One Music Therapist's Kalimba Journey
Part 2: Getting Started with the Catania 8-Note

Michelle Erfurt started her column with us a couple issues back. In this column she is sharing her experience as she transitions from kalimba novice to a music therapist able to help her clients through the use of the kalimba. This month she explores the Catania 8-Note kalimba using the Best Ever Book of 8-Note Music. —Mark


Priority Mail from Kalimba Magic!
Michelle Erfurt, MT-BC

Getting packages in the mail never gets old. I arrived home after work and was greeted by a tidy, subdued looking white box. The return label stated: KalimbaMagic.com. I knew there was only one place by that name.

Mark Holdaway, owner of Kalimba Magic, sent me a package which contained kalimbas of different makes and models. "Choose whichever one fits you best," he instructed. I found that to be an exciting opportunity... Who doesn't like to play around with different toys? But when I opened the box, several kalimbas faced me with metal teeth-like tines saying, "Wanna play with me? I won't bite you." I grabbed the 8 note Catania since it looked the least intimidating. I also picked up the Best Ever Book of 8-Note Kalimba Music by Mark Holdaway.

Priority Mail from Kalimba Magic!
London Bridge.

I was excited to start playing right away so I skipped the first couple of pages and dove into the tablature plan. To my surprise, familiar songs like "London Bridge" and "Over the River and Through the Woods" could be heard throughout our house. There were times when I had a question so I flipped to the front of the book and always found the answer. These had to do with how to really use my thumbs and how to use the Alaska Picks. It was always like Mark was right there with me answering in person.

I'm amazed at how much my brain enjoys reading kalimba tablature. It's like playing a game of Guitar Hero only it doesn't involve the television, electricity, a plastic guitar, or an expensive gaming system that I don't own. These are also things that I don't believe existed in Africa when this instrument was created. Did the Guitar Hero creators know about the kalimba, or Mark Holdaway's tablature? How innovative is the Guitar Hero game, really? Is this an example of how simple IS best? I guess these questions will have to be explored at a later time.

As I worked through the book playing the songs, the music therapist in me was thinking "Ok, so how am I really going to use this in a session for clients?" Then I turned to page 30 and found the good stuff: a kalimba chord chart. Chord charts are a favorite among music therapists. Guitar and piano are the common accompanying melodic instruments that music therapists use. Some music therapists, myself included, primarily use guitar because it's easier to bring to sessions compared to a piano or keyboard. It's always nice to be able to change it up a bit for clients and ourselves. If we can make chords on an instrument, we can use it as an accompanying instrument in a session. Learning how to play chords on a kalimba is a great way to add variety to a client's and music therapist's life.

I started playing with the chords and singing songs that I use a lot in my work with patients in the hospice setting. I invite you to view my own arrangement of "Up On the Roof" by Goffin & King. (You'll note that there is no editing with these video clips... my way of proving to you that I'm definitely a beginner at this instrument!)

I think that the song has a more delicate quality when using this instrument. But I'll let you be the judge.

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.

More about Michelle

I'm a music therapist, blogger, and project manager. I like to be involved in a lot of different things but, no matter what, I am grounded in my commitment to provide quality music therapy services. I have my own business, Erfurt Music Therapy, but I have also been employed by:

In addition to my website, I also have these blogs, Music Therapy Resource and Music Therapy Tween. And I have just started a Music Therapy newsletter!
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