Turn Your Alto into a Pentatonic
Maurice White Style

primal karimba
Maurice White played the
Hugh Tracey Treble retuned
to a pentatonic scale.

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. The tuning I determined may actually be different from what Maurice White uses, as there are multiple similar possibilities.

The key elements of Maurice White's tuning are: (a) the scale is a pentatonic one, (b) the range of the kalimba was not modified (if you tune notes far from the intended range of the Hugh Tracey kalimba, they won't sound very good), and (c) a consequence of (a) and (b) is that there will be many redundant notes - i.e., a tine on the left side tuned to A and a tine on the right side tuned to the same A. This is actually a good thing, because it enables you to play repeated A's rather quickly, a trick that Maurice utilized often in his kalimba solos.


This video shows a Maurice White style
tuning for the Hugh Tracey Treble Kalimba.

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. Of course, the easiest answer is: Buy a New Pentatonic Kalimba. That way, you get to keep playing the Alto and while discovering the Pentatonic. Note though, that the Pentatonic kalimba has only 11 notes, so it won't have any redundant notes as in the Maurice White tuning.

Here are three possible retunings for the Alto into a pentatonic scale with redundant notes, in the style of Maurice White.

primal karimba
The Alto kalimba's standard tuning plus three possible pentatonic retunings
in the style of Maurice White.