Marimba One Sends Master Tuner On 'House Call'...To South Korea

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Doctors rarely make house calls any more, but Marimba One's master tuner did, just last month, even though it was a 16-hour flight away. For a week, the tuner practiced his craft in Seoul, South Korea, demonstrating the warm sound of the marimba.

Marimba One master tuner selects a rosewood bar

"We wanted to service the instruments, and we decided that now, the master tuner comes to you!"
-Ron Samuels, Founder, Marimba One

Doctors rarely make house calls any more, but Marimba One's master tuner did, even though it was a 16-hour flight away.

The marimba is a large percussion instrument, like a giant xylophone, but whose keys are made of rosewood. Over time, these keys, like a piano's, may need retuning.

Marimba tuners are a rare and precious breed, and normally if a musician needs his marimba retuned, he sends it off to the manufacturer and waits...and waits, sometimes for months.

Concerned about the musicians’ need to have their instrument and their aversion to sending the instrument to the manufacturer for retuning, Marimba One has inaugurated the equivalent of a house call. “We realized that this was a better way to service our instruments and keep them tuned,” explains Ron Samuels, founder and owner of Marimba One, Arcata, CA, “so we decided that now, the master tuner comes to you!”

That's why it was a big deal when Marimba One sent their master tuner, Brian Stern, on the equivalent of a doctor's house call. In the process, he became the first marimba tuner ever to have set foot in South Korea.

South Korea responded with the VIP treatment, sending the company vice-president, Mr. La, to greet him at the airport and having South Korean artist Mi Youne Kim play a marimba concert to demonstrate the warm sound on the instrument, after it was retuned.

After more than a decade of tuning marimba keyboards, Brian's expertise has no equal, part art and part technique. At Marimba One, tuners match the resonance and harmonic character of each bar to its neighboring bars. The result is every keyboard sounds and feels as if it's from a single piece of wood.

"I love the challenge of it," says Brian, who has been tuning keyboards at Marimba One for more than a decade. "Every piece of wood is unique, and so the challenge is sometimes frustrating but always interesting."

In South Korea, he tuned keyboards in the acoustically designed and temperature-controlled concert hall of Cosmos Corporation, a large retailer of musical instruments. Mr. La commented, "It was absolutely wonderful. Both our staff and our customers were astonished at the sound difference before and after tuning."

The customers were so astounded by the difference that it seems Brian will be making another house call soon.

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Nicole Riggs
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