24 December 2016

Have a Magical Experience Playing Kalimba!

Written by Mark Holdaway, Posted in News and Announcements

A Journey through Kalimba Land - Where can you go?

Have a Magical Experience Playing Kalimba!

There are two broadly different types of gifts one can get for the holidays: one can get things, or one can get experiences.  When we fill our lives up with things, we can actually feel emptier.  When we fill our lives up with experiences, we are enriched.  We remember our experiences better than we remember our things.  And we are more present to our experiences.

To some, the kalimba looks a lot like a thing.  If you hang it on the wall or leave it on your coffee table as an ornament, it may just be a thing.  But the kalimba has a voice, and it has encoded intellegence.   If you put some time into it, the kalimba is really quite a fun experience.

Let me share with you what I mean.

24 December 2016

Songs for The Alto Kalimba - "Zambezi"

Written by Mark Holdaway, Posted in News and Announcements

Free Tablature for Tinashe's Song "Zambezi"

Songs for The Alto Kalimba -

Several people have requested the tablature for Tinashe's popular and touching song "Zambezi," which has been around on YouTube for a while. It is a great song for the kalimba, as it is pretty much just a four-measure riff that is repeated through the song with minimal changes.  It is not difficult and even novice players can learn to play this song in about 10 or 15 minutes.

"Zambezi" is performed by Tinashe on solo Alto kalimba and voice, and we also have a link to him performing it with a four-piece band. There is not much information available about him to be found on the Internet.  But be aware that there is another Tinashe - a female African American artist, who is more famous than the Tinashe of "Zambezi" fame; she doesn't play the kalimba - so try not to confuse the two.

Download the free tablature and learn this simple, pretty song!

29 December 2016

Songs for the Lotus Karimba: Three Trills

Written by Mark Holdaway, Posted in News and Announcements

Syncopation, variations, tweaks and trills

Songs for the Lotus Karimba: Three Trills

The Lotus-tuned karimba was created by the inventive recording artist SaReGaMa.  He once received an out-of-tune African-tuned karimba as a gift.  Rather than simply tuning it up, SaReGaMa instead used this as an opportunity to invent several of his own tunings and create music that worked with each tuning.  The Lotus tuning is the one he used for a song that he improvised one night in an effort to get his baby daughter, Lotus, to go to sleep.  He made a video of that improvisation,  known to the world as "Kalimba Solo for Lotus."

Available at the Kalimba Magic Shop, we have two instructional downloads and one book for the innovative Lotus karimba tuning. In this post we are giving away the tablature for Exercise 20, "Three Trills," from the book Playing the Lotus Karimba. A trill on kalimba happens when you have two notes that are exactly the same on both the left and right sides of the kalimba, and you play them quickly, alternating between them.  Listen to find out exactly what this sounds like!

04 January 2017

Songs for the Chromatic Kalimba: "Carol of the Bells"

Written by Mark Holdaway, Posted in News and Announcements

Finally a breakthrough! Chromatic tablature that is easy to read and understand!

  Songs for the Chromatic Kalimba:

The Chromatic kalimba is a wonderful innovation based on the standard Hugh Tracey diatonic kalimbas such as the Alto and the Treble.  Diatonic kalimbas play basically like the white notes on a piano.  As long as a song stays in key with no accidentals, you can probably play it on an Alto or Treble kalimba.  (An "accidental" is a note that is not in the key signature and requires a "flat," "sharp," or "natural" symbol.  For the kalimba, though, this is a foreign concept, as "accidental" usually means "that note isn't on the kalimba.")

If a song changes keys or has accidental notes, and you want to play it on a kalimba, you need a Chromatic kalimba, which has all the notes of the scale, not just the piano's white notes, but all the black ones too - the flats and sharps.  Hugh Tracey Chromatic kalimbas have the sharps and flats on their back sides, and the diatonic keys on the front sides.

"Carol of the Bells" is a beloved holiday song that can at best be performed in an approximate manner on the Alto kalimba, but you really need the Chromatic kalimba to get the song just right.

