27 April 2016

Tip Series: Exploring Sansula Tunings

Written by Mark Holdaway, Posted in News and Announcements

What is a tuning? Why do you retune? How do you retune?

Tip Series: Exploring Sansula Tunings

The sansula is a great instrument for so many reasons: its lush tone, beautiful craftsmanship, the smooth metal tine tips, the amazing wah-like effects it produces totally acoustically, its simple 9-note layout with staggered tines, and its intuitive tuning that literally transforms nearly-random thumb twiddling into actual music.

However, the same tuning that is geared toward instant success turns out to be very limiting. I realized this early on, but I so loved the tone and feel of the sansula; I wanted to do more with it. So I started to invent sansula tunings, each prescribing its own universe of sound and musical possibilities.

The series of tips that this blog post introduces is my guide to you on the subject of sansula tunings - what tunings we offer, what they sound like, and what instructional resources are available for each. May this guide serve you well!

08 December 2015

A geometrical approach to Sansula Note Layouts

Posted in News and Announcements

Sansulas come in many different tunings, which can be somewhat confusing - but here is a way I found to understand the basic shape of all of those tunings

A geometrical approach to  Sansula Note Layouts

The Hokema Sansula and the Hands on Drums Kalimbula come in the standard A minor tuning or in any of the alternative tunings. We present a few purely geometrical ways of thinking about the Sansula tunings. We also introduce a new alternative Sansula tuning based on my favorite Thomas Bothe tuning.

26 June 2016

Kalimba Magic.Com - A Primer

Written by Mark Holdaway, Posted in News and Announcements

A guide to the Kalimba Magic website

Kalimba Magic.Com - A Primer

Kalimba Magic is the premier website for information about playing, tuning, and taking care of a wide variety of kalimbas. We also have the largest variety of kalimbas available for purchase anywhere. What follows is an overview of KalimbaMagic.com which describes its major categories, gives some description of each one, and has links so you can get there instantly. Kalimba fundamentals, FAQs, history, how-to-play, the buyer's guide, and a great deal more await you!

28 April 2018

Three Is a Magic Number, "Schoolhouse Rock!" was a magic series

Written by Mark Holdaway, Posted in News and Announcements

The Very First Episode of "Schoolhouse Rock!" in 1973 Had an Alto Kalimba in it!

Three Is a Magic Number,

Listening to NPR this week, I learned of the passing of Bob Dorough, the dude who wrote all of the songs in the TV segment Schoolhouse Rock! 

OK, dear ones, if you are younger than, oh, 35, you might not have any clue about Schoolhouse Rock! If you are my age, you might thank Schoolhouse Rock! for your ability to count by fives, or to multiply by 11. Or for your eternal knowledge of how conjunctions function in the English language.

I was born in 1962, and Schoolhouse Rock! was on TV from 1973 to 1985. I am sure I saw every last episode of the series, each dozens of times. If you wanted to watch cartoons on Saturday morning, you had no choice but to see them.  And they were pretty amusing to watch, as the animation matched the cleverness of the songs.

23 March 2018

Bathed in Sound

Written by Mark Holdaway, Posted in News and Announcements

How to renew someone special with cascades of the sansula’s easy, melodious sonorities

Bathed in Sound

 

My lover had had a hard day. On the phone she told me that she had worked for 10 hours as a caregiver and she had been home for about 30 minutes. She was very tired. Her cat was sick, and she was worried about that too.

I went to see her and brought my sansula to play. It was precisely what was needed, with its soft and mysterious and gorgeous sounds that seem to almost make themselves.

19 March 2018

Run the balance between Wildness and Precision

Written by Mark Holdaway, Posted in News and Announcements

Working this dialectic can expand your playing amazingly

Run the balance between Wildness and Precision

I was speaking last night with my neighbor Geo, when he said:  "Somewhere between the party animal I was in my marriage and the zen meditator I've been in my current relationship... is the real Geo."

I could see the axis, drawn in space before our eyes: on one end of the imaginary "number line" was Geo as Beer-Drinking-Good-Timing-Party-Animal... and at the other end was Geo as Peaceful-Meditating-Man. And Geo's quest right now was to feel along this axis and understand where he belongs.

In my opinion, he exists all along that axis, occupying different places at different times, as everyone does.

And the very same thing applies to wildness and precision in your kalimba playing.

