The story of the new FusionX mallets
After a year of research, development and testing, I can finally hold the most special marimba mallets ever. Slim rattan handle, red-black hairy head, minimalist design. Simply beautiful. But what makes it so unique? What brought it to life? And was this marimba mallet really needed in the current post-covid situation? Interview.
What was the basic idea that brought this unusual-looking mallet to life?
Originally just the joy of experimentation. We have been wanting to make vibraphone mallets for a long time, and for that, we needed to gain more experience with the rattan as a material. Since we already had a huge knowledge of marimba mallets, the perfect solution seemed to be to make a marimba mallet - with a rattan handle.
Let's stop here for a moment. What exactly is rattan? Is it the same as bamboo?
Absolutely no. :) A lot of people confuses these two things, and older jazz vibraphonists often call their vibraphone mallets "bamboo mallets", even though the two materials are totally different. Rattan is actually a palm tree, the tendril of which has been used for thousands of years to make furniture, tools and utensils.
And are rattan mallets made of such tendrils?
Exactly. Rattan-handled mallets owe their flexibility and strength precisely to the fact that the handle we hold in our hands, which transmits the momentum of the beat and absorbs the power of the "kickback" of the sound, is actually an extremely tough material. It's an unusual example, but similarly, Tarzan hangs on these tendrils in the well-known Disney movie. :)
So then you had the idea to make a rattan marimba mallet. What's next? What was the next step?
I had two big desires: one is a multitone marimba mallet, which is capable of quite quiet and loud dynamics. The other is the "universal" mallet, with which we can play comfortably along the entire length of the marimba. Since this no one has ever been created by anyone, I decided to give it a try.
And did you succeed?
In the beginning, there were a lot of disappointments, as it is no coincidence that such a mallet has not been manufactured yet. The ratio of rubber inner core to yarn, as well as their material and hardness, all follow strict rules. The harder core at the top of the marimba will sound extremely rough at the bottom. And if a mallet sounds great at the bottom, we'll only hear some noise in the top octave. The solution was ultimately the material of the yarn.
Yes, this "hairy" yarn on the mallet's head is a little weird. Was that the key to the solution?
After a lot of experimental luxury yarn was "thrown in the trash," we felt it was time to switch sources and look around the more hidden sectors of the international yarn market. This proved to be a very good decision as we found the final yarn for FusionX within a few days.
What is it really about?
It is made up in part of a substance called mohair. This is made from angora sheep's wool, which is a very ancient domesticated animal. For a long time, the fine and resistant fabrics made from this sheep were known only in the closed world of Tibet, and this knowledge was only released and reached Turkey in the 16th century. We also get the FusionX yarn from a Turkish manufacturer.
And what makes mohair so special?
It is no accident that Tibetans have kept their secrets for centuries. Mohair is a very flexible and durable material, typically "warm in winter - cold in summer". Unable to crease, it always returns in its shape, which is very beneficial on marimba mallets. It is also even fireproof and does not absorb moisture. A real luxury material, its price rivals of cashmere and silk.
But I guess you didn't choose because of the high price, did you? :)
Of course not. :) It convinced me already in the first sound test. There was something uniquely clear in its voice. As soon as I touched the marimba's bars with the new mallets, it became apparent that, unlike with other mallets, it doesn't makes any overtones when we gently pull it through the bar. This makes the sound very clear. There are no noises when the mallet hits the bar. The overtones can be heard, of course, but only as much as is necessary to produce a beautiful sound. What's more, since the yarn noises don't dominate, it sounds nice in the upper octaves, too. So it can be used much more widely than any other marimba mallets.
On vibraphone too?
That's right. Of course, it's not a typically hard vibraphone mallet, but I can specifically recommend it for a lot of pieces - especially classical music. When I performed a Grieg transcript (vibraphone and piano), the need arose to have more than just hard vibraphone mallets. Specifically, I played that piece with the Ashkatan N95 and R89 marimba mallets, as all of our traditional vibraphone mallets was simply too hard on our Adam's vibraphone. But of course, the wooden-handled mallets doesn't replace a vibraphone mallet, so even then I decided I needed a mallet that sounded finer and clearer than a typical vibraphone mallet, yet has a rattan handle. This was achieved with the creation of FusionX.
You haven't said a lot of things yet, I'd be curious about, for example, the "handle thickness innovations" mentioned before the interview, and how you compensated for the strong moisture uptake of rattan handles. But unfortunately we are nearing the end of the interview. Therefore, allow me one last question:
What advice would you give to those who choose a marimba mallet? To whom would you specifically recommend FusionX mallets?
As I wrote earlier on Ashkatan's facebook page, FusionX isn't the mallet you order for the first piece of your "basic" set as a beginner. For this purpose, there is the much more affordable Student series. But if you've been playing the marimba or the vibraphone for a couple of years now, love the novelties and broaden your perspective, FusionX is definitely in the right place in your mallet bag. No manufacturer has ever created a mallet like this, with such an objective. So FusionX offers something completely new playing experience, as well as a beautiful sound we can't find at regular brands. That's why FusionX mallets can even stand out internationally in a competition, concert or youtube video. We can be sure that in situations like this, people will immediately notice what an unusual mallet you are holding in your hands. Not to mention the quality of the sounds you play.
Where can we buy these mallets?
They are available on several international platforms, but here, in our own webshop, they are the cheapest, because here we can offer them at factory prices. If you are interested in FusionX, click here to view the product description and images.