Frequently Asked Questions
"How did you guys find each other?"
We have met through university music or military music connections. Most recent guests have met through other professional music performance.
“What is percussion?”
Percussion is anything you hit, shake or scrape. A percussionist is often expected to be a multi-instrumentalist and to play in a variety of styles.
“What is a marimba?”
The simple answer is that the marimba is the “grand piano of xylophones”. Perhaps a more fun answer, one Colombian we met in a performance informed us that there, they call it the "piano of the jungle". The marimba is most frequently said to have originated from northwestern Africa, and through the slave trade, found its way to Latin America. Different indigenous versions exist across Africa and Latin America. In 1893 (or possibly 1896), a second row of keys was added to the instrument, giving it the same layout as a piano. After that time, the marimba found its way north to the U.S., where it then became incorporated into western (and especially classical) music throughout the world. It is a choice solo instrument of classical percussionists. Similar instruments exist throughout the world, such as the vibraphone, strohfidel, glockenspiel, and dulcimer.
Though the technical difference between a western marimba and a xylophone has to do with the tuning of overtones, there are other notable differences. A marimba tends to be much larger, it normally has wider keys and it more often includes a bass range (where a xylophone usually does not). Also, the xylophone is most often thought to have come to western music in Europe via Romani culture.
Many people from many parts of the world have approached us during performances and have given appreciative feedback as we play “an instrument of their country”. It is truly a global instrument.
“What wood are the marimba keys made of?”
The choice material for marimba keys is Honduran rosewood, which is a dense wood with a warm, resonant tone. However, this wood has been over-harvested and there are now rosewood import restrictions in much of the world, including Canada as of 2017. As time goes on, the instrument is becoming more difficult and more expensive to obtain. Alternative materials include Kelon (a synthetic material) or Padouk, an African hardwood. We usually perform on a Korogi 5 octave rosewood instrument which was imported from Japan in 2011.
“What is the Sticks and Stone concept?”
The concept is based on three musicians on one marimba, or two musicians on one marimba plus one on drum set. It is an answer to the question, “what would be the simplest, most versatile percussion ensemble that could also actively engage with the widest audiences"? Our now most-used formula has one musician acting as bass and chords, one as melody and solo, the third on drums (though we do have other methods also). For some occasions, we bring additional percussion instruments, including vibraphone (often acting as melody and solo), glockenspiel, djembe, congas, cajon, Korean Samulnori drums and gongs, triangle, wind-chimes, guiro, and many others!
“What is your stage setup? How much space do you take?
This is our simplest layout (Simple Stage Plot and Notes Document). (vibraphone added in Covid times)
“What types of music do you play?”
Pop, rock, jazz, video-game, world, folk, classical, Disney, ragtime and any other requests we receive. We are capable of playing anything. Need a top-hits cover band? We can be this with a unique spin. Want original music? We can do this too.
Most often, we find audiences tend to prefer:
1. Upbeat music and
2. Music they recognize.
We tailor to our occasion and our audience. We also seek to creatively explore new music, as well as to educate and broaden people's musical horizons. Above all, we seek to have music making be a joyous, uplifting experience.
Can you play ________?
If you would like any particular music for an occasion, be sure to let us know well in advance. We are able to arrange and accommodate any style or genre. Here is a table showing some of the diversity of our repertoire.
How do you move your instruments? How long does it take for setup and take-down?
The marimba (our largest instrument) is 105kg (230lbs) and deconstructs into 11 cases, which can fit into most vehicles. The amount of time to setup and take-down depends on the circumstance. Ideally we are able to park as close as possible to the performance location and plan to arrive one hour before the performance. If there are are stairs, other complications, or additional instruments, we will arrive earlier. Sometimes we construct the marimba away from our performance area before wheeling it to position.
If Jayden is on the gig and it's in Edmonton, he'll probably come with a vibraphone in his bike wagon. Even if it's -30°C.
“What type of events do you perform for?”
