26 April 2016

Doug Fitch on using the Hugh Tracey Kalimba

Written by Doug Fitch Smith, Posted in News and Announcements

Doug is a studio percussionist in NYC, and the kalimba is in his bag

Doug Fitch on using the Hugh Tracey Kalimba

Hi! I'm Doug Fitch, and I have been playing kalimba for about five years. I work as a studio musician in New York City. I'm a percussionist, and one of the special things I bring to the table is the kalimba, and specifically I like Hugh Tracey kalimbas the best.  I've found there is just nothing else like them out there. I own several, and have given them as gifts to friends and family.

I'll be sharing here some of what I've learned about playing, recording, and amplifying the kalimba.  The music you are hearing as you read this is a bit of what I do with the Hugh Tracey kalimba.

 

08 April 2016

Free Tablature for Pentatonic Kalimbas in Exotic Tunings

Written by Mark Holdaway, Posted in News and Announcements

Great music for G minor and Ake Bono tuned 11-Note Pentatonic Kalimbas

Free Tablature for Pentatonic Kalimbas in Exotic Tunings

It turns out there are dozens of possible ways to arrange the notes into a pentatonic scale. A pentatonic scale is any scale that has five unique notes per octave, a simplification over the standard seven note major scale.  The pentatonic scales tend to sound raw, earthy, primitive. About 40% of the kalimbas Hugh Tracey encountered in his travels around Africa had various sorts of pentatonic scales, and Maurice White of the band Earth, Wind and Fire put his kalimba into a pentatonic scale to make it resonate more with Africa. 

My take: With fewer notes, there is less potential for making mistakes on the pentatonic scale. This frees one up to play more powerfully and more emotionally.

It is pretty easy to change the tuning from one sort of pentatonic scale to another - this is something you can do yourself. You could explore all of these exotic tuning destinations on your own, with a single pentatonic kalimba.

As it happens I have transcribed onto tablature a couple of songs that I improvised on the pentatonic kalimba, each in an exotic tuning. I happen to like them both a lot! The tablature makes it very easy for you to learn them and both are available right here on this page. In addition to the tablature, the songs are also presented on video, giving you some great tools to help you learn how to play like a pro!

 

08 April 2016

A New Pentatonic Tuning from 1970's Africa: F7 Bebey

Written by Mark Holdaway, Posted in News and Announcements

Francis Bebey used this tuning in his song "Breaths" - what a great tuning!

A New Pentatonic Tuning from 1970's Africa: F7 Bebey

Someone called a few months back. His wife had recently died, and he was working on healing from that great loss. He had played mbira dzavadzimu in the past - and since the mbira is all about helping us to connect with the ancestral spirits, I figured he wanted some help with that.

But instead of being drawn to mbira music, this man was drawn to the song "Breaths", written by Francis Bebey, with lyrics focusing on how our ancestors live on in the physical world around us. For a bit of background, Francis Bebey was a guitarist, singer, songwriter, and kalimba player from Cameroon. Remember, Cameroon is close to the original birthplace of the kalimba - Gerhard Kubik (Austrian ethnologist famous for his African music study and collections) asserts that bamboo-type kalimbas originated there about 3000 years ago, and they are still made there today.

The bereaved caller wanted to learn to play "Breaths", and the first thing he needed was to know which kalimba it could be played on and in what tuning. So I began some research to give him an answer.

With detailed listening, I discovered that Francis Bebey used a simple pentatonic scale, but it was one that I had not encountered before. And upon jamming with this tuning, I immediately decided to share it with the world, because it really is cool and African and funky. Watch the video "Floaty Kalimba" and see if you're not won over!

13 April 2016

New Tip Series for Three Exotic Pentatonic Tunings

Written by Mark Holdaway, Posted in News and Announcements

How to understand a new tuning, and how to make sense of the tuning charts

New Tip Series for Three Exotic Pentatonic Tunings

The pentatonic scales have a great power, related to the fact that playing them does not require as much thought as other scales demand. They have fewer notes, and they are simpler instruments, both physically (with more space between adjacent tines) and intellectually. However, there are some important basic things that you should know about pentatonic scales, and these little bits of wisdom are applicable to almost any scale at all.

In other words, learn the lessons these simple scales have to teach, and you can take those lessons to any kalimba and any tuning you want.

