Wednesday, August 18, 2010
Simplify Your Playing by Using Subsets of Notes

Most kalimbas are diatonic instruments - meaning they play the equivalent of just the white notes on the piano (OK, OK, most kalimbas are not in the key of C, so some of those white notes will be traded out for black notes to make the required flats or sharps, but you can think of the kalimba as if it were just playing the white notes).

Now, in order to play a chord on the piano in the key of C (white notes only), you play every other note. In other words, about half the notes on the kalimba will make a certain chord. On the Hugh Tracey diatonic kalimbas, you play three or four notes in a row on one side to make a chord.

When playing kalimba, we might have the mistaken idea that we need to play all the notes all the time. But actually you will get nicer melodies of you play like half the notes at any given time, and then switch to a different subset of notes.

If you are lucky, or if you know your kalimba, you will just know which half of the notes to play and when. But if you are neither lucky nor intimate with the kalimba, there is a little trick on the 2B kalimbas and the Sansulas.

2B 9 Notes
The Thomas Bothe "2B" 9-Note

The 2B kalimbas and the Sansulas have some tines on a lower row and other tines on an upper row. For most good tunings of these instruments, the lower row tines will make one chord (or more loosely, one idea), and the upper tines will make a different chord (or idea). What's more, these two ideas will work well together musically - i.e., two complementary musical ideas. You don't need to know what chords they are, or what the ideas mean, or how they work together musically, you just play. Bingo! Out of the box! Magic.

In other words, the tuning organizes the notes to suggest music to you and your thumbs. You can learn more about the 2B kalimbas and this tuning arrangement in our newsletter coming out at the end of this week. Purchase a "2B" 9-Note kalimba at the Kalimba Magic Shop.