simple, elegant marimba design


Welcome to R & B Marimbas

We are located in Santa Cruz, California and specialize in Shona (African) style marimbas.

At R&B Marimbas our instruments are the result of years of experimenting with different wood species, frame styles, and resonators in the quest for a simple, yet elegant design combined with great sound and affordability. Portable and durable, our sturdy instruments meet the needs of performing groups, schools, students and music teachers.

We have been working with wood for over 40 years and started building Zimbabwean Shona-style marimbas for the California music community in 1996. Customers include the Franklin-McKinley School District in San Jose, the Oakland Youth Choir, Everett Middle School of San Francisco School District, Ipakanni Charter School in Oroville CA, Lame Deer School in Lame Deer Montana, Edward Brooke School in Roslindale MA, Sadza Marimba Band in Santa Cruz, Roundy Elementary School in Iowa, Singing Wood Marimba Centre of Santa Cruz, marimba enthusiasts in Kodiak, Alaska and New York and numerous individuals.

All instruments are individually hand crafted, so tunings and note range can be customized to meet your requirements. For information about prices, completion time, and to place an order, please go to Contact Us or email Rob at rob@skyhighway.com.

Enjoy browsing our site!

The Instruments

Though R & B Marimbas customers frequently order Shona-style marimbas, we can custom design and build a marimba to your specifications.

Shona-style marimbas are modeled after a variety of different African xylophones. The keys are wider, the resonators are larger, and the range (usually two octaves) is smaller than Western-style chromatic marimbas. Instruments are also commonly diatonic and many include F#. Four different size instruments generally constitute a set and span a range of four octaves; sopranos, tenors, baritone, and bass. Wood species and quality play an important role in how each note sings. We have found padauk to be superior for the high range instruments and African mahogany for the lower instruments.

Traditional resonators on African instruments were usually gourds. However, these are fragile and difficult to work with. As with most modern Zimbabwean marimbas, we use modern materials for practicality.

The materials for resonators are chosen for their light weight and durability. The resonators have a membrane covered hole mounted on the end plug that creates a characteristic "buzzing" quality. The resonators are tuned with an electronic feedback system to insure maximum punch and volume.

Marimbas in Action!

Students from Roundy Elementary in Iowa playing Isu Tauya Pano
a tune from Zimbabwean Liberation Music arranged by Dumi Maraire
Paul Corbiere - director

Sadza Marimba Band, Santa Cruz, CA
playing Gandanga arranged by Paul Mataruse

Revised: 20 June 2016