13 January 2017

Six Modes to Expand the Emotional Expressiveness of your Kalimba

Written by Mark Holdaway, Posted in News and Announcements

Each different mode is like a totally different instrument. Don't you want to unlock that power?

Six Modes to Expand the Emotional Expressiveness of your Kalimba

You can totally change the scale your kalimba is playing, not be doing anything hard such as retuning your kalimba, but just by starting and ending on a different note than you usually do.  Emphasizing a different note makes that the root note, and the whole system of whole steps and half steps shifts, and all of a sudden the kalimba is playing as if it were tuned to a totally different scale.

How different can the scales be?   Here are my descriptions of each of the modes: Mode 1: happy.  Mode 2: dark, but jazzy and sophisticated.  Mode 3: dark and middle eastern sounding, exotic.  Mode 4: angelic. Mode 5: Jerry Garcia in 1969.  Mode 6: melancholy and serious.

If you can access these different modes in your playing, you have the power to express these types of feelings in your playing.

28 February 2017

Kalimba Magic Catalog 2017

Written by Mark Holdaway, Posted in News and Announcements

The Catalog is available in hard copy or as a PDF Download

Kalimba Magic Catalog 2017

For the first time in seven years, Kalimba Magic has printed a catalog.   Click through to find out what is special about this new catalog and how to get a hard copy or a soft copy catalog of your very own.

14 March 2017

What's New at Kalimba Magic?

Written by Mark Holdaway, Posted in News and Announcements

What's New at Kalimba Magic?

It has been many weeks since our last Kalimba Magic newsletter.  I have been working very hard on a number of fronts, and I am very pleased to inform you of some of our recent accomplishments and offerings, many of which can benefit you.  Check and see!

14 March 2017

Are you a Therapeutic Musician? Get a free kalimba for a deserving client!

Written by Mark Holdaway, Posted in News and Announcements

An anonymous donor has provided funds for five kalimbas

Are you a Therapeutic Musician?  Get a free kalimba for a deserving client!

Do you work with people through your music?  Have you found yourself wishing that you could just gift a kalimba to one of those people?  Did you ever think that if your client had a kalimba of their own, they would become more familiar with it, and that more love and music would blossom forth?

In a collaboration between Kalimba Magic and a generous therapeutic musician who works using kalimbas, a grant is being offered to provide five kalimbas for the clients of therapeutic musicians. We are using the term "therapeutic musician" broadly here - read more to find out how you can get a free kalimba for someone you're working with.

 

04 March 2017

10 Most-viewed Blog Posts of 2016

Written by Mark Holdaway, Posted in News and Announcements

A reprise of the past year's "greatest hits"

10 Most-viewed Blog Posts of 2016

I've been really busy putting together the 2017 Kalimba Magic Catalog - our first in about 7 years.  So, I haven't had time to really do a lot of great new material for newsletters. But we did put out some excellent stuff this past year, and I am reprising some of it here.  

This article contains the 10 blogs posts from last year that were viewed by the most people.  If you are a devout follower of Kalimba Magic, it's likely that you've already seen these. But you may appreciate a review, and if you haven't been up on everything we've been putting out, this collection may provide you some very interesting or useful information.

04 March 2017

My Own Special Kalimba Repair

Written by Mark Holdaway, Posted in News and Announcements

I couldn't believe it - a juice spill on my favorite kalimba! Fortunately, I know a good kalimba doctor!

My Own Special Kalimba Repair

It was the grapefruit juice drink that did me in. It somehow splattered on my old (50 years or so!) Bb Treble, perhaps my favorite kalimba, as I was on my way to a performance. While performing, I first noticed one note on the far left not ringing clearly.  About 20 seconds later, the adjacent note went dim, and within a minute, to my distress, the whole left side suddenly stopped ringing.  (My theory: as the juice dried between my kalimba tines and the bridge, it left a juice and dust-based cement that deadened the tines, leaving just a dull, quiet thud.)  I had just witnessed the death of a kalimba!

Even though the kalimba died right in the middle of the performance, I was confident that when I got home, the Kalimba Doctor, who knows how to make dead kalimbas sing again, would take care of me. Luckily I AM the Kalimba Doctor.

18 February 2017

What Are People Saying About Kalimba Magic?

Written by Mark Holdaway, Posted in News and Announcements

Sharing some of the sweet statements we got from folks in 2016

What Are People Saying About Kalimba Magic?

I don't know exactly why I am doing this.  There may be an element of ego in reprinting my customer's (happy) comments to me.  But there is another motive here: each of these statements has love and warmth and light in it, and it just seemed a shame to keep them all locked up.   Each of these people, in some way or other, has seen me at or near my best.  These comments help tell a part of the story that normally is never shared, and I feel it would be interesting for you to see them.

So, for what it's worth, there are some nice quotes - such as (ahem)"You are truly a purveyor of magic and joy!"   Oh, I do love being the wizard.

And, among the comments sent to Kalimba Magic, I also get some unhappy messages. It is good to hear about how I can improve what I do, and I appreciate feedback that helps me take better care of my customers.

14 February 2017

The Tip Index: Archival Tips (2006-2013)

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

They may be a bit harder to find, but they're not lost and they're still very much worth the time!

The Tip Index: Archival Tips (2006-2013)

These early tips are not part of the new Kalimba Magic website, but they are still accessible and are filled with clear and useful information on playing and caring for your kalimba, understanding music in general, and seeing how the kalimba can move people.

11 March 2017

Ferrying Between Worlds

Written by Klara Wojtkowska, Posted in News and Announcements

Playing Karimba for the Dying

Ferrying Between Worlds

Klara Wojtkowska, an accomplished musician and playwright among many other things, in a poetic and poignant essay expresses how profound an experience it was for her to play karimba for someone she loved, helping them make the transition between this world and whatever lays beyond.

When I went to Poland last summer, I planned to go for a friend’s wedding. I did not imagine that God might be pulling me by the hair to carry a karimba and a song across the ocean to my beloved Aunt, who did not want to be dying, but was doing just that.

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.

 

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