News and Announcements

27 July 2019

Middle Eastern Tuned 17-Note Kalimba

Written by Mark Holdaway, Posted in News and Announcements

It plays Moody, complex, mysterious music. And here's a new eBook just for the Middle Eastern-Tuned 17-Note Kalimba

Middle Eastern Tuned 17-Note Kalimba

This Middle Eastern tuning makes amazingly beautiful, powerful, exotic music. It is really a journey I can recommend to most anyone. The music you can play in this kalimba tuning takes you around the world in its musical expressions. I find this music to be so beautiful,  I recommend you purchase the download just to listen to the recordings that come with, even if you don't play kalimba.

If your 17-Note kalimba is in the key of C, you will need to slightly modify the tuning. You should find that it is not too difficult to change the tuning of your kalimba to this Middle Eastern tuning.

26 July 2019

Instructional Resources for the Celtic D Karimba

Written by Mark Holdaway, Posted in News and Announcements

get your first lesson on the Celtic D as well as three songs - hear them and get free tablature for all four

Instructional Resources for the Celtic D Karimba

The Celtic D Karimba is designed to play Celtic music in the key of D major, or B minor, or E dorian mode. Not all Celtic music is in D, but it is a common key for Celtic music.

With two rows of interspersed tines, the spacing between adjacent tines on the same row is significantly increased. This makes fast melody playing easier (because the tines are spread out more), but it makes glissandos and chords a bit more difficult (also because the tines are spread out more).

We gather all of the instructional resources for the Celtic D Karimba in this one spot.

30 July 2019

Learn to Play Along to these Easy Backing Tracks - C Major

Written by Mark Holdaway, Posted in News and Announcements

This is a great way to develop your playing and improvisation skills

Learn to Play Along to these Easy Backing Tracks - C Major

Hey, get out your 17-Note kalimba in C and jam along with these simple chord progressions.

We show you the chord progression and the notes in each chord, and we give you a sound file that embodies that chord progression. This is a fun way to learn how to jam on your kalimba.

30 July 2019

Playing Guitar with the Sansula

Written by Mark Holdaway, Posted in News and Announcements

Exploring Chords for Accompanying the Sansula in Standard Tuning

Playing Guitar with the Sansula

A main part of the philosophy of western musical instruments is to reproduce as many sonic possibilities as possible - hence the piano keyboard, with seven octaves of fully chromatic notes.

A main part of the philosophy of the kalimba is that it has exactly the notes it needs to create a particular scale or a particular song. Every note on a kalimba is important and useful. A particular kalimba's scale will span a particular "music space" which contains the musical possibilities of that scale. And there are "way many" music spaces and there are also "way many" kalimba tunings. 

One of my most favorite activities is to explore new kalimba tunings and their music spaces - ie, the different possibilities these tunings create.

However, as much as I love to explore and map all of these exotic music spaces, sometimes I forget to cover the most basic tuning of an instrument. In this post, I go back and analyze the Sansula's standard mystical and enchanting tuning, and then I relate the Sansula's tuning to exactly how I accompany the Sansula on my guitar. 

30 July 2019

How Do You Get the High Notes to Sound Good?

Written by Mark Holdaway, Posted in News and Announcements

Most kalimbas struggle to play their high notes clearly. Learn various ways of adjusting tines to improve their sound.

How Do You Get the High Notes to Sound Good?

We all want all of our kalimba’s notes to sound strong and hearty and resonant. But on most kalimbas, the highest notes can have a serious lack of resonance.

There are physical limitations to the range of notes a kalimba can play. If you try to lengthen your lowest, longest tine, it will play a lower note - but as you go lower, the note will not sound as good, because you are trying to play a note below the lowest resonant frequency of the kalimba's body.

Similarly, if you look at your shortest, highest tine and push it in to make the vibrating length shorter, the note will go higher, and it will stop resonating all together.

The problem is, the highest note on your kalimba is already well on the way to losing its resonance, just the way it is tuned. What can be done to get a better sound from it?