25 March 2018

John Lennon's "Imagine" On Kalimba

Posted in News and Announcements

The Treble Chromatic is the one kalimba that can do it

John Lennon's

Recently someone told me that playing John Lennon's song "Imagine" on kalimba was a goal of theirs. When I worked through the song in my head - I realized there is only one kalimba sold by Kalimba Magic that can play "Imagine," and it's the Hugh Tracey Chromatic Treble Kalimba.

There is an amazing Russian musician, Natalya Obukhova, who has a YouTube channel called LadyChugun. She plays killer electric guitar, accordion, and... chromatic kalimba.

And this amazing musician, LadyChugun, has figured out a great arrangement on the chromatic, and makes it look easy too. Check it out!

12 April 2018

"Making Lamellaphones" by Bart Hopkin and Richard Selman

Written by Sara Edelman, Posted in News and Announcements

A New Book, Reviewed here by Sara Edelman, is now Available at Kalimba Magic

 

How well do you know your kalimba?  Could you create one? Ever feel the yearning to make your own?

Bart Hopkin, the guru of creative musical instrument sound, design and construction, has written and published a book dedicated to building kalimbas, both traditional and inventive. 

For those not in the know, the term "lamellaphone" refers to any instrument that makes sounds by the vibrating of lamellae (plural of lamella) or plates, and includes kalimbas, mbiras and modern variants – in other words, any instrument that goes "boing” when something thin is struck or plucked.

Hopkin has written 10 other books on building instruments, as well as dozens of articles in Experimental Musical Instruments, the journal he published for 15 years. For more than 4 decades he has composed, arranged and performed guitar as well as music for the wild assortment of instruments that he has designed and built.

In Making Lamellaphones, expect to learn the basics of kalimba and mbira design... the hows and whys of the kalimba and its sound... about mbiras and the people who make them… and get ready to have your mind blown (and a fire lit under you) by the most creative lamellaphones that you will ever experience. 

20 March 2018

Secrets of Walking and Running While Playing Kalimba

Written by Mark Holdaway, Posted in News and Announcements

Grow your health, coordination and chops using this great musical hack

Secrets of Walking and Running While Playing Kalimba

I walk and play kalimba virtually every day. It is part of my morning routine, and it is part of my mental and physical health maintenance. Sometimes, after I've been walking and playing and daydreaming for a while, I realize that I need to speed things up to get my heart beating faster for a better balanced physical workout. To put my body into high gear, I just change up the rhythm of the song I've been playing, very simply and smoothly, without even changing time signatures.

Read on to take in and grasp this subtle yet dynamic tip, along with other key advice on playing and walking for great physical and mental health.

22 March 2018

You too can play "I Can't Help Falling in Love With You"!

Posted in News and Announcements

The Mbira-style Treble Kalimba makes it simple

You too can play

When I get 10 requests for something, I know it's time to sit up and listen. Total strangers to Kalimba Magic were finding their way to my eShop and sending requests for some strange new kalimba setup that was suddenly insanely popular on YouTube.

The kalimba on the Youtube video was not in its factory setting; it was a 17-note kalimba that had been modified by the player.  I could put the Hugh Tracey 17-note Treble Kalimba in that tuning. So indeed, I could fulfill those new requests, and I set about doing just that. And thus was born the Mbira Style Treble Kalimba.

14 March 2018

New and Improved Downloads

Written by Mark Holdaway, Posted in News and Announcements

The Fastest Way to Learn to Play Kalimba

New and Improved Downloads

As you know, it's hard to resist the beauty of, and the urge to make, kalimba music; that's why you're here! Over many years I have written dozens of books to help a lot of people who want to learn to play these instruments. It's an ongoing project, as each different kalimba needs its own books, and new kalimba tunings and layouts are being invented (and not just by me) all the time. It ends up being a big part of my life's calling, because nobody else in the world is creating anything like this.

But while I am deep in the recesses of KM headquarters doing this, it gets lonely and quiet and I forget sometimes about why I spend my time at it.  So when I got this letter in the mail today, handwritten in pencil, I was thrilled to be reminded:

"Your kalimba tablature method is far superior to any numbers-based systems. Your method is the ONLY way I want to learn to play my kalimba!"

23 March 2018

Interview with Forward Kwenda

Written by Klara Wojtkowska, Posted in News and Announcements

One of the great mbira players

Interview with Forward Kwenda

Klara Wojtkowska is an accomplished musician and has contributed an array of interesting articles to Kalimba Magic. She has recently been abroad studying mbira and living in Zimbabwe.

