Tuesday, November 14, 2006
Mark's Rule of Thumb

You can play Kalimba intentionally, or subconsciously-intuitively. There are many advantages to both of these modes of playing, and as you progress in your playing, hopefully the two will blend with each other.

For example, if you are playing subconsciously-intuitively, you can bring in simple intentional "rules of thumb" to help you stay away from those few things which don't sound good. Mark's Rule of Thumb (which I also found recently in a forty something year old booklet by Hugh Tracey) is a two part rule: it shows us which cracks NOT to step on. In repelling us from the bad-sounding notes, this rule guides us into a space where beautiful sounding harmonies come out naturally. The advanced tip (tomorrow) will analyze those harmonies.

There is a simple positive rule governing harmonies: two adjacent notes on the same side of the kalimba always sound great together. Call it the Rule of 3rds, because you make the interval of a 3rd (either major or minor, the kalimba decides automatically) when you play adjacent notes.

My "Rule of Thumb" helps us play two tines on the opposite sides of the kalimba.

OK, OK, so what IS Mark's rule of thumb?

Part 1: don't simultaneously play two notes which are straight across from each other on the kalimba, as they sound dissonant (of course, you can do that if you mean to, but imagine this position of two notes straight across from each other have magnets which are pushing them apart and would prefer you not play them at the same time).

Part 2: if you want to play two tines, one on the left and one on the right, and you want them to harmonize, start with the position of the two notes straight across from each other, and then move one thumb down (more central), and the other thumb up (farther towards the edge). In making that dual motion, you will get two notes that sound most melodious together.

Mark's Rule of Thumb on the Kalimba

The above figure shows how you might discover the Rule of Thumb experimentally. Pick one tine in the middle of one side of the kalimba, and play that one tine at the same time as you play every single note on the opposite side of the kalimba. Notice how you like each chord you hear. Most chords will be great, and a few will sound too hard or dissonant.

And, Rule of Thumb will be the next CD release from Mark Holdaway, available at the Kalimba Magic web site in time for Christmas.