23 July 2019

Using the Kalimba for Meditation

Written by Mark Holdaway, Posted in News and Announcements

Some meditative thoughts on the relationship you have with the instrument in your hands

Using the Kalimba for Meditation

Abisha writes:

"How do I meditate using the kalimba?"

I answer:

"How can I play kalimba and NOT meditate?"

Actually, I have a bit more to say about it than that.

26 June 2019

Hugh Tracey Box Alto Chromatic Kalimba is Back in Stock

Written by Mark Holdaway, Posted in News and Announcements

We'll have 72 of our most popular chromatic kalimba model available again very soon!

Hugh Tracey Box Alto Chromatic Kalimba is Back in Stock

It's time to celebrate! On July 4 we Americans celebrate Independence Day. (Although I would actually rather be celebrating Interdependence Day - because the one truth that I have learned about the world economy is that we are all in this together.) I celebrate in this article with a short video of the patriotic American song "Stars and Stripes Forever" played on the Alto Chromatic Kalimba.

And there is another reason to celebrate: the Box Alto Chromatic Kalimba will be back in stock by July 12, 2019, available for shipment by July 15!

21 June 2019

Mark's Rule of Thumb

Written by Mark Holdaway, Posted in News and Announcements

OK - at the same time, play one note with your left thumb, and one with your right - and I'll show you how to make that sound great every time

Mark's Rule of Thumb

The kalimba is fundamentally a polyphonic instrument - meaning it plays multiple notes at the same time. It does have more limitations in its ability to play multiple notes than, say, piano or guitar. But those limitations on the kalimba also make it very easy to make some very pretty music  - for example, any two adjacent notes on one side will always harmonize. Three adjacent notes will always make some sort of triad, a sweet three-note chord.

But what about two notes on opposite sides of the kalimba? Will they sound good or bad when played simultaneously? It could go either way, but I have a very simple rule of thumb that will help you make sweet harmonies when playing notes or chords with both left and right thumbs.

23 June 2019

More Beautiful Quilted Kalimba Bags from Africa

Written by Mark Holdaway, Posted in News and Announcements

These are made by Louise Sloman-Fuller, now retired from AMI (African Musical Instruments) in South Africa

More Beautiful Quilted Kalimba Bags from Africa

There are now several options out there for kalimba bags and kalimba cases. If you are looking for something really special, check out these quilted bags from Louise Fuller-Sloman. They are charming. I own two of them myself, and I am guessing there are a few of them that you would love too.

We have several new bag designs as of June 2019.

21 June 2019

Kalimba Americana for 17-Note Kalimba in C

Written by Mark Holdaway, Posted in News and Announcements

This eBook has Songs From the Soul of America... arranged for your kalimba

Kalimba Americana for 17-Note Kalimba in C

For all the good and bad things you can say about my country America right now, one thing that most people can agree on is that America is a great leader in musical innovation. This has been going on for centuries, and a lot of it has to do with the huge ethnic melting pot that the land of the free has always been.

Know that this great country's great music has always brought people together, across this land and across the world. I invite you to jump into the pot yourself, and learn some of these classics on your 17-Note Kalimba in C.

26 June 2019

A New High-End Electric Nyunga Nyunga

Written by Mark Holdaway, Posted in News and Announcements

The Dave Bellinger 15-Note Electric Karimba in F

A New High-End Electric Nyunga Nyunga

Dave Bellinger has long been known for his solid, meticulously crafted and innovative eKalimba designs (an eKalimba is a kalimba with an electric pickup). This one combines a hot pickup (that is, with a very strong output signal), "graphical buzzalizers," and generally smooth design and construction - with the 15 traditional notes of the mbira nyunga nyunga, also known as the karimba in F.

All of this makes the Bellinger F15 Nyunga a great instrument for looping (a looper is a device that instantaneously records what you're doing and plays it back in a loop, so you can layer multiple parts or instruments at the same time). The lower-row notes are the same notes as on the Student Karimba - meaning complete phrases of African songs can be played on its lower-row notes. So, imagine playing a lower-row song into the looper, and coming back and adding upper-row notes to the second pass of the music.