“Forward Kwenda’s inspiration is deeply spiritual and in a way he sees his role as a musician who channels from a realm beyond our physical grasp. It has been said of Forward, ‘It is almost impossible to believe that one person, playing one time, could make so much music with two thumbs and one finger! Of course, Forward Kwenda, considered by many to be the greatest living mbira player today, says that his spirits play the mbira, not him.’”

23 March 2018

Split Brain - Can your brain do two things at once?

Posted in News and Announcements

Yes, but for most of us it takes some practice

Split Brain - Can your brain do two things at once?

According to general understanding, we can only really concentrate on one thing at a time. But I know that this isn't actually true.

There are two of you (at least!) inside your head - a left hemisphere and a right hemisphere. Most of the time these two sub-brains work together. But our two thumbs are quite capable of doing quite different things from one another.  Probably the most interesting music on kalimba happens when the two thumbs are working independently, but in a coordinated manner.

 

24 September 2018

Christmas Music Resources

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

If you want to perform some Christmas songs on kalimba, start now!

Christmas Music Resources

Over the years, we have created a lot of books, instructional materials, videos, and articles about playing Christmas music on your kalimba.

For your pre-pre-Christmas consideration, I have collected it all in one place for you. If you want to spend money, we have plenty of books and CDs for you to take advantage of. If you don't want to spend money, we have created a lot of free resources, and they are all listed here.

07 November 2017

Easy Alto Download

Written by Mark Holdaway, Posted in News and Announcements

This tired old download just got a total rewrite

Easy Alto Download

There are three resources that I have recommended to beginning Alto players: the Alto Fundamentals Book, the Alto Primer, and the Easy Alto Download. I include a free, paper Primer when people purchase an Alto kalimba. The Alto Fundamentals Book is sold only as a hard copy. And the Easy Alto Download, though electronic, used to resemble a pile of music dropped into your lap with little instruction by your crazy uncle. Until now.

I am happy to announce the NEW and GREATLY IMPROVED Easy Alto Download!

If you purchased the Easy Alto Download in the past two years, you can get the new version for free. If you didn't, think about buying the brand new download now. It would be an excellent investment.

24 November 2017

"Si Bheag Si Mhor" on Celtic D Karimba

Written by Mark Holdaway, Posted in News and Announcements

This classic Carolan tune sounds so sweet on the Celtic D

Everyone has their favorite Celtic song. My favorite is "Si Bheag Si Mhor" - pronounced "she beg, she more," and means "Little Fairy, Big Fairy." The song consists of two variations of the melody, and the first one sounds like the "Little Fairy," while the second one is a bit grander, and sounds like the "Big Fairy."

This song is attributed to the blind Irish harpist and singer Turlough Carolan (1670-1738) as his first composition, but the melody is actually older.

09 November 2017

There is Music Everywhere

Written by Mark Holdaway, Posted in News and Announcements

Customer Linda Hears that Music

There is Music Everywhere

Linda called me one afternoon earlier this year to order a kalimba - she wanted the pentatonic kalimba. She wanted this kalimba not just for herself - she really wanted to pass this kalimba on to her son and grandchild when she was gone.

"There is music EVERYWHERE! I see and hear music just everywhere. In the evening, I hear the music on the breeze, and see the music of the stars, and the song of the clouds as they blow in and cover the stars, and blow out again to release the stars.

And I want the kalimba to bring that music to life."

14 November 2017

Avatar: the Last Airbender

Written by Mark Holdaway, Posted in News and Announcements

you Can Play This Music on Two Different Kalimbas

Avatar: the Last Airbender

Many people born in the last couple of decades were first turned on to the sound of the kalimba by the animated TV series Avatar: The Last Airbender. The kalimba was regularly featured in the sound track.  The kalimba can really pull on your heartstrings in a sweet, simple way... a perfect accompaniment for animation!

In this post we feature two different Youtube videos by people who acquired their kalimbas in order to learn how to play some of the kalimba music from Avatar: the Last Airbender:  one on the Hugh Tracey D Treble Kalimba, the other on the Goshen 11-note Kalimba.

In addition, we're providing free tablature for these little songs, for a visual map of how to play them.

18 November 2017

Why is Pentatonic Kalimba with Alto such a hot combo??

Written by Mark Holdaway, Posted in News and Announcements

These two kalimbas can sound so good together!

Why is Pentatonic Kalimba with Alto such a hot combo??

