and secure location. Due to extreme weather during the winter, improper storage can cause significant damage to mallet keyboards.

Step 4: Keep it Clean At the end of every semester, all mallet instruments should be thoroughly cleaned. Take the bars off each instrument. Wipe down the rails and end pieces with a dry, soft cloth, removing any dust in the process.Then place clean covers on all instruments before storing them in a well-ventilated, room-temperature location that is safe from significant changes in temperature and humidity. Remove all mallet bags because they can get overcrowded with extra weight like water bottles, which can damage the rails and resonators.


view of vibraphone from aboveCare Details: Cleaning Tone Bars


Care Details: Never Use Metallic Mallets


Care Details: Damaged Bars


closeup of xylophoneCare Details: Adjusting and Cleaning Resonators


Care Details: Bar Suspension Cords


Care Details: Watch for Bent Bar-Posts



When storing a mallet instrument for long periods of time, take the bars off and carefully pack them in a bar bag. Store the bag in the director’s office or drum room to ensure that the bars are not mishandled during storage. Make sure to avoid extreme temperature changes and high humidity to keep the bars looking and sounding fresh.

Finally, never place anything on top of a mallet instrument while it is stored. Mallet keyboards are not table tops. As attractive as they might be, placing something as delicate as a large winter coat will degrade the bars over time and place unnecessary weight on the rails.

This article was adapted from the Yamaha Musical Instrument Guide.