I do that, and much more, in the video at the end of this article.

21 June 2019

Chords on the 17-Note Kalimba in C

Written by Mark Holdaway, Posted in News and Announcements

And how to play melodies above them. This recipe works for any diatonic kalimba with alternating note layout

Chords on the 17-Note Kalimba in C


In an article I wrote earlier this month, I said that every non-traditional kalimba in the world owes its existence to Hugh Tracey. (Of course, they also owe their existence to the hundreds and thousands of people in Africa who pioneered and played the karimba, mbira and related instruments over the last 1000 years.) But most non-traditional kalimbas are copies of the Hugh Tracey kalimba's design and note arrangement.

That note arrangement makes it particularly easy to create melodies high up on the instrument, and simultaneously to produce good chords low down on the instrument that perfectly accompany that high melody. Would you like to learn more?

21 June 2019

Rests in Kalimba Tablature

Written by Mark Holdaway, Posted in News and Announcements

What? Those squiggly lines are supposed to mean something?

Rests in Kalimba Tablature

There are going to be some really great kalimba players in the next 2-10 years. A lot of kids are getting into the kalimba, and some of them will study, and go off and work on kalimba on their own, and invent their own style, and then reappear on the world stage as master kalimba players. Cool! Go for it!

One budding young kalimba player has been avidly tearing up all of the instructional material we sell for the 17-Note kalimba in C... but when she didn't understand what those squiggly lines meant, we heard from her about it. Those squiggles are called "rests." Different rests come in different shapes, based on how long of a rest they indicate. And we explain all that here.

21 June 2019

Mbira Songs Collected by B. Michael Williams

Written by Mark Holdaway, Posted in News and Announcements

Five + One Volumes of Mbira Dzavadzimu Music

Mbira Songs Collected by B. Michael Williams

I have great news about B. Michael Williams, as well as some sad news. On the plus side, he is making a strong finish to his career as an academic, a percussionist, and a proponent of the mbira and karimba: he has just published his 5th and final volume of mbira songs in his easy-to-read mbira tablature, available from Bachovich Music Publications or Steve Weiss Music.

On the sad side, Michael tells me that he has been diagnosed with both Parkinson's and Alzheimer's diseases. While he had the wherewithal to assemble his final volume of mbira songs, currently he is no longer able to play mbira.

Michael is a great teacher, and helped a lot of people to learn and play traditional mbira and karimba. And even though a lot of my work is non-traditional, he has always given it validity, and his encouragement has meant a lot to me.

So, when you pick up your mbira, your karimba, or your kalimba, please send some of your joy and good vibrations and gratitude to our dear friend B. Michael Williams. Thank you.

 

13 June 2019

Instructional Resources for the Alto Kalimba

Written by Mark Holdaway, Posted in News and Announcements

There are more books, ebooks, and instructional downloads for the Alto than any other kalimba, and they're all here in this post!

Instructional Resources for the Alto Kalimba

The Alto kalimba has been my favorite kalimba for over 30 years (though I do get infatuated with other kalimbas from time to time, I always come back to the Alto). As such, I have written more books and instructional downloads for the Alto kalimba than for any other kalimba. With so many books to help you on the way, this makes the Alto kalimba a great choice for you.

There are so many reasons why the Alto kalimba is an excellent one to play. If you have small hands, you may want a somewhat smaller kalimba. Otherwise, I think the Alto kalimba can be a great kalimba for you.

13 June 2019

Instructional Resources for the Pentatonic Kalimba

Written by Mark Holdaway, Posted in News and Announcements

This kalimba is great for everyone, beginner to pro!

Instructional Resources for the Pentatonic Kalimba

One thing that was clear after Hugh Tracey's decades of research into the many types of traditional kalimbas in Africa was that a large proportion of them - about 40% - were in pentatonic tunings. This is one of the reasons why Hugh Tracey kalimbas are available in several pentatonic models.

