Anyone can use the kalimba to help people the way I do, no matter what his or her training. I view the kalimba as a prop—something to hold in my hand, something to do, an excuse for being there, something to hold people's attention for a moment while I slip them a measure of love and caring. But an actual music therapist has the training to use music to empower people with overwhelming problems and disabilities.
Every music therapist has a main instrument - usually piano, guitar, voice, or harp, but it could also be flute, violin, percussion, or anything really. In addition, all music therapists need to have a basic competency in piano and guitar and voice. They need to be able to lead a song on a guitar, or play basic music on the piano.
The kalimba is a perfect instrument for music therapy, and it is as powerful as a harp or a guitar in many ways. Its size makes it better than a guitar or harp or piano for things like hospice work or working close in with small children, or in remote locations you need to hike to. And the kalimba definitely tilts the odds towards success when played by children.
It is a dream of mine that in 20 years, basic kalimba competency will be a requirement for music therapists across the nation.
On this page we provide you with a collection of videos and resources that explain and demonstrate how people are using the kalimba in music therapy.
Progress on the One-handed Kalimba (Mark Holdaway, November 2011)
Through my work with Sarah, I have written out several songs in a numbers-based system.
That system works, no matter how the kalimba is laid out.
As this music comes through us as a gift of love, I make that music available for
the Catania 6-Note as a free download. The video here shows
Sarah playing "Wade in the Water", one of her favorite songs.
Sound Journaling and the Sansula (Kathryn Rambo, BC-MT, May, 2011)
In this Kalimba Magic News article, Kathryn Rambo tells the story of how a woman, devastated by heartbreaking news, was able to deal with her emotions by sound journaling with her sansula.
AMTA conference presentation notes (Mark Holdaway, Spring 2011)
This March and April, Mark Holdaway traveled to GLR and NER to teach music therapists how to play the
kalimba. These are his presentation notes from the two conferences.
Kalimba Music Therapy for Seniors (Kathryn Rambo, BC-MT, Jan 2011)
In the Kalimba Magic News article, Kathryn Rambo describes how a group of seniors learned Christmas songs on kalimbas with drums and assorted other percussion instruments and presented them to the audience at their assisted living facility. Mark, thank you for doing what you do, which has made it possible for these seniors,
who believed they did not have a musical bone in their bodies, to experience their innate
The Use of the Kalimba & Sansula in Music Therapy
(Rebecca Vaudreuil BM, NMT-F, 2010)
"I published this toolbox training for music therapists through MusicWorx.
As I use the kalimba and sansula A LOT in my music therapy practice,
I wanted to dedicate a session plan to the therapeutic use of the kalimba and sansula."
Michelle and Her Kalimba Journey,
Part 2 (Michelle Erfurt, MT-BC, July 2010)
In her second Kalimba Magic News article, Michelle Erfurt describes her progress with the Catania 8-Note. In the end, I'm very pleased with what
I've learned about the kalimba using The Best Ever Book of 8-Note Kalimba Music. It teaches the
fundamentals of the kalimba to the novice musician and the music therapist. It also arms the music
therapist with the tools to begin to use the kalimba as an accompanying instrument in session.
Gaining Perspective on Life Using the Kalimba (Morri Namaste, MSW, July 2010)
In this Kalimba Magic News article, Morri Namaste discusses using the kalimba as an alternative approach to therapy. When I became brave enough to bring my kalimba (a Hugh Tracey, to be sure) to the unit, well, magic happened. What we were looking for was appropriate self-expression and the kalimba was so non-threatening that anybody could give it a try.
A Music Therapist's Old Kalimbas Get New Life (Mark Holdaway, June 2010)
In this Kalimba Magic News article, Carolyn Koebel brings me
several old unusable kalimbas... When she left, all were in great shape for making
music. I love to rehabilitate old kalimbas!
Using the Kalimba in Music Therapy (Mark Holdaway, March 2010)
This Kalimba Magic News article looks at how several MTs use the kalimba in their work, featuring
practical advice from:
Rebecca Vaudreuil, NMT, MT-BC; Michael Plunkett NMT, MT-BC;
Lynda Lyle, M.S., SPE-HSP; Barbara Rauer, PhD, NMT-F, MT-BC;
Kathryn Rambo MT-BC; and a note on adaptive kalimba holders.
10 MT Populations That Benefit from the Kalimba (Mark Holdaway, March 2010)
This white paper lists ideas for using the kalimba with infants, gait support and regulation,
people suffering from depression, brain injury patients, dialysis patients,
autistic clients, teaching socialization skills to young children,
elder musicians who are losing their physical abilities, the deaf, and
developmentally delayed adults.
10 Easy Ways to Use the Kalimba in Music Therapy (Mark Holdaway, March 2009)
In this white paper Mark suggests different ways to use the kalimba in MT: as a rhythm instrument in a drum jam, as a chording
instrument to support singing, games with similarly tuned kalimbas, games with differently
tuned kalimbas, chordal 5-note kalimba choirs, client improvising on pentatonic kalimba while
MT chords supportively on guitar, MT learning beautiful songs on kalimba (ie, for hospice),
kalimba as a way for people of African descent to connect with their ancestry,
playing kalimba in contact with client's body, using the kalimba to support improvised
emotional vocal expressions, and guided meditations or story telling.
Music Therapy with the Kalimba (Mark Holdaway, Feb 2009)
This Kalimba Magic News article presents the responses of several music therapists summarizing
how they use the kalimba in their MT practice. Focus is on: deaf, blind, stories,
relaxation, spirituality, speech and motor control.
My Own Uses of Kalimba in "Music Therapy" (Mark Holdaway, Aug 2008)
In this Kalimba Magic news article, Mark shares experiences using the kalimba with the developmentally delayed. "My friend Sarah only has full use of one of her hands, and I have set up an 8-note kalimba for her. Actually, the songs we've been playing have only used five or six notes, so we took two of the notes off-we can always put them on again later, but this simplification has helped a lot."
A Review of the One-handed Kalimba (Kaitlin, June 2010)
In this Kalimba Magic News article, a one-handed player reviews the one-handed kalimba. I like the sounds; I like the fact that anybody can do it;
there aren't a lot of things with options for people with one hand, so I really enjoyed that. The kalimba is very adaptable.
Recommended Kalimbas for Therapeutic Work (Mark Holdaway, November 2009)
In this green paper, Mark recommends 10 different kalimbas, indicating what sort of use each is good for. Also includes
a list of instructional books and downloads for each.
The Catania 6-Note Pentatonic Kalimba is one of the least expensive instruments
we sell and its simplicity and durability make it a great choice for music therapy.
There is a
free numbers-based song sheet for the 6-Note pentatonic kalimba.
The 6-Note can be arranged
for clients with use of only one hand. Even if you are working with a low functioning client,
the songs in the songlist can be played in part. For example, you can sing and play
"Not my brother or my sister, but its me, O Lord", and your client can play "1 - 1 - 2 - 2 - 3",
a simplification of "1-1-1-1-2-2-3" = "Stand-ing in the need of prayer".
Mark Holdaway of Kalimba Magic is available to demonstrate and teach kalimba
to music therapists around the US and Canada. Mark's presentations are
fun and lively, and his knowledge of several different types of kalimba
is unsurpassed. Writes one participant: "I was enraptured! It was a totally
magical experience." For more information,