Marimba Mania

by Gerard Van de Geer


In writing and arranging this music I have aimed to build onto the wonderful work of Jon Madin and his Marimba publications. The music within this publication ranges from simple to the more complex and challenging. However the ensemble playing required and the musicality that results is not diminished. A variety of parts and suggested teaching strategies provide immediacy and accessibility to any mainstream mixed ability group.

While this music can be played on Orff instruments alone, the addition and integration of the marimba within the ensemble adds a lower sonority which has great appeal to all students. You will note that some pieces have been arranged for a melodic instrument, particularly the recorder, however other instruments such as flute or violin can easily be added. Likewise, the doubling of any part with bass guitar, guitar, strings or whatever is at hand can also be used to augment the marimba parts. I hope you and your students enjoy playing these pieces.

Gerard Van de Geer.
Lecturer in Multi-Media Communication Arts,
Faculty of Education, University of Tasmania.

Aeolian Melody
La Bamba
Dabaduba Dah
Recorder Piece
Perpetual Motion
Indigo Blue
Song 4 U
Fizzy pop


Teaching strategies

Here are some simple ideas that can aid and enhance your teaching.

  • Rather than have students waiting for long periods of time before they are taught their part, have everyone learn a part they may not ultimately play. This is usually the bass part.
  • Once the first part is secure, have all those students not designated to that part learn the next part, often the harmony and so on.
  • Layering parts not only helps the listener hear the individual parts but also gives time for each part to become established.
  • Good mallet technique is a prerequisite to good playing, particularly regarding the use of alternating left-right hands.
  • Occasionally this general rule can be ignored where doubling of the same hand works (as can be seen in La Bamba and Indigo Blue)
  • However do not allow students to use their dominant hand only. Always insist upon left-right alternation.
  • You can assist students to develop good mallet technique by having them repeat a difficult short phrase over and over until it feels comfortable to them and only then having them moving onto the next phrase, as can be seen in the alternating ostinato pattern which modulates down a step at a time in Recorder Piece.
  • Have them shadow play or mirror your hand movements. Use body percussion to get them to experience the kinaesthetic feel of the sequence before having to play the right note.
  • Often students equate quality with quantity, ie, louder = better. To ensure students play quietly (as required in Sakura, page 6) have them shorten the length of the mallet by holding their mallet (between their thumb and pointer finger only) at about the halfway mark as can be seen on page 24. This, combined with smaller hand movements will result in a more delicate sound.
  • Do not allow students to rest the mallet head on the bar but let it bounce off creating a ringing tone rather than a dull 'thud'. Thuds often happen when students hold the mallet handle like a stick with their pointer finger on top of mallet.

A quandary for many music teachers is, how do we help children who do not read traditional 5 line notation?

One possible solution is to use a form of graphic or pictorial notation that preserves within it elements of traditional notation, such as pitch relationships shown vertically, space indicating duration, double bar, repeat dots plus first and second time bars. As can be seen on this page the two parts of the Tango melody can be represented in both traditional notation and in graphic form. You can find another similar example on page 27. Listen to the first 30 seconds of Tango (MP3 file 388K)

This way of representing notation can make the music more accessible however, at some stage students should see and relate to the actual music.


About the CD

The accompanying CD contains a digitally remastered recording of all 12 pieces listed in the index, in the order listed. These tracks are computer generated recordings and therefore are not intended to represent what a live performance would sound like. In choosing the various digital instruments for this recording I have used sounds that render each part more easily distinguishable.

These recordings are included simply as an aide to learning and to assist those teachers and students who prefer to listen as they read the score. You may also find these recordings useful for students to play along with as they work towards internalising their respective parts. The arrangements used are simply suggestions and should not be followed religiously. Both teachers and students should feel free to arrange their performance as they see fit.


I would like to acknowledge the support and encouragement provided by a number of close friends, colleagues and workshop participants who have persistently encouraged me to commit these compositions and arrangements to print .

My heart felt thanks and appreciation to Dr Carol Richards, Christoph Maubach, Jon Madin and Paul Radford for their on-going support and encouragement; to Trevor of the Print Centre for his creative input and page layout and to Phil McKercher of Bedrock Studios for the sound engineering.

Thanks, Gerard Van de Geer.

Contact me at:


Finding music that is appealing to, yet accessible for, older students who don't read music, has always been an educational dilemma for teachers. This volume of marimba pieces has overcome that problem. Although the parts are written in an elemental style that can easily be mastered by students, the musical results don't sound 'easy' or 'written for children'. The music always sounds like good music. Children of all ages, but particularly the older students, will be captivated by the music they can make.

Dr Carol Richards
Senior Lecturer University of Newcastle