08 April 2016

Retuning the Pentatonic Kalimba

Written by Mark Holdaway, Posted in News and Announcements

A Guide to Changing from G Major Tuning to Other Exotic Tunings

Retuning the Pentatonic Kalimba

Why would anyone retune their kalimba? Well, I hope you DO tune up your kalimba every few weeks or so, at least to maintain its correct original tuning. However, once you learn the skills required to brush up the kalimba's tuning, you also possess the skills required to explore alternative tunings - you just need to push or pull the tines a bit farther than the very delicate moves required to fine-tune the kalimba.

But again, why would someone retune their kalimba to a different tuning? Because different musics are available to different tunings, and because different tunings help produce different emotional expression. If you ever start to get bored with your particular kalimba and what you can do with it, you should consider changing to another tuning to see what new music might speak to you.

This article walks you through four different possible retunings for the 11-note pentatonic kalimba. So, if fear or uncertainty were preventing you from taking the plunge and retuning your kalimba, you now have the tools and guidance to jump into the river and baptise yourself in the flow of ever-changing musical possibilities. Really - once you begin to explore new tunings, it's a whole new world!

11 April 2016

How One Music Therapist Uses the Pentatonic Kalimba

Written by Mark Holdaway, Posted in News and Announcements

MT Lee Anna Rasar Specializes in the 6-Note Pentatonic

How One Music Therapist Uses the Pentatonic Kalimba

One of the best kalimbas to use in music therapy is also our least expensive kalimba - the 6-Note Catania Pentatonic kalimba. While there are a lot of spirituals and children's songs that can be played on the 6-Note Pentatonic, probably its best uses are improvisational in nature. You just pick it up, twiddle your thumbs, and music comes out!

Lee Anna Rasar is a professor in the Music Therapy department at University of Wisconsin, Eau Claire. She has used the 6-Note pentatonic kalimba and other kalimbas extensively in music therapy. The following is from a letter that Lee Anna wrote to Kalimba Magic about a variety of her successes:

I have found the pentatonic kalimbas to be very useful in music therapy because they allow immediate access to people who do not read music and who may have difficulty understanding and reading adaptive notation systems or following cues. They are also useful with groups of adults and children to allow immediate performances together without first needing practice time.

02 April 2016

The Definitive Collection of Traditional African Karimba Music

Written by Mark Holdaway, Posted in News and Announcements

This 74-page PDF download has the music to about 30 traditional tunes

The Definitive Collection of Traditional African Karimba Music

This is one of the books I've been wanting to write for around five years, and now, with much-appreciated contributions from Ivodne Galatea, I am proud to present this collection of tunes for the African-tuned karimba.

This book is written from the point of view that the karimba is a living relic; I believe that instruments were played over 1000 years ago that had very similar note layouts to the lower half of the modern karimba . This means that the music in this collection could be very similar to the music that people in Africa played more than a millenium in the past. Now, don't you want to get some of that?

 

24 March 2016

Learn "Vana Vanogwara" on Karimba - Chiwoniso

Written by Mark Holdaway, Posted in News and Announcements

Learn the Song Vanavogwara on Karimba

Learn

In 2013, a legendary figure in African music was suddenly taken from us. Chiwoniso Maraire was a shining light, a great singer and a great player of the mbira nyunga nyunga, also known as the African tuned karimba.

Her instrument of choice is of interest to us for two reasons. Andrew Tracey hypothesizes that this is the original mbira first made in southern Africa some 1300 years ago. But Chiwoniso had a more personal connection to this instrument - the mbira nyunga nyunga was the instrument played, and made famous in America, by her father, Dumisani Maraire - or Dumi as his friends knew him.

08 March 2016

The Story of the Kalimba

Written by Mark Holdaway, Posted in News and Announcements

The history of the thumb piano in Africa and how the kalimba got to be a household name

The Story of the Kalimba

I just gave a presentation on the kalimba at the OLLI-UA  (Osher Lifelong Learning Institute at the University of Arizona) in Tucson, and decided to share with you the Powerpoint of the presentation (actually it's a PDF of the Powerpoint).  A great thing about this 45 page PDF presentation is that it has many clickable links to interesting sound recordings and YouTube videos, which really make the presentation come alive.  One negative is that at a number of places, I made instructions to myself to play a certain song, or show a particular kalimba; these instructions are not presently linked to anything, so these parts of the presentation will be missing for the time being.

