Kalimba College: Painted Tine Insights
Relationships Between Alto and Treble Kalimbas

Kalimba Comparison
How the painted tines relate across kalimbas

In this article, we use painted tines to understand relationships between the Bb Treble, regular Treble and Alto kalimbas.

If you would like a review, here's an old article (Feb 2011) that spells out the reasons why some of the tines are painted on your Hugh Tracey kalimba.

In the diagram to the right, the painted tines on the Bb Treble and Alto kalimbas match each other in the degree of the scale.

For example, the two upper root notes on the Bb Treble (you can identify them as they are marked with "1", i.e., the first degree of the scale and Bb on the Bb Treble kalimba) are painted, and correspond to the two upper root notes on the Alto kalimba (also marked "1", but as the Alto is in the key of G, the root notes are G instead of Bb).

This means that if you can play a song on the Alto kalimba, you can also play it, without relearning it, on the Bb Treble kalimba, because the painted tines show you the way by noting the the degrees of scale.

Do note, the far right and far left Alto tines are painted, while the far left and far right Treble tines are not. This brief disruption of symmetry is simply due to the fact that Treble kalimbas have 17 tines, two more tines than the Alto, which has only 15.

Now compare the Alto kalimba and the regular (non Bb) Treble kalimba. We see another important difference: the regular Treble has only 5 tines painted while the Alto has 6 tines painted. Why? Because the Treble lacks the Alto's lowest two notes, G and A (a painted tine), and starts in on the low B.

So we see painted tines don't just show us the degree of scale but also name of note, and in the case of the Alto and regular Treble kalimbas, this shows very clearly that the notes on the Treble are mostly exactly the same as the notes on the Alto, even though the Treble does not have the Alto's two low notes, and the Alto is missing the Treble's top four notes.

Matched painted tines across regular Treble and Alto kalimbas give you the capability to play on one while a friend plays on the other. Painted tines make it possible to easily see which notes your friend is playing so that you can translate that to the kalimba in your hands... without ever having to know the name or even the number of the note, just where it is in the painted tine scheme.

Two final advantageous conclusions we may draw: you can use the same Alto tablature for a Bb Treble kalimba AND you can almost use Alto tablature for the regular Treble!

Pretty cool, eh?