The pentatonic kalimba and the Alto kalimba are a great natural pairing. They can create a gorgeous contrast that works when two players can "jam with deliberate abandon" - meaning players who are technically proficient and can also really move, respond, and dance with each other's music. The pentatonic's basic traits contribute to the very attractive alliance it can make with the Alto.

The pentatonic kalimba is a bit of a mystery. It seems so simple - a perfect instrument for a beginner. Everything you play on it sounds great - playing it is a bit like finger painting - you just move your thumbs around and your movements somehow are transformed into beautiful sound. Which is probably why experienced players love jamming with the pentatonic kalimba! It represents freedom, and when you play it, you might very well feel as if you are flying.

24 November 2017

First Lesson on the Celtic D Karimba

Written by Mark Holdaway, Posted in News and Announcements

Two simple chords and a trick for using them together

First Lesson on the Celtic D Karimba

While the Celtic D Karimba is made for, and excels at, all sorts of jigs and reels and waltzes, I'm going to show you in this first lesson what it loves to do the most: a very simple two-chord progression.

You don't even need to know what a chord progression is  - you just follow the colors on the tines.

I suggest you mark the tines of these two chords with two contrasting colors of Sharpie markers. The marks help make playing the chords very simple and can easily be removed with an alcohol wipe. I use green and red in this case.

19 November 2017

Jerrid's Kalimba Path

Written by Jerrid Hittleman, Posted in News and Announcements

A new sound. Inner peace. Mind-blowing and heartwarming responses.

Jerrid's Kalimba Path

My name is Jerrid and I am a multi-instrumentalist living in Los Angeles, California. I bought my first kalimba, a Hugh Tracey Alto in standard G tuning, about 2 years ago from Mark Holdaway at Kalimba Magic, and my music has felt like magic ever since.

I had been searching for a new instrument to add to my collection that would give my performances a unique sound, and that is exactly what I got and more, right out of the box.

I noticed that the craftsmanship was solid as I held the beautifully-grained wood box in my hand for the first time, observing its unique patterns and sturdy build...

18 November 2017

The Hitzaskiar Persian Scale

Written by Mark Holdaway, Posted in News and Announcements

This exotic scale sounds "WOW" on the Alto Kalimba

The Hitzaskiar Persian Scale

I remember being 8 years old, getting to stay up late to watch "Lawrence of Arabia" on TV. Even as I drowsed, I found myself listening attentively to its dazzling music.

How grand! The music's sumptuous scales sounded ethnic and different. It was moving and magical. Did the composer actually understand middle-eastern music and scales? Or was he just "making it up"? Probably both.

The cool thing about the kalimba is that you can just "make it up." Here, I have made up the "Hitzaskiar" tuning for the Hugh Tracey Alto Kalimba. The Hitzaskiar is an actual ancient scale from Persia, but how many times has it been played on the Alto Kalimba? At least once (!)

25 September 2017

The Kalimba Magic App

Written by Mark Holdaway, Posted in News and Announcements

The easiest way to see, hear, and appreciate the largest selection of kalimbas and kalimba tunings in the world, this free Android app is available in the Play Store

The Kalimba Magic App

The Kalimba Magic Shop has a lot of kalimbas and a lot of books. It can be a bit overwhelming to navigate and pick a kalimba.

Now, the Kalimba Magic App offers a simple way to browse through most of our kalimbas on your Android phone or tablet. (Apologies to Apple users... in the coming year, an app for Apple devices as well as Android is planned, for learning to play kalimba.) The key aspect of this app is that it provides a very straightforward interface for seeing and hearing what each kalimba and each kalimba tuning sounds like.

25 September 2017

New: The Celtic D Karimba

Written by Mark Holdaway, Posted in News and Announcements

I love this karimba design for fast Celtic jigs and reels

New: The Celtic D Karimba

Over the years, I've had about a dozen people specifically request a kalimba in the key of D for Celtic music. (To be sure, not all Celtic music is in D, but quite a bit of it is in this key.) In the past, I would end up pointing inquirers to the D Treble kalimba. But this isn't the most desirable solution either.

While the D Treble is a fine kalimba, the tines are close together and if you have large hands, you might not like to play on this one. Additionally, Celtic music tends to be very fast, and if (big fingers or not) you try to play a kalimba with very close tines quickly, you might get frustrated. I am speaking from experience here.

So, here is a new design for this specific purpose.  I enjoy playing Celtic music on this kalimba... you might like it too!

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