Music for Alto, Treble, Bb Treble & Chromatic Kalimbas
"Carol of the Bells" Tablature

One of my favorite Christmas carols is Carol of the Bells. I present here the tablature that can help you learn to play this song on your kalimba. Enjoy these free tablature downloads:

Here are some additional notes to help you to play this song:

First, look at measure 25. The two eighth notes in a row will likely limit the tempo at which you can play this song. If you start too fast at the beginning, you will fumble this measure, so it is better to think in your mind "how fast can I play those two E's in a row" and start out at that tempo.

Next, look at the first four measures - this is the descending bass riff. Simple! The next four measures are the well known repeated melody. At measure 9, the descending bass riff and the melody are combined to make the first line of the song. Measures 1-8 are there to instruct. When I play this song, I always start out at measure 9. You can probably spend two or three hours spread out over a week or two to get solid on measures 9-16 - a perfectly peaceful meditation for sanctuary during the craziness of the holiday rush season.

Measures 17-24 are just like measures 9-16, but the melody has been raised a third, i.e., shifted outward by one tine, while the descending bass line remains the same. Once you have mastered measures 9-16, this section is easy.

At measure 29, we run into the first real problem with playing "Carol of the Bells" on the kalimba: the song really requires a C# and a D#, while we only have a C natural and a D natural. There are three things we could do here: a) we could actually pick up a different kalimba with C# and D# (or have a partner play this part on the said-tuned kalimba); b) we could play this on a chromatic kalimba (this is actually a perfect use for the chromatic kalimba - a song that is basically diatonic, but which requires a few accidental notes from the back side of the kalimba); or c) we could just ignore the fact that the song needs C# and D# and just play the closest notes on the kalimba - C and D as written here in the tablature.

For all you folks with chromatic kalimbas, here is a new (2014) version of Carol of the Bells for the Chromatic kalimba (I improved some chromatic harmony notes in the build up):

The riff on measures 34-36 is something that I just sort of made up. I love it, but it isn't exactly how the song goes. In fact, the arrangement is all sort of made up. Since I don't know the words and I don't sing on this song (most people don't sing on this one), it all works out fine.

Once you get to the end of the tablature, go back to measure 9 and do it all again!

"Carol of the Bells" is not in the Advanced Alto Christmas Book or the Advanced Treble Christmas Book, but this is exactly the kind of arrangement that you will find in these books. If you are an intermediate player looking to improve your playing and you don't mind doing a little hard work, these are great books that will help you advance to become a great kalimba player. You will learn counterpoint, melody and harmony, and chordal accompaniment with the melody, all hallmarks of the advanced kalimba player.