News and Announcements

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!

25 September 2017

Kalimbas in our Elders' Hands

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

Have you thought about getting a kalimba for Mom or Dad? Or for yourself?

Kalimbas in our Elders' Hands

We are living longer - and hopefully we are living better too. Better knowledge of health and the human body help us take better care of our bodies and minds, leading to the potential of living well as we age.

But part of aging is dealing with loss. I have known elders who played violin, cello, piano, or guitar in their younger days - all physically demanding instruments. At some point, the demands of these instruments can exceed what a body has to give. When dealing with loss, compensation is key. The kalimba is small and easy to hold, but has a surprisingly large voice - a perfect replacement instrument. Playing kalimba also keeps the brain active, challenging the mind and honing hand-ear-eye coordination.

READ ON to get the testimonials of three older women who have discovered the magic of the kalimba.

25 September 2017

Cornelius Duncan - a kalimba player who has the touch

Written by Mark Holdaway, Posted in News and Announcements

He was taught by Dumisani Maraire

Cornelius Duncan - a kalimba player who has the touch

I met Cornelius Duncan in Longmont, Colorado, at the Jensen Guitar Company and Willow River Music Emporium.  

I was visiting my dad in Longmont, having just left a music therapy conference a few miles away, and I had a load of kalimbas leftover from that event.  I got a call on the phone from Sam at Jensen Guitars.  "Hey, I'm in downtown Longmont Colorado, and I've got a gentleman here, Cornelius Duncan, who would like to see a few of the Hugh Tracey kalimbas with pickups - could you send us some?"  Sam thought I was at Kalimba Magic headquarters in Tucson. In my dad's living room, I looked at the time and realized I had two hours before dinner.  "I can bring a few kalimbas over right now!" 

After I put one of the new Hugh Tracey Alto kalimbas into Cornelius' hands, I stood back, watched, and listened. I have to say, this man has the touch.

03 October 2017

Understanding Chords - on Alto Kalimba

Written by Mark Holdaway, Posted in News and Announcements

How to play them, what they mean, and what is I, V, and all that

Understanding Chords - on Alto Kalimba

The kalimba, with its unique bi-directional note layout, makes playing scales a bit difficult because you have to zigzag your way up and down the tines, plucking first one on the right side, then one on the left, then the right, and working your way up or down the scale. It is easy zigzagging at the bottom of the scale, where the tines are close together in the center. The higher you go, the higher the chance of misplacing a finger, and zagging where you meant to zig. Fortunately, the painted tines will help guide you (a painted right tine is one note higher than the corresponding painted left tine), but this is still the most common type of error.

The flip side of the difficult scales is the easy chords. What makes it hard to play scales makes it simple to play chords. Chords on kalimba are really easy. Compared with the guitar, every one of whose chords has a different geometrical shape, the kalimba is painless - all the chords have basically the same shape.

Learning to drive the chords on your kalimba can tap into the most wonderful music this little instrument has to offer...

03 October 2017

V → I - The Universal Harmonic Crank

Written by Mark Holdaway, Posted in News and Announcements

The essential harmonic progression in western music, going from the "V" chord to the "I" chord, is ubiquitous in African music too!

V → I - The Universal Harmonic Crank

The core principle in western music theory is that when you are on the "V" chord - denoting a chord based in the fifth degree of a scale - (or "V7" chord) it pushes the music to go to the "I" - denoting a chord based in the first degree of the scale. Everything else in music theory is window dressing, giving us interesting ways of taking our time to get to the "V" and then the "I."

If you don't know anything about the "V" chord or the "I" chord, don't worry - we have great recordings that will illuminate. The "I" chord is like home base. The "V" chord is the ultimate journey away from home, but it also leads you back home (except when it doesn't, in a deceptive cadence, but we'll ignore that twist).

This article compares how the "V  I" chord progression works in western music, in two-phrase karimba music, and in four-phrase mbira music. The similarities and the differences are fascinating.

04 October 2017

Behind the Scenes at Kalimba Magic

Written by Mark Holdaway, Posted in News and Announcements

Welcome to Kacy Todirita - International Sales - The making of the Kalimba Magic App

Behind the Scenes at Kalimba Magic

I have run Kalimba Magic out of my home since 2005. The business, the packing room, the photo and sound studio, the warehouse, the rehearsal studio - these now amount to 66% of my home.

Fortunately, the goals of my business align pretty well with my own personal goals: to play as much music as I can, and to share the joy of music and specifically the kalimba, with as many people as I can as the main part of my own efforts to make the world a happier, safer and more beautiful place.