28 December 2016

Songs for the Karimba: Building a Karimba Song

Written by Mark Holdaway, Posted in News and Announcements

Learn this technique and write your own songs

Songs for the Karimba: Building a Karimba Song

The African-tuned karimba is a very interesting instrument.  Jega Tapera was a South African who played traditional music on a 13-note karimba, a historical folk instrument.  In the 1950s he was discovered by Andrew Tracey, who recognized his excellence, and Tapera subsequently began teaching at the Kwonangoma School in Rhodesia, where the 15-note version of the African-tuned karimba came into being in 1960 to further Tapera's music.  In 1980 the 17-note version was first made by Tracey's South African company, African Musical Instruments, which still sells Hugh Tracey kalimbas today.

Based on much scholarly research, Andrew Tracey put forth a very interesting theory that the karimba is very close to the "original mbira" in southern Africa, dating back over a thousand years, and that the traditional songs still played today on the karimba have roots that are equally ancient.

I find the karimba to be a great instrument, one that "speaks the African tongue."  It is easy for me to create my own African-sounding music just by following a few simple rules.  I'll share some of those with you here.

24 December 2016

Songs for the Freygish Karimba - "Coventry Carol"

Written by Mark Holdaway, Posted in News and Announcements

Free Tablature for "Coventry Carol" from the Freygish Download

Songs for the Freygish Karimba -

"Coventry Carol" is a 16th century English Christmas Carol.  It has the haunting feel that some old English music evokes, and as a youth I was charmed by it and used to long to play music such as this song.

This old Christmas carol and the Freygish-tuned karimba were made for each other - both are in the exotic-sounding harmonic minor scale.  This and many other great songs are part of the Freygish Download, and you can get the tablature for "Coventry Carol" free in this article. Let's talk about how this song works.

26 December 2016

Songs for the Treble Kalimba - "Silent Night"

Written by Mark Holdaway, Posted in News and Announcements

Free Tablature for "Silent Night" for the Treble Kalimba

Songs for the Treble Kalimba -

In my mind, most songs that you can play on the Treble kalimba are also possible to play on the Alto kalimba, and this offers great flexibility.  But there are some songs that are written for Alto that require its low notes and are just not possible on the Treble which by nature is in a higher range.  You could retune the Treble into a Bb Treble, and then it would behave just like an Alto with two extra notes.

But there is one (very famous) song that I don't think can be done properly on either the Alto kalimba or the Bb Treble kalimba - it requires the high notes of the Treble kalimba in standard G tuning, and that song is "Silent Night."

30 December 2016

Songs for the Student Karimba: Borrowing From a Karimba Song

Written by Mark Holdaway, Posted in News and Announcements

This old, old instrument lives on and can play lots of 17-Note karimba music

Songs for the Student Karimba: Borrowing From a Karimba Song

The "student karimba" is my own invention - or rather, it is my re-invention.  I came up with the name, but Andrew Tracey calls it the "kalimba core" as well as the "original mbira".  I like to call it “the kalimba that time left behind.” While this little instrument is far from popular these days, it was mentioned in the first scholarly article on the kalimba written in 1950 by missionary A.M. Jones.  I feel this simple instrument’s pattern is truly important because of where it stands in the history of all thumb pianos: it is the likely foremother of every southern African lamellaphone according to Andrew Tracey’s work. He asserts that it began to be used over a thousand years ago.  Playing this "kalimba core" or "original mbira," we are standing where ancient humans stood.

The kalimba core was very likely added-to over centuries to create other instruments. This post looks at ways that this may have happened and how the instruments maintain their original core, and how they and the music they play are related.

And the cool part?  Most African songs that are played on the 17-Note karimba (for which Kalimba Magic has a lot of music) have substantial sections that can be played on these core eight or nine notes. What’s more, music that is intended for the student karimba can be played on the 17-Note karimba too!

26 December 2016

Songs for the 8-Note Kalimba - "Away in a Manger"

Written by Mark Holdaway, Posted in News and Announcements

Free Tablature for "Away in a Manger" for the truly versatile 8-Note Kalimba

Songs for the 8-Note Kalimba -

Kalimbas generally have more tines than an 8-note does. You may be wondering what could you do with only eight notes.  While it might seem that a kalimba with only eight notes would not be very capable, it turns out that there is quite a bit of music available to the 8-Note kalimba.