What's so great about the pentatonic scale? Well, with fewer notes (just five per octave), it is conceptually simple, for one. And the Hugh Tracey kalimbas carry that simplicity through to make it physically simpler to play - with larger gaps between the tines, it is easier to play the tine you intended to, meaning that everything is simpler, and you can just relax and really cut loose.

10 June 2019

Instructional Resources for the African Karimba (mbira nyunga nyunga)

Written by Mark Holdaway, Posted in News and Announcements

We have resources for the 17-Note Karimba in the key of A, the 15-Note in F (mbira nyunga nyunga), and Student Karimba

Instructional Resources for the African Karimba (mbira nyunga nyunga)

All of the instruments in the karimba family are very closely related, in fact Andrew Tracey hypothesizes that they all possess the original mbira tuning from 1300 years ago when the first metal-tined instruments were made.

The 8-Note version may actually be the exact replica of the original mbira. Jege Tapera played a 13-note version. It was copied and key-shifted to make the 15-note version of the instrument in the key of F, which is now commonly known as the mbira nyunga nyunga. And AMI has been making the 17-Note karimba in the key of A since about 1980.

Clearly, there is a lot of history here. And a lot of music too.

13 June 2019

My Story of Hugh Tracey

Written by Mark Holdaway, Posted in News and Announcements

He understood the potential loss of traditional African music to the encroachment of the west, and worked his whole life to preserve it

My Story of Hugh Tracey

Hugh Tracey is a complex and important historical figure in the contemporary kalimba world. I should start by stating my relationship to Hugh Tracey: for the last 33 years, I have played instruments he designed, and for about half that time I have made most of my living by selling Hugh Tracey kalimbas. So I might be a little prejudiced, but Hugh Tracey's work was clearly pivotal in the trajectory of modern lamellaphones.

Hugh Tracey, a white European man, cherished traditional African music and made it his life's work to study and preserve that music. But he also invented and marketed the Hugh Tracey kalimba, which is not a traditional instrument at all, and has, arguably, directed some interest away from traditional instruments such as the mbira dzavadzimu or the karimba.

For me though, the Hugh Tracey kalimba has been a doorway to the world of ancient and traditional African music. Would you like to explore that world, and Hugh Tracey's part in it, with me?

05 January 2016

Interview: Andrew Tracey

Written by Mark Holdaway, Posted in News and Announcements

This 2008 interview of Andrew Tracey, accomplished kalimba scholar and master of karimba, mbira and kalimba, illuminates the genealogy of African lamellaphones and the history of the Hugh Tracey kalimba

Interview:  Andrew Tracey

During my 2008 visit to his Grahamstown, South Africa home, Andrew Tracey (Hugh Tracey's older son), long-practicing ethnomusicologist and musical performer, shared recollections of his father's work, the early Hugh Tracey kalimbas, the layout of the Hugh Tracey kalimba, and his ethnomusicological research showing the karimba to have the prototypical tuning that was passed down to subsequent instruments such as the mbira dzavadzimu.

We are featuring this article once again as we celebrate Hugh Tracey, Andrew Tracey, and all Hugh Tracey kalimbas this month.

13 June 2019

Instructional Resources for the Treble Kalimba

Written by Mark Holdaway, Posted in News and Announcements

It was the original hugh tracey kalimba

Instructional Resources for the Treble Kalimba

The Treble kalimba maintains a special place in the history of the kalimba: when Hugh Tracey began to market his new invention in the early 1950s, it was the 17-Note Treble kalimba. The Alto kalimba started selling in the 1960s. The Pentatonic kalimba came in the 1970s as an answer to Earth, Wind and Fire, and the African-tuned Karimba came around 1980, fulfilling Andrew Tracey's dream to popularize this traditional African instrument.  But the Hugh Tracey Treble was THE original Hugh Tracey kalimba.

17 May 2019

How is the Karimba related to the Mbira Nyunga Nyunga?

Written by Mark Holdaway, Posted in News and Announcements

The mystery of the evolving names of the kalimba

How is the Karimba related to the Mbira Nyunga Nyunga?