So, I invite you into my house to see what is going on. I am now working with a new employee, who is helping me ship these kalimbas around the world. And I invite you to take a look at a kalimba traffic jam in my studio. 

04 October 2017

Free Dancing on Kalimba

Written by Mark Holdaway, Posted in News and Announcements

...Instead of following my head, I had to learn to follow my heart

Free Dancing on Kalimba

For 6 months, I was the sole worker at Kalimba Magic. I wrote the newsletters, wrote the books, I answered the phone and took the orders, maintained inventory, assembled,  tuned and painted kalimbas, and packed and shipped.

This work was a great time for me. A Zen-like focus on my craft resulted. I surely came out of this period a better human.

When I recently hired Kacy Todirita to help with the kalimba business, there was suddenly enough slack in my schedule that I decided to try and change my life a bit. I would wake at 5 AM, chores till 6, walk with my kalimba till 7, and then every morning, I would record music. I would try this new life on for 100 days.

Well, what do you think happened with this highly structured plan?

18 August 2017

Get a Kalimba for Yourself... and a friend

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

A special offer makes it easier to have oh-so-much fun together

Get a Kalimba for Yourself... and a friend

Playing the kalimba can be a profoundly personal journey. Playing takes me within myself, like taking a deep breath and diving to the bottom of a clear and peaceful pool. The diversions and annoyances of the world evaporate, leaving me with whatever problems, challenges, successes and joys that may come up between me and my kalimba.

But, often, as players we like to share that deep space with another special person. A grandmother wants to play with her grandchild, or a father wants to play with his child. A high school student wants to play with her best friend. And players may want to share their kalimba playing with a lover.

08 August 2017

Bea Lorenzo Plays Kalimba to Support Her Vocals

Written by Bea Lorenzo, Posted in News and Announcements

This Manila-based singer-songwriter has sunk her teeth into the Chromatic Kalimba

Bea Lorenzo Plays Kalimba to Support Her Vocals

[Editor's note: Bea has taken the Facebook world by storm with her evocative vocals and her simple but righteous kalimba playing. You should get to know her now, so you can say you knew about her way-back-when.]

 “I believe I speak for an entire generation of self-taught individuals when I say that the Internet allows us to take the initiative in building new skills. I spent a lot of time browsing websites including Kalimba Magic, before purchasing my own kalimba. So by the time I finally had the kalimba in hand, I had stocked up enough knowledge ready to be put into practice."

12 August 2017

Mbira as an International Character

Written by Klara Wojtkowska, Posted in News and Announcements

Is it Cultural Appropriation?

Mbira as an International Character

Editor's note: Klara is a valued contributor to the Kalimba Magic blog. She is currently spending some months in Zimbabwe developing her mbira skills, and has given us another rich, intelligent and stimulating piece; here she considers the sensitive cultural issues around her endeavor. The Bridge that Klara writes about (the Machipisa Foot Bridge in the city of Harare) was first built in 1998. Its journey from a very scary place to what it is now is discussed in the two articles linked at the bottom of this page. These articles, from local periodicals, give a rare glimpse into life in a faraway place, and it's where Klara is living and learning right now. Photos and informative video included.]  

The week that I came to Zimbabwe I was invited to perform under a bridge. The Bridge is an interesting contemporary cultural artifact; blessed by His Excellency Himself, it was built across a particularly dangerous bit of road in Highfield, the high-density suburb from which hail many of the political revolutionaries of pre-Independence days as well as the celebrated and revered musician, Oliver Mtukudzi. The Bridge swirls up from the ground on one side of the road like an artful ice cream cone, stretches its spine across the street, and then lands gracefully in a concrete pirouette on the other side. The Bridge is a testament to the human desire to make things better for ourselves.

Yes, I, a white European woman, was invited to play traditional karimba, in Zimabwe, under The Bridge...

13 July 2017

My Journey With the Karimba

Written by Quincy Nichols, Posted in News and Announcements

Quincy Nichols Shares How the Karimba Has Become His Spiritual Companion

My Journey With the Karimba

[Editor's note: Quincy is a student of the African karimba, and he writes poetically and eloquently here, celebrating his experience playing the instrument.]

The karimba is my friend... a patient, patient friend. There is wisdom in the karimba - it's an old friend helping to lead me back to myself.

It is a layered instrument, helping me to uncover and express thoughts, feelings, emotions, and dreams I've hidden from myself. As an aspiring musician and creative person, the African karimba has helped me to find the courage to express myself.