Almost every 8-Note kalimba is tuned to the C major scale, playing from low to high: "Do Re Mi Fa So La Ti Do."  In addition to being useful for many songs in C, you can attain a "new and different instrument" by simply retuning a single note down by a half step.  By tuning the 7th note, B, down to B flat - the kalimba is thrown into the key of F with a fundamentally different note layout, and a whole world of different songs can be played on the instrument in this tuning.  "Away in a Manger" is one such song.

13 December 2016

Learn to Read Tablature - 1

Written by Mark Holdaway, Posted in News and Announcements

What are these different note symbols, and how long does each one last?

Learn to Read Tablature - 1

In a recent blog post I described the the tablature as a map of the kalimba tines which shows you the right tines to play to accomplish a particular melody or song. If you are a newcomer to reading any kind of music, and find it impossible to know how to "see" tablature, or to know what the different symbols in kalimba tablature really mean, don't despair. 

This blog post is just for you - we talk about what the "tine map" means, look at the different types of notes and how long each kind lasts, and how to understand timing and how to keep time.  We help you make friends with this new language, showing you in tablature and in sound files exactly how to read and play the different notes.

07 January 2017

Learn to Read Tablature - 2

Written by Mark Holdaway, Posted in News and Announcements, Tips

Understanding ties and dots - extending the length of notes

Learn to Read Tablature - 2

Are you having difficulty understanding note and timing symbols in the tablature?

This blog post is just for you - it's the second of our series on learning how to read kalimba tablature.  In the first post, we talked about what the "tine map" means, looked at the different types of notes and how long each kind lasts, and introduced how to understand timing and keeping time.  

This installment of the multi-part series on reading tablature covers the details of the "tie" symbol (a sideways smile) and the "dot" (a dot immediately after - or "above" - any note symbol).  Both the tie and the dot modify the length of the notes they are applied to, resulting in note lengths that we could not indicate using just the basic note types and increasing greatly how music can be communicated using a visual system.

10 December 2016

"Away in a Manger" - First learn the Easy Melody, then Add Chords. Voila!

Written by Mark Holdaway, Posted in News and Announcements

LEARN THE USEFUL TECHNIQUE OF HOW AND WHERE TO ADD CHORDS TO A SIMPLE MELODY

Often people think of the kalimba as a very simple instrument.  However, it stands proudly with the harp, the guitar, and the keyboard as instruments that can play both a melody and musical accompaniment - in other words, you can play complex music with the kalimba.

I'd like to show you a few rules of thumb that are very useful in creating a more interesting and profound-sounding song, starting with an easy, familiar melody. It will help you know where, when and how to create simple chordal accompaniment which can very easily make your kalimba playing absolutely gorgeous.

11 December 2016

Seven Basic Moves on the Kalimba

Written by Mark Holdaway, Posted in News and Announcements

UNLOCK YOUR KALIMBA-PLAYING POTENTIAL WITH THESE MUSICAL BUILDING BLOCKS THAT WORK WITH ANY DIATONIC KALIMBA

Seven Basic Moves on the Kalimba

Here we present seven of the most basic building blocks of kalimba music. They are based on simple thumb routines which the body can easily remember.  (This group is directly applicable to diatonic kalimbas, ones that cover the notes "Do Re Mi Fa So La Ti Do" in some scale.) Each of these routines can be applied in different ways to different tines, and this will produce different music based on the same sort of easy pattern.

For each of the seven basic moves, we give you a very short bit of tablature to illustrate the shape of the pattern, explain what the pattern is and why it is useful, and provide a recording to convey its sound.  All that is left is for you to pick up your kalimba and reproduce these simple moves that will help unlock your potential as a kalimba player.

06 December 2016

Peaceful Protest

Written by Mark Holdaway, Posted in News and Announcements

A download of peace and protest songs for the Alto Kalimba

Peaceful Protest
 
Things in the world may be looking difficult for you, no matter where you are.  Here in the US, I am one of more than a few (more like millions) who are disillusioned and extremely concerned about many things...including climate change and the prospects for dealing with it, now that a new presidential administration is coming in - one that seems to offer nothing good for our world's environment, and actually is looking downright destructive.  A few months ago, I felt optimistically that we had a chance at preventing the worst consequences of climate change.  With the election going the way it did, I think we have thrown that chance down a deep dark hole.

