playing with mallet shafts

A very popular extended technique on mallet percussion, particularly marimba, is using the shaft of a mallet to hit the edge of a key.

To achieve this, a player must play on the near side of the natural keys, and the far side of the accidental keys. It’s a little awkward no matter what, with playing solely on the edges of accidentals being the easiest combination. Playing on both registers (example 2 below) adds a challenge as the player must reach much farther on the vertical access than normal. Rapidly switching between normal and shaft playing with one hand (example 3 below) is quite a lot of work and will quickly become very difficult beyond a slow tempo, as the hand will have to move constantly between its normal position and an altered, angled position needed to strike the key appropriately.

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Some of academia’s favorite marimba solos employ a good deal of this technique. Check out Joseph Schwanter’s Velocities and Leigh Howard Stevens’s Rhythmic Caprice to listen to this technique in context.