18 July 2017

Get Your Kalimba Playing Ready for the Holidays

Written by Mark Holdaway, Posted in News and Announcements

Christmas Music on Kalimba is so beautiful, and we have books to help you play music like this

Get Your Kalimba Playing Ready for the Holidays

The kalimba is a wonderful instrument for Christmas carols, with a peaceful and angelic sound.  I have spent many joyous hours learning, practicing, and performing Christmas carols on the kalimba.  More importantly, I have spent many diligent hours notating these songs for the Hugh Tracey Alto and Treble kalimbas so that you can also learn to play these carols.

Every year about this time, I get my Advanced Alto and Treble Christmas books out and brush up on my carols.  And each year, I add one or two tunes to my repertoire.  If you want to play Christmas carols this holiday season, now is the time to get an Alto or Treble kalimba, and/or a book (or pull out your old ones), and get practicing!

This post catalogs all of Kalimba Magic's instructional resources for holiday music, including free tablature, along with the kalimbas that work best for Christmas carols.

18 July 2017

Instructional Download: Alto in G minor

Written by Mark Holdaway, Posted in News and Announcements

This minor retuning can breathe new life and emotion into your Alto Kalimba

Instructional Download: Alto in G minor

The Hugh Tracey Alto in standard G major tuning has become the standard kalimba in many ways. For 12 years, it has been the best selling kalimba at Kalimba Magic. I have written more instructional books and downloads for this kalimba than for any other kalimba. I know more songs on my Alto than on any other kalimba. And the Alto kalimba was the blueprint for other models such as the Bb Treble and D Treble kalimbas.

But what if the world of G major sounds isn't your world? What if you need something darker, moody, a bit mysterious, rather than that happy-go-lucky Alto kalimba with a smiley face on it?

You might be interested in the G minor tuning for the Alto kalimba - and you might be interested in this new instructional download for the G minor tuned Alto.

18 July 2017

Instructional Download: 8-Note Kalimba in Sansula Tuning

Written by Mark Holdaway, Posted in News and Announcements

An exotic tuning on this otherwise vanilla kalimba makes for new and interestng music

Instructional Download: 8-Note Kalimba in Sansula Tuning

The 8-Note kalimba is a great instrument on which to learn, and is usually tuned to one octave of the C major scale. As such, it is a pretty modest kalimba, playing songs such as "London Bridge is Falling Down" and "Joy to the World" (and NOT the "Jeremiah was a bullfrog" version).

If you are willing to retune your 8-Note kalimba, you can greatly increase the amount of music accessible to the 8-Note kalimba.  The standard A minor Sansula tuning is one of the least ordinary tunings you can put onto the 8-Note kalimba - if you do, you won't be playing "Twinkle, Twinkle" anymore! AND if you don't want to retune your kalimba, you can send your old 8-Note to the Kalimba Doctor and we will do the job for you, or you can order a new 8-Note in the Sansula tuning. (I am partial to the Goshen 8-Note kalimba.)

15 July 2017

A Novel Stereo Kalimba Recording Technique

Written by Mark Holdaway, Posted in News and Announcements

Two electric kalimbas, plugged in, hard panned L and R

A Novel Stereo Kalimba Recording Technique

This unique recording technique results in lots of separation between the L and R notes in your recording, and you can be very creative when processing their individual sound.

I invite you to hear what it sounds like - headphones would make the separation effect complete, but I think it actually sounds better through stereo speakers. To listen, just continue reading.

13 July 2017

What I Feel When I Play Kalimba

Written by Mark Holdaway, Posted in News and Announcements

How do you feel when you pick up a kalimba?

What I Feel When I Play Kalimba

Playing kalimba can effect each person in a unique way.  The interaction asks us to commit both to our instrument, and to the song that we are trying to help emerge into the world.  We have listened as players describe what the playing of a kalimba does for them physically, emotionally and spiritually.  The act of making music develops the relationship between a kalimba player and his or her instrument.  And it leaves something behind as well. Just listen to some of our customers.

 

18 June 2017

"Edelweiss" for G, B flat, and D Trebles

Written by Mark Holdaway, Posted in News and Announcements

We provide free tablature, for all three Treble Kalimba setups, of both simple and advanced versions of the famous song

The song Edelweiss from "The Sound of Music" is a perfect little melody for the Treble kalimba. The first three notes of the song soar up beyond the root note to the 9th. You could play this song on an Alto, and you would have to do it in the lower octave of the instrument. You shouldn't, though, because it sounds so beautiful when played higher up, on the Treble. The standard G Treble and the Bb Treble both have a few notes above the top root note - in other words, these kalimbas were built for melodies like Edelweiss that go "over the top."

