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Sue Thompson - the woman who found a musical gnome living on the backside of her karimba - has done it! First, the 17-Note Hugh Tracey Karimba. Then the 8-Note Student karimba for her husband to play on and accompany her. But what to give the house guest who had nothing to play?
Sue had an old Hugh Tracey Treble. She took it apart. The wood bridge and the wood half round backstop piece are not glued down, but are held in place by the downward pressure from the tines, and if you slide these out, you can rearrange the tines and slide them back into place again. Sue created a karimba by turning the higher notes upside down - so instead of the tips curving down, they curve up, but not as much as the 17-Note Karimba. Very clever.
I would have loved to hear them all playing together!
Here is a cool modification invented by John Roff of South Africa - a home made Sansula made from a Hugh Tracey 8-Note kalimba. Actually, this is very similar to the 2B/9-Note kalimbas. [John, check out the tunings and see if any of them resonate with this kalimba.]
This pattern - a set of lower notes with shorter higher-note tines in between the longer tines and bent up so they can be played in between the longer tines - is a common idea in traditional kalimba design. The Mbira dzavadzimu and the Karimba (aka Mbira nyunga nyunga) both have this design and probably date to about 1000 years ago. Meanwhile, Peter Hokema, inventor of the Sansula, and Thomas Bothe, creator of the 2B kalimbas both use this very ancient design element in their new age instruments.
John Roff writes:
The Sansula has arrived, and what a delight it is. The book is also a great resource, and I am delving into it with vigour. Finding the chords section most interesting and applicable at the moment. The Sansula really makes beautiful chords, and does have its own voice, as you rightly say.
I have figured out by accident a way of making a cheap resonating chamber with wah-wah effect. I have used old ice cream tubs with the bottom cut out as resonators for kal/rimbas, finding them most effective, and I fasten the kalimbas to them with an elastic band.
I tried the sansula on a 2 litre tub, but the resonant space was too big, emphasising only the bass notes on the Sansula. So I tried the purple 1.5 litre ice cream tub, and soaked the lid in water to remove the label. This left behind a layer of sticky glue which I couldn't clean off easily, so I decided to just try sticking the sansula onto the lid with the remnant glue. It worked like a charm! The glue holds the sansula firmly in place, the lid is thin and flexible enough to transmit vibrations effectively (though not as effectively as a skin), and I can remove the sansula and put it in my pocket when I need to carry it around. Very little glue stays on the sansula, I just rub it off with my finger.
The kalimba keeps appearing in sound tracks. I get a wonderful feeling when I am watching something and I realize there is kalimba in the music.
Here is an art video by Robbert Van Hulzen that uses kalimba in the sound track.
The kalimba comes in clearly at 01'44" and 02'58", keep listening and you'll hear more. it's mostly kind of mangled through my maxmsp effect patch, but that's mainly a bit of delay and colouring / pitch bending the sound.
Been practicing the kalimba again - I retuned it as soon as I got it, top octave is G mixolydian and the bottom half is the chromatic pitches, with a G natural as the lowest pitch and a D in it as well. Been working on playing various scales and chords.
A very innovative tuning. Most kalimba tunings maintain the same tuning scheme in the lower and upper octaves (to make it easier to play - it becomes harmonically self-consistent). However, tuning the lower and upper octaves to different scales or notes can lead to more innovative sounds.
On the other hand, what to do if you only have one octave to play with? Read on, dear one.
Kalimba Magic does not carry any of the 7-Note kalimbas that seem to fill the eBay results when you search on kalimba, and I have never owned a 7-Note kalimba personally, but the ubiquity of these instruments from Indonesia, Africa, and elsewhere keeps the question popping up: "How should I tune my 7-Note kalimba?"
We've actually given some abstract and theoretical advice on this subject, but this is the first time someone has written in and said, "This is how I tuned MY 7-Note kalimba."
Piotr Harmacinski in Poland tuned his 7-Note exactly the same as the 8-Note in C, but missing the bottom note C3, starting instead on D3. Melodically, this 7-Note tuning is a far cry from the 8-Note because that C3 - the root note and the bass note in the 8-Note kalimba - is an important note in most melodies you could think of putting on the 8-Note kalimba. But harmonically, this 7-Note kalimba is the same as the 8-Note, because the missing note is the C, which is still present an octave up - i.e., you can make the exact same chords you can make with an 8-Note kalimba.
So this tuning is an interesting choice.
Steve Wells isn't in the kalimba-making business, but he certainly could be! His kalimba designs and wood working skills are totally wonderful. I have no idea what his instruments sound like, but the hardware is probably the weak link in this instrument. He actually requested some 2B tines for his creations, and while I sent him off in a different direction, I realized that he had the exact right idea - this brilliant creator should hook up with someone like Thomas Bothe and they could take over the world with the most amazing kalimbas ever. They would probably cost several hundred dollars, but they would probably be worth it!
By the way, Hugh Tracey did not invent the hollow body kalimba with a sound hole capable of making a wah-wah sound - rather, that was a traditional African idea. The first such kalimbas were made from a single piece of wood that had been drilled into to hollow it out - similar to Steve's kalimba pictured here.