We are open to performing for any type of event. We might emphasize a target of festivals, educational performances, and corporate events. However (from a social media post):
"Do you have a block-party, barbeque, 2 year old birthday party, 85 year old birthday party, wedding, community event, graduation party, school event, rock event, corporate event, festival, bar-mitzvah, stagette... Our unique group with unique instruments is ready to play any music for any occasion (but hey, the easiest connection for the average person is usually upbeat pop)."
We have literally performed for a 2-year old birthday parties and 85-year old birthday parties. Packed rock venues and for more calm church-going crowds.
Please do contact us if you have any questions! We would be excited to bring an amazing and unique experience to your occasion.
"What if the weather is bad for our outdoor event? If we cancel at the last-minute, do we still have to pay you?"
If we have committed to an event, it is in both of our interests that we intend to go forward if at all possible.
Do you have a contingency plan for bad weather? You probably should.
We have an outdoor tent we can fit the marimba under if need be, in the style that vendors use at markets.
When it snowed in September, one festival we worked with moved many of their events to indoor community and business centres while adding many Mongolian-style tents for other outdoor events.
-Contracts can be made for guarantees to both parties, if needed.
From our experience (in Edmonton climate), if we schedule 30 outdoor performances, maybe 2 will be close calls in a timeframe in terms of weather, but will in fact be fine for an event even if it looks gloomy. We've played with rain ending 15 minutes before a performance and even through light sprinkles. Maybe 1 in 30 performances will need to be rescheduled if the weather is really rough and being outdoors is imperative-- as it was in 2020 Covid times. That call can be made on the day, if it is necessary.
The weather forecast is no guarantee of what the weather will actually be and rescheduling to another date does not guarantee that the weather forecast will look any better for that day, as the day comes around. People involved may also have challenge scheduling for a new date. If it is truly unmanageable without reasonable alternatives, we will not charge for that date.
"How much do you charge for an event?"
Let's talk! You have a special event. You want an amazing and unique experience from a group that can bring you something no one else can.
We love to perform and would like to share our joy through music with you. At the same time, we have a usual interest in striving for sustainable business, so that we can continue to do this for people like you.
There is a degree of subjectivity to art valuation, but we would like to base pricing off of reasonable and objective standards (we can also reference past events or the events of others). Keep in mind that practice, transport, arranging and administration time vastly exceeds the actual time you see us performing. Even if only performing for 45 minutes, this likely involves 4 hours of transport time alone (1hr setup/takedown on each end) on top of preparation.
Let's find the win-win scenario!
This might be with some basis on "what seems reasonable for the situation?". If we are requested to play for a millionaire in a fancy hotel (actual situations) or a large corporate event (actual situations), we should probably charge more than for a non-profit smallscale community event (a regular request). We might also have consideration of how much work or preparation is required for the event. Also, how available/busy are we right now? At this time, all members of the group do also have other work.
As someone (group leader) with an education degree (as well as music degrees), another question often asked is "What wage would three teachers be paid to show up for a day's work?".
Once you have given all the information about your event, likely Stephen will think about what is involved and then give a number and ask if "it sounds reasonable"? Negotiation could occur if needed.
Things to let us know to help us serve you (when you inquire):
-What is your event?
-When is your event? (date)
-Expected audience size and demographic?
-Duration of event/time Sticks and Stone needs to be there.
-Is advance rehearsal for technical purposes or coordination on-site needed? (can be a requirement for largescale events)
-Are there event-specific details for us to target? How do we best help achieve your dream for the event?
DIY community event (it could be on your front lawn...): Maybe consider what we did through Covid as a template. It requires you talking to/getting word out to your neighbors.
"I need to rent a marimba in Edmonton!"
"I loved your performance!"
Feel free to send us a message or connect with us on social media. It's great to hear from people! :)
Also, if you feel able,
Leave a review(s)? It helps!
I would like to play with your group!
Awesome! It's actually difficult to find enough people who play these instruments (especially the mallet percussion) to be ready for every gig and every situation, so it's good to grow out team! Our minimum standard: be able to play Mark Ford's "Stubernic" by memory with us. And/or improvise over a jazz standard. To some extent, we are willing to help build people up/provide mentorship too.
[Stubernic in video above. Hazmat suit only required for audition if we are experiencing a global pandemic.]