22 June 2017

Spotify Playlists with Cool Songs in G, B flat, and D

Written by Mark Holdaway, Posted in News and Announcements

Chill, Listen to the playlist that matches your kalimba key, and jam along!

Spotify Playlists with Cool Songs in G, B flat, and D

My life changed when I lost my record turntable 20 years ago - I basically stopped listening to music. For me, this turned out to be a good thing, because the music-generating radio station "KMRK" started broadcasting 24 hours a day inside my head. I am always creating new music, or recycling and recomposing Katy Perry.

But that isn't the point of this post. Rather, I have discovered Spotify (maybe late to the party, but better late than never!) And I have rediscovered my love of listening to recorded music (as opposed to the stuff that grows like weeds in my cerebral cortex).

I love to hit a big juicy playlist with a kalimba in my hands. The only trouble is, most of the songs in the playlist will not be in the same key as my kalimba. And so I am very familiar with the NEXT SONG button.

17 June 2017

Octaves on Kalimba, Karimba, and Mbira

Written by Mark Holdaway, Posted in News and Announcements

Becoming conversant with octave pairs is an important part of learning your instrument

Octaves on Kalimba, Karimba, and Mbira

Do you know where the octave pairs are on your kalimba?

The octave is the most fundamental interval in essentially any music. Octave harmonies are not rich, but they are powerful. If your kalimba has eight notes or more, you likely have one or maybe even several octave pairs. Learning which note pairs are an octave apart, as well as how to use the octaves in playing, are essential to becoming a good kalimba player.

20 June 2017

More on Marek Bolf Kalimbas, made in Slovakia

Written by Mark Holdaway, Posted in News and Announcements

Words from a happy customer, and from Marek Bolf

More on Marek Bolf Kalimbas, made in Slovakia

Says one happy customer about her Marek Bolf kalimbas: "From the moment I lifted it out of the box and began to play, I immediately ordered the other two instruments. The reason? The design of the karimba is gorgeous!"

Says Marek Bolf himself: "I found an exciting potential in the kalimba, since it is played as easily as sending a text message on your phone. And so, I began to produce and explore the possibilities and limits of the instrument which I love."

 

19 June 2017

Understanding G, B flat and D Treble Kalimbas

Written by Mark Holdaway, Posted in News and Announcements

Have you ever wanted to get clear on the differences between the various treble kalimbas?

Understanding G, B flat and D Treble Kalimbas

One of my best contributions to the kalimba world (in my humble opinion) is the concept of the Bb and D Treble kalimbas. These are alternative ways of structuring the standard G Treble to make it more like the Alto kalimba, but pitched higher. Making a Treble kalimba more like an Alto makes the Treble easier to play and simpler to understand. The Alto's note layout is more logical, and any song that you can play on the Alto can be played on the Bb or D Trebles, so any instructional resource for Alto can be used for these two Treble tunings, and there are more resources for Alto than for any other kalimba.     

 

24 June 2017

How the B flat Treble Kalimba Got Its Stripes

Written by Mark Holdaway, Posted in News and Announcements

A "Just So" Story, with thanks to Rudyard Kipling

How the B flat Treble Kalimba Got Its Stripes

My very first kalimba was a Treble. I had actually just come from a friend's house who had an Alto, and we'd all played the Alto and loved it - but when I went to the drum shop in Cambridge, Massachusetts back in 1986, they only had the Treble, with the 3rd note of the scale in the lowest tine (and not the root note, as in Altos). I bought it, but somehow I never really bonded with the instrument. A few years later, I got an Alto kalimba, and it was like day and night! I understood the Alto, with the root note as the lowest tine, and its range of exactly two octaves. (That is, the lowest note was "Do" of "Do Re Mi", and the highest note was also "Do", two octaves up.) With the Alto kalimba now in hand, my Treble was set aside. It eventually went to live with a friend, while I developed my long love affair with the Alto kalimba.

19 June 2017

Repetitive Patterns: Creating Music with Kalimbas in Different Keys

Written by Mark Holdaway, Posted in News and Announcements

Playing unmatched kalimbas in succession can make beautiful and unusual music

Repetitive Patterns: Creating Music with Kalimbas in Different Keys

Why do people acquire kalimbas in different keys? To be able to support specific songs they or others sing, or to be able to play with other musicians with flexibility. Sometimes people buy a kalimba in some particular key just because they really love its sound.

But can you use kalimbas in different keys together? By creating a simple song that uses different-keyed kalimbas, not played together but in succession, yes you can! 

 

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