Evidence indicates that in 1950, kalimba and karimba were used more or less interchangeably to describe any traditional African thumb piano. Seventy years ago, mbira dzavadzimu meant exactly what it does now - a particular traditional Shona thumb piano - and the mbira nyunga nyunga probably was not even a thing yet. Seventy years ago was just before Hugh Tracey began to build and sell a new instrument which he called a kalimba, which combined features of many traditional instruments and had a western tuning.                                                             

Thumb pianos evolved over time and were affected by numerous influences, ancient and modern, African, European, etc. They have a very rich, varied genealogy. Today, kalimba usually refers to non-traditional thumb pianos. Karimba refers to a particular family of traditional African instruments also known as the African-tuned karimba. Mbira nyunga nyunga, which translates to the "sparkly sparkly mbira" is essentially the same instrument as the karimba, though if it is rustic-looking, it is more likely to be called mbira nyunga nyunga, and a workshop-made instrument might be more likely to be called karimba.

But it isn't exactly that simple, and here I will outline the details of this fundamental discussion.

09 May 2019

Traditional African Music for Mbira Nyunga Nyunga

Written by Mark Holdaway, Posted in News and Announcements

This eBook is for the Kwanongoma-style 15-Note Karimba in F

Traditional African Music for Mbira Nyunga Nyunga

The mbira nyunga nyunga, or the 15-Note karimba in F has only been around in this form since 1960. Thousands of Rhodesian (now Zimbabwean) and South African youth were taught the traditional songs on this delightful instrument at the Kwanongoma College of African Music. And, remarkably, it could well be that more than half of the notes on this instrument (and most of the songs for it) are essentially the same as what is thought to be the original tuning of an 8-note instrument invented some 1300 years ago.

And now, we are proud to present this eBook documenting many of the oldest-known songs for the mbira nyunga nyunga.

09 May 2019

eBook for the A minor Karimba

Written by Mark Holdaway, Posted in News and Announcements

A new eBook with material for this exotic minor tuning

eBook for the A minor Karimba

Here is a true story. Lex, a Tucson friend of mine who has hit upon hard times, visited us at Kalimba Magic the other day. Months earlier he had given away his beloved African-tuned karimba so he could put a bad relationship which had included that karimba into the past.

But he really needed to make music, and he came over to see what instrument I had that might speak to him. While we were talking, we wandered past where Sara was editing the new A minor Karimba book, with an A minor karimba next to her that she would play occasionally for reference.

Lex picked up the A minor Karimba and began plucking - and his jaw dropped. Then he smiled and laughed and said "Mysterious and enchanting!" I glanced at Sara's computer screen, but no, the computer was not open to the back cover of the eBook that declares this tuning is "Enchanting and mysterious."  

Obviously the A minor karimba is mysterious and enchanting and Lex went home with an A minor karimba that day.

Yes, Lex's new karimba was the same as the one he'd recently let go of, but in the A minor tuning, it plays quite different music. What a joy!

10 May 2019

The Student Karimba - A Great Introduction to African Music

Written by Mark Holdaway, Posted in News and Announcements

Called the "Original Mbira" and the "Kalimba Core" by Andrew Tracey

The Student Karimba - A Great Introduction to African Music

I have heard from people who were disappointed because they bought "too much kalimba" for themselves - meaning they got more notes than they were prepared to deal with (often, 15 or 17 notes turns out to be too many notes for a beginner). For these people, I recommend they start with a 10-note instrument, as this will be easier to get your head around than the larger kalimbas.

Similarly, when people tell me they are disappointed that their "African" kalimba doesn't play African music, I point them in the direction of the karimba (yes, with an "R" in the middle, and no, I don't make these names up myself). And when they find that 15 or 17 notes is too many for them to deal with, I suggest they look into the Student Karimba.

This is a great instrument for children, for adults who may be overwhelmed by bigger kalimbas, and for people who just want a taste of Africa without having to work too hard. (Note: I LOVE to play these instruments myself, and I do perform songs on the Student Karimba. It is a small instrument, but it is also a real instrument.)

[12 3 4 5  >>