So what makes a good or great tuning? I look for a feeling of freedom and expansiveness in a tuning.
Does it open doors? Is it intuitive? Can you just twiddle your thumbs in a natural pattern and have
music come out? Is it unlike any kalimba tuning I have played in the last month, or unlike any kalimba
tuning I have ever played?
"I once had a woman from England come and look us up and visit our shop. She said that until
she found the kalimba, music didn't make sense to her. She was holding one of our eight note
board pianos, obviously well worn, and said that this simple little instrument opened up a
whole new musical world to her. She said she could now understand and enjoy making music.
She looked pretty happy, which made me happy too." - Steve Catania
"An electric guitar shape seemed to be the natural way to go. There was a lot of trial
and error involved, but now I feel confident that the electric kalimba will provide the
bridge between tradition and technology." - Steve Catania
"This is definitely one sweet kalimba - check out the video and see for yourself!" - Mark Holdaway
This is one of the easiest kalimbas to play music on. You will note that this kalimba can't play a lot of
different songs, which stands to reason, since there are only 6 notes. However, anything you do on this
simple kalimba will sound beautiful.
For Alto, Treble, and Bb Treble Kalimbas
With a tally of over 110,000 views to date, "Nowhere Man" becomes the flip side of my YouTube hit single First Look Inside. This arrangement has inspired many players to work at getting good on their kalimbas. I perform this song on my Bb Treble kalimba, but you can also play it on Alto or Treble.
I saw The Gods Must Be Crazy back in the 1980s at the Somerville Theatre in Massachussetts,
about when I started playing kalimba, but didn't remember the kalimba scene until my son lent
me his copy of the movie and said, "It's the scene where the bushman picks up the rifle thinking
it's a funny stick." Well, so there IS a kalimba.
Two months ago, I shared my idea of what Maurice White's kalimba tuning was on his song "Evil."
After a bit more research, I found that Maurice White uses a similar tuning on several songs.
Since I posted my guess at Maurice White's tuning, several people have asked me how they can turn their Alto kalimbas into Pentatonic kalimbas.
This month's video shows me playing a guitar-supported Sansula improvisation in the Morocco E tuning.
The guitar that supports the Sansula improvisation plays several different chords, and when the guitar
chords change, the Sansula responds by also changing the subset of notes that dominate - i.e., the
Sansula's improvised melody is based on the chord changes defined by the guitar. This is a great
example of the utility of understanding chords on the kalimba.
I just finished going through the Thomas Bothe 2B 9-Note kalimbas, documenting and
refining the tunings, and they are all posted here.
In essentially all of these tunings, you can make lovely music JUST by playing
on the lower five notes for a few seconds and then switching to the upper four
notes for a while, going back and forth between these two states.
Last month, I had the pleasure of being part of Kalani's week-long DCM workshop in the
LA area, and I would like to recommend the program to you as well. Some of the workshop
participants were among the best drummers I had ever heard. At least one had hardly ever
beat a drum before. To me, the true beauty of the week was how we worked together. It did not matter what level any of us were at, we made music together.
The successes we shared were real, and the things we achieved were truly appreciated by
every member of this group.