26 February 2016

Learn the Afroharp Now

Written by Mark Holdaway, Posted in News and Announcements

This new instructional download takes you from simple to amazing in 46 pages!

Learn the Afroharp Now

The Afroharp is a legendary 13-note, two level kalimba created and manufactured for a short period in late 1960s Chicago.  Because we feel that the Afroharp is a valuable and compelling instrument, Kalimba Magic has been selling new instruments in the Afroharp tuning for several months. 

08 March 2016

The Kalimbula - An Electric Ceramic Sansula

Written by Mark Holdaway, Posted in News and Announcements

I've been having fun experimenting with tunings again...

The Kalimbula - An Electric Ceramic Sansula

The Kalimbula is a cool instrument that I've been enjoying playing in a variety of tunings.  I have tried all of the canonical sansula tunings, including the C Major I use in this video with new Kalimbula music.

29 February 2016

Backing Tracks from Kalimba Magic Videos

Written by Mark Holdaway, Posted in News and Announcements

You can jam along to these tracks with several different kalimbas

Backing Tracks from Kalimba Magic Videos

When I make a video of the kalimba, I often feel the kalimba needs support from other instruments, so I add some guitar or bass or rhythm tracks to get some lower sounds in the mix.  I have remixed those support tracks from five of my recent videos.  Most of them have a few seconds of kalimba in the beginning to help you get oriented in the song, and then the kalimba drops out and all that is left is the supporting instruments that should sound really good when you add your own kalimba playing.

How do you know which kalimba to use for which track?  We give you hints about several different kalimbas or tunings that will work for each.  You may very well have a kalimba that will work with one or more of these songs, and if you are willing to retune your kalimba, you can definitely make it work.

I'll also share a little secret about how I record this music - it will probably surprise you! 

13 January 2016

Introducing the Hang-9 Kalimba

Written by Mark Holdaway, Posted in News and Announcements

Exploring the wide collection of handpan tunings on a simple kalimba

Introducing the Hang-9 Kalimba

The handpan drums such as the Hang and the Halo are very magical instruments, in large part because of the really cool tunings they come in.   However, they have certain drawbacks - the multi-thousand dollar price tag, the waiting lists, and their inability to change tunings come to mind.

The Hang-9 is a brand new kalimba offered only by Kalimba Magic that encapsulates the tunings and note layouts of the handpan drums in an inexpensive kalimba that can be retuned to any of the tunings. The Hang-9 was given this name because it has 9 notes which are based on the tunings of the Hang drum and other handpan drums. Continue on to hear what the Hang-9 sounds like.

13 January 2016

Mahororo - a Shona Mbira Song

Written by Mark Holdaway, Posted in News and Announcements

Learn to play this traditional Mbira song on Karimba or Alto Kalimba

Mahororo - a Shona Mbira Song

This is my favorite song from the 11 Advanced Traditional Karimba Songs Download. I think you'll love playing this song as much as I do, and I put together a more accessible version than the original.

"Mahororo" could mean "victory", or it could mean "baboons talking", depending on who you believe (from Ivodne Galatea's notes in the instructional download).

I recently learned this song, and I shifted the notes down a 5th. I include a video I made of Mahororo "freestyle", and I am giving away tablature for this song on the Alto and Karimba.  The tablature has a lot of variations that I don't touch in the freestyle video.

07 January 2016

Exploring Pentatonic Tunings

Written by Mark Holdaway, Posted in News and Announcements

Pentatonic tunings are culturally and musically important. We present new kalimba video of three different tunings for the pentatonic kalimba

Exploring Pentatonic Tunings

Aboriginal peoples all across the globe have used pentatonic scales in their music.  One of Hugh Tracey's fundamental findings was that about 40% of all the kalimbas he documented in his expeditions across Africa were tuned to pentatonic scales.

Find out what makes the pentatonic scales so essential!

20 January 2016

New Kalimba Magic Tips Series

Written by Mark Holdaway, Posted in News and Announcements

We are creating a set of Tips to help you find your way on the kalimba

New Kalimba Magic Tips Series

We have been making some very valuable tips available, that can help your playing and give you a much richer kalimba experience.  If you have any issues at all with your kalimba - if it has a buzz or it is out of tune, or you are having a hard time learning how to play it - continue reading, and the landing page will link you to the new Tips Series at Kalimba Magic. 