06 December 2016

Alto Exercises to Expand Your Skills, Part 2

Written by Mark Holdaway, Posted in News and Announcements, Tips

FAST SAME-SIDE PLAYING: AN ESSENTIAL STRENGTH FOR MAKING MBIRA MUSIC ON KALIMBA

Alto Exercises to Expand Your Skills, Part 2

 

To me, traditional African mbira music is one of the best musics I have ever experienced.  I feel it's the pinnacle of African music.  It has pure logic, with a spiritual core.  Even though its structure is many centuries old, every time I hear it, it sounds fresh and modern to me.  (You can hear two wonderful mbira songs right now by clicking in Related Articles below, on "Listen to Mark..." or the YouTube song below it.) This music is magical, speaking to a deep inner part of my being.  And there are many in the world who agree with me!

In my years learning and playing kalimba, I have not spent much time trying to play mbira music.  But I have come to be very interested in this amazing genre, and want to make it accessible to many more people.  I am on a quest to learn African mbira music and translate it onto the Hugh Tracey kalimba and the African Tuned karimba, which are not nearly as demanding or complex to play as the mbira.  I know there are many other people who play and love the kalimba as I do, and I believe that they would enjoy playing this music on kalimba as well.  Being that kalimba is my "native musical language", and it is the instrument I play the most and feel the most natural on, playing mbira music on the kalimba is a bit like learning a foreign language.  But I am seeing the way... and I am sharing that way with you.

The last post regarding mbira dealt with developing a facility playing octaves and fifth intervals which are a crucial part of mbira musical structure.  This post demonstrates a simple exercise for playing quickly on one side, and is another motion you need to be comfortable with to play mbira music on the kalimba.

 

14 November 2016

The System of the Mbira - Part 1

Written by Mark Holdaway, Posted in News and Announcements

The chords and phrase structure behind most mbira music

The System of the Mbira - Part 1

Most "primitive" music is so-called "two-phrase" music - basically a call phrase and a response phrase, or a question and an answer.  This simple musical form exists across cultures, in nursery rhymes, and in basic karimba music.

Sometime between 600 and 1000 years ago in the Zambezi Valley of southeastern Africa - let's suppose during the peak of the "Great Zimbabwe" civilization - an incredible innovation occurred: that primal two-phrase tune pattern evolved into a "four-phrase" pattern.  This innovation was momentous. Doubling the length of the original two-phrase cycle had the effect of expanding the possibilities of the music by far more than a factor of two. This four-phrase musical structure is the essence of the sound of the mbira. It is one of the pinnacles of African music, culture and intellect. 

In this post I will impart my conceptualization of an essential African musical form to you, and will start with the basic chord progression common to a lot of four-phrase mbira music. This harmonic understanding, which can be applied to any instrument, will be demonstrated on guitar in the keys of G and A.

12 December 2016

The System of the Mbira - Part 2

Written by Mark Holdaway, Posted in News and Announcements

You can start at different points in the cycle to make different songs

The System of the Mbira - Part 2

Sometime between 600 and 1000 years ago in the Zambezi Valley of southeastern Africa, something amazing happened - four-phrase mbira music was born.  This revolutionized the music that had been played for a very long time, and greatly increased its sophistication, sort of like going from nursery songs to Pachelbel's Canon.

The new musical structure was complex enough to support a wide range of songs.  In fact, new songs in this vein continue to be created today. There is basically an infinite supply of mbira-type music.

In this post we begin analyzing how new songs can be created within this four-phrase system. One way is to start the song at different places in the cycle.  We show you two common places to start, and illustrate the differences in the music.

12 December 2016

“Kalimba” The Movie

Written by Mark Holdaway, Posted in News and Announcements

AZPM video program about kalimbas, Mark, and Kalimba Magic. And a challenge!

“Kalimba” The Movie

Kalimbas are an exotic and intriguing musical experience to many, and recently Arizona Public Media (AZPM) created “Kalimba,” which was broadcast on their weekly TV magazine Arizona Illustrated.  “Kalimba” features the kalimba and Mark Holdaway, founder and owner of Kalimba Magic in Tucson, Arizona. This quick tour gives a brief overview of Mark's kalimba universe and the history and sound of this diverse family of instruments known as “lamellophones,” with excellent depictions of many fascinating modern and ancient kalimbas and their cousins.

