I get one or two dozen emails each day asking me all sorts of questions, and I answer almost every one. But some of those questions keep coming around, and those are the ones that I am addressing first in this new column. —Mark Holdaway
Most owners of a Hugh Tracey Kalimba eventually experience Buzzy Tine Syndrome. While the Hugh Tracey kalimba usually sounds like an angel, buzzes can develop that sound horrible. Actually, buzzes come in varieties—a light buzz can be pleasant. But a heavy buzz is just plain nasty. Fortunately, there's a simple fix: lift the buzzy tine and slip a small piece of paper under it.
Recently, one of my customers wrote to tell me that he didn't hear any buzzes on my CDs or YouTube videos. But I tell you, my two favorite kalimbas in the world - the 30+ year old Bb Treble that I use in my Nowhere Man Video, and my 20 year old Alto that I use in my First Look Inside Video, both have a lot of paper under the tines.
Take a close look at the image of the two kalimbas above - do you see the pink marks? I drew pink on each tine that has paper under it. Go ahead and click on the photo, and you'll get a high resolution image - you can see most of the paper under the tines. On the treble, 9 out of 17 tines have paper underneath. On the Alto, it is 10 out of 15. Now, these kalimbas are about 35 and 20 years old, but they are my dear friends. And even though they have the paper under the tines, they sound great.
Before I send any kalimba out to a customer, I play each tine and fix any buzz I detect. One of the prerequisites for a Premium Kalimba is that it be buzz-free or, in cases where the instrument is extraordinary in other ways, I may allow a minor buzz, which I fix before sending out. But sometimes buzzes develop from the traumatic process of shipping. It is also not unusual for buzzes to crop up as an instrument ages, as has happened with my beloved Alto and Treble (shown above). People who play the kalimba just need to become experts at how to repair a buzz.
I can do a lot more for you than just answer your kalimba questions. As the Kalimba Doctor, I can restore your beloved but aging kalimba.
There are a lot of old Hugh Tracey kalimbas in this world (i.e., since 1954), and many of them have seen better days. But if you have one, or if you picked one up off of eBay or an estate sale, the Kalimba Doctor can restore much of your old kalimba's charm and musicality. Some of the older kalimbas have the potential to sound truly fine (such as my old Treble and Alto - see the previous article).
Kalimba Magic can help you restore your old kalimba. We can refresh the wood (clean and condition with shea butter), fix some cracks, scrub rusty tines and the bridge (the tines are almost never too bad to make beautiful music), fix buzzes, reset the bridge to the proper location, fix most "dead tines" (actually, a condition of the resonating box rather than the tines), and put the instrument in proper (or revised) tuning.
Here are testimonials from two recent customers who used our Kalimba Doctor service, converting their unplayable kalimbas to instruments as capable as any of making beautiful music:
"I could not be more happy. Now if I can just convince the rest of the family that my meanderings up and down the tines are music. Thanks!" —Leif, 2009
"We received the Kalimba, and it is simply marvelous.
My partner was so thrilled to see it he had to temper his
enthusiasm, since the last time he was able to play one,
he made his thumbs really sore. Here's his quote: 'It's nice to have an old friend back!'
Here is mine: 'Mark Holdaway's Kalimba Doctor took our cracked and rusty instrument, and returned it to a beautiful, resonant music-maker. Thanks, Mark, for your quick, effective and friendly service!' " —Jude, 2009
Send me your questions! I certainly don't know everything about the kalimba, but I know a lot and I'm learning more each day—and I am happy to share this information.