12 January 2016

Getting the Most out of Your Alto and Lotus

Written by Mark Holdaway, Posted in News and Announcements

The easiest way to get the most relevant information for your kalimba

Getting the Most out of Your Alto and Lotus

Announcing new informational PDF downloads for the Alto and for the Lotus.  These PDF files contain live links to all the information you need to keep your kalimba or karimba operating in top order.  Furthermore, each download includes a comprehensive list of the instructional resources available for that instrument.  This download is included with each Alto or Lotus sold.

Or you could just download them now!

05 January 2016

Interview: Andrew Tracey

Written by Mark Holdaway, Posted in News and Announcements

This archival 2008 interview illuminates the history of the Hugh Tracey Kalimba

Interview:  Andrew Tracey

Andrew Tracey, Hugh Tracey's son, long-practicing ethnomusicologist and musical performer, shares his recollections of his father's work, the early Hugh Tracey kalimbas, the layout of the Hugh Tracey kalimba, and his ethnomusicology research showing the karimba to have the prototypical tuning that was passed down to subsequent instruments such as the mbira dzavadzimu.

20 January 2016

Great News about Thomas Bothe 2B Kalimbas!

Written by Mark Holdaway, Posted in News and Announcements

2B/9, 2B/9B, 2B/14, and a 2B/14L are now here!

Great News about Thomas Bothe 2B Kalimbas!

We've been waiting a long time for Thomas Bothe to send us more of his wonderful "2B Kalimbas", and we have just received a few instruments (January 2016). They are unique in the world, nothing quite like them - check out the video below if you want to know what makes them so special.

18 December 2015

Interview: Thomas Bothe and his 2B Kalimbas

Written by Mark Holdaway, Posted in News and Announcements

This archival 2010 interview sheds some light on a remarkable kalimba maker

Interview:  Thomas Bothe and his 2B Kalimbas

The "2B Kalimbas" made by Thomas Bothe are very high quality instruments, and, clearly, labors of love. The care and attention to every detail that is evident in the workmanship of these instruments made me very curious about their creator. I was quite pleased that Thomas was able to spend a little time telling me about himself and his work.

11 November 2015

Learn to play the "Kalimba Solo for Lotus"

Written by Mark Holdaway, Posted in News and Announcements

Tablature and Staff Notation for the Entire Song

Learn to play the

Thousands of people have been wanting to learn to play SaReGaMa's "Kalimba Solo for Lotus" on the Lotus Karimba, and if you are one of those people, I've got good news for you.

18 December 2015

Free Tablature - Learn "Carol of the Bells"

Written by Mark Holdaway, Posted in News and Announcements

Free PDF and KTabS Tablature for Alto, Treble, B flat Treble, and Chromatic Kalimbas

Free Tablature - Learn

"Carol of the Bells" is not only a beautiful song that is great to learn on the kalimba, it is also a strategic stronghold of kalimba technique. The basic music consists of two different parts played at the same time, which in this case is not that hard. If you can learn this song, you will be entering the marvelous world of playing two voices of music at the same time on kalimba. Not up for heavy lifting? Please enjoy the video of me performing "Carol of the Bells" on the Alto Kalimba.

07 December 2015

"First Look Inside" - Tablature for Alto Kalimba

Written by Mark Holdaway, Posted in News and Announcements

You can download the tablature for this Hit Youtube Kalimba song for free!

You can get free tablature for the song "First Look Inside", performed on the Hugh Tracey Alto kalimba by Mark Holdaway.

With over 1 million views, "First Look Inside" qualifies as my first YouTube Hit, and hundreds of people have asked for the tablature to this song. It is part of the "Advanced Alto Download", but it is also available for free in this blog article, in both PDF and KTabS formats.

16 November 2015

Playing SaReGaMa's Lotus and Freygish Karimbas Together

Written by Mark Holdaway, Posted in News and Announcements

Three tines need to be retuned on the Freygish Karimba

Playing SaReGaMa's Lotus and Freygish  Karimbas Together

The SaReGaMa-tuned Karimbas are one of the coolest developments in the kalimba world in recent years.  This article shows you how to make the Lotus-tuned Karimba and the Freygish-tuned Karimba sing together!

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