22 February 2016

Is it Kalimba, Karimba, or Mbira?

Written by Mark Holdaway, Posted in News and Announcements

What name should I use for my thumb piano?

Is it Kalimba, Karimba, or Mbira?

When discussing thumb pianos, people use the instrument names kalimba, karimba, mbira, mbira dzavadzimu, and mbira nyunga nyunga - sometimes with specific intent, and sometimes nearly interchangeably.  Where are these different names from, and what do they mean?

29 November 2016

Cool Ethnic Tunings for the B11 Kalimba

Written by Mark Holdaway, Posted in News and Announcements

From Persian to celestial, each of these alternative tunings offers a totally different spin on this great kalimba

Cool Ethnic Tunings for the B11 Kalimba

The reports on the new Hokema B11 Kalimba are all coming in glowing - people love this kalimba.  Of course, everyone loves the sterling workmanship, ease of playing, and incredible sound of the huge Hokema hit, the Sansula, but the musical possibilities and adaptability of Hokema's latest, the B11, really exceed that of the Sansula by leaps and bounds, and the B11 carries the same quality and has a gorgeous sound too.

I have just developed five cool new tunings for the B11, and would love to share them with you!  In addition to this post's tuning charts for all the tunings, you can also listen to demo recordings of each so you can hear how each individual tuning sounds, and easily compare them.

28 November 2016

The Magical Music Box

Written by Tabitha Danloe, Posted in News and Announcements

A delightful musical story for children of all ages, reviewed by Tabitha Danloe

The Magical Music Box

This is a really sweet musical Christmas story, written and performed by Mark Holdaway.  While this combination storybook and CD set is aimed at children, I think a lot of people would resonate with its beautiful message and the lovely kalimba music that accompanies it.  

On the eve of Christmas, with no gift for his own son, a poor toymaker finds an old, broken music box. He can't repair it, but an angel appears, and she magically fixes the music box.  But the music box is no longer a normal music box.  It now has a very special property: the music box speaks to the heart of whoever is winding it up, and plays their favorite Christmas song!

 

01 December 2016

New Kalimbas from Roots Production in France

Written by Mark Holdaway, Posted in News and Announcements

New Kalimbas from Roots Production in France

Andrew Masters of Roots Production in France has been making kalimbas for over 20 years.  His designs are unique - they echo some rustic but refined instruments made in Africa with their handmade, very smooth tines.  In fact, these may be the sweetest tines of all to play on.

And once you play the tines, the elliptical metal sardine-can resonator body rings ever so sweetly.  Yes, these kalimbas are actually built from sardine cans!  Wow!

Kalimba Magic is very happy to carry these kalimbas, with a limited shipment planned for early 2017, and you can preorder one now.

01 December 2016

Easy Christmas Carols - "God Rest Ye Merry, Gentlemen" on Alto

Written by Mark Holdaway, Posted in News and Announcements, Tips

You may be surprised - you can play this simple carol and you can read tablature!

Easy Christmas Carols -

I've heard this story from more than a hundred people by now: people had been living under the burden of the belief that they were simply unable to make music, but then they discovered the kalimba, and they discovered they could make music on the kalimba, and they were even appreciated for the music they were able to make.

If you are reading these words, you probably know you can make music.  But you might be convinced that you cannot read tablature. 

This blog post is a message to you: you CAN read tablature, and you CAN play songs that everyone around you will recognize.  And Christmas carols are the perfect place to start.

30 November 2016

Early Kalimbas - a Speculation

Written by Mark Holdaway, Posted in News and Announcements

the evolution of kalimbas and channeling how they might have sounded

Early Kalimbas - a Speculation

 Kalimbas have a rich, varied, and very long history.  Early kalimbas were likely quite different from anything you have seen. Over the years/in my travels in a life focused on playing, writing, and teaching about kalimbas I have picked up two historical instruments by happenstance that to me are preciously full of history and secrets, which both compels and intrigues me. Both instruments were originally separately acquired in Africa in the 1950s… that much I know. Their stories, heritage, and sound constitute an important piece of the “genetics” of the kalimba, and I suspect that you may be interested in learning a little more about them too.

 

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