News and Announcements

17 February 2019

Phia in Australia: A Great, Kalimba Looping Singer/Songwriter

Written by Mark Holdaway, Posted in News and Announcements

Don't take my word - listen, watch, and learn

Phia in Australia: A Great, Kalimba Looping Singer/Songwriter

"Phia" is Sophia Exiner from Melbourne, Australia, and she is really skilled at singing, songwriting, playing the kalimba, and live looping. (Looping is electronically repeating a short section of music, permitting a musician to accompany themselves.)

Her kalimba of choice is a Hugh Tracey Celeste Alto. Unlike the standard Alto kalimba, which is mounted on a resonating box, the Celeste Alto is mounted on a flat board and has a flatter EQ curve and no natural "wah," but it has the same notes as the standard Alto.

Anyway, I am quite taken with Phia's music. I especially like the way she weaves multiple kalimba parts together in the looping, and how she builds up complex tapestries of sound with the looper and then drops out the parts to simplify the musical texture of a bridge or chorus.

Enjoy!

17 February 2019

Free Blank Tablature for Various Kalimbas - Updated and Expanded

Written by Mark Holdaway, Posted in News and Announcements

Click, Save, Print, and Fill in Your Own Notes

Free Blank Tablature for Various Kalimbas - Updated and Expanded

Playing kalimba is such a liberating activity! You seemingly have nothing but good choices in front of you. You can really cut loose and do whatever you want. Often, it works very well, because most kalimba tunings make success highly probable. And it's really fun to just let things flow.

You can also make great progress on the instrument by developing a new awareness - paying careful attention to something you love that you just came up with while playing, and then playing it again and again.

In my own experience, when a real gem (spontaneously or otherwise) comes to me on kalimba, I start out by NOT thinking much about it, just doing it, and repeating enough so that my body really knows it. Only then do I bring my mind on board to study what my thumbs have been doing.

After I begin to think, I quickly notate the song in tablature so I can capture this gem of a song. Then I can play it any time in the future, no regret for being too lazy to catch a beautiful inspiration.

16 February 2019

Limba Trip - Master of the Treble Chromatic Kalimba

Posted in News and Announcements

It is wonderful to see someone who really understands this challenging instrument!

Limba Trip - Master of the Treble Chromatic Kalimba

Limba Trip is the stage name and YouTube channel for Yohei Kisanuki, an eclectic and amazing player of electric bass and Chromatic Treble Kalimba in Kyoto, Japan. While a number of people have developed competence on the chromatic kalimba, Limba Trip is the most accomplished and most natural player of the Chromatic kalimba that I have seen.

Yohei has approached the Chromatic kalimba as a fully chromatic instrument, capable of playing in any and all keys. As opposed to chromatic instruments, a diatonic kalimba is very forgiving and lets you make nice music even if you don't really know what you are doing, and on the front of the Chromatic is a simple diatonic kalimba. However, to play at Yohei's level, you need to know exactly what you are doing, and you need to have all of the Chromatic's notes at your fingertips. Learn about Yohei's "limba trip" and get free tablature for the 12 diatonic scales on the Chromatic kalimba.

14 February 2019

Resources For the Treble Chromatic Kalimba's Front Side

Posted in News and Announcements

The 17-Note Kalimba in C is exactly the same as the front of the Treble Chromatic

Resources For the Treble Chromatic Kalimba's Front Side

One of the beautiful things about a typical kalimba is that it only has the "right notes." Most kalimbas spell out a particular scale, and every note is a good note for expressing a certain range of music. The downside of that typical kalimba is that it cannot play music that requires chromatic notes (sharps and flats) outside of its particular key or scale.

Enter the chromatic kalimba with its many tines and wide capabilities. In order to maintain the general simplicity of playing most kalimbas, the "naturals" are on the front side and the "flats" are on the back side of this kalimba. Becoming skilled on the chromatic can take a lot of work and time, but meanwhile, there are thousands of songs you can play with just the front notes, and we do have three fantastic downloads that happen to nicely suit the front side of your Treble Chromatic Kalimba.

08 February 2019

Resources For the 17-Note Kalimba in C

Posted in News and Announcements

Everything we have that will work for your 17-Note Kalimba in C

Resources For the 17-Note Kalimba in C

I have recently written some great eBooks for this kalimba. These books use kalimba tablature, which is easy to read and very expressive. In addition to tablature and recordings for each song, these eBooks offer insights into how to read the tablature, how to tune, the kalimba's history, how to accomplish the various moves you need to make on your kalimba, and more. Everything you need to have a wonderful kalimba ride!

Says one recent customer, after she purchased our instructional downloads:

"Mark, I am already practicing the songs and love it. I’ve never played anything in my life and now at almost 70, I am living a dream! Thanks to you."

17 February 2019

Learn to Play the 10-Note Kalimba - Revised

Written by Mark Holdaway, Posted in News and Announcements

Four high quality instructional downloads will supercharge your kalimba journey

Learn to Play the 10-Note Kalimba - Revised

Kalimba Magic is the leader in kalimba instructional materials. We take that work to the next level with these four instructional eBooks for the 10-Note Kalimba in C. Three of the downloads are formatted for iPad or tablet, but you can use them on your smartphone (or any computer). Each page teaches a bite-sized bit of music. As this music is all cyclical, you repeat those four measures about a dozen times, becoming more sturdy as you go. If you want to hear what each song or pattern sounds like when played by yours truly, just touch the tablature - an MP3 will be downloaded, and you can play along with me!

The Christmas book download is formatted more like a standard book, and will print on 8.5 inch x 11 inch paper. This one is better for a computer screen or a laptop.

07 February 2019

33 Intermediate Songs: A Download for 17-Note Kalimba in C

Written by Mark Holdaway, Posted in News and Announcements

Classical - African - Americana - Spirituals - And more!

33 Intermediate Songs: A Download for 17-Note Kalimba in C

Learn to play kalimba like a pro, by learning from a pro - that's me, Mark Holdaway!

If you have been working your way through the "44 Beginner Songs" download, then "33 Intermediate Songs" is the next purchase to continue your progress.

This 82-page single PDF download contains the kalimba tablature for all of the songs, and live links to enable you to download the sound recordings I have made to demonstrate each song.

Says one recent happy customer: "I am very impressed with the quality of the ebook I just purchased. With every encounter I am amazed at the amount of work - and care - you put into every single step. The amount charged is beginning to look like a mere pittance in relation to the time and effort you must have expended. Thank you for everything. You are an extraordinary teacher!"

05 February 2019

Why Get an African-Tuned Karimba?

Written by Mark Holdaway, Posted in News and Announcements

Its amazing music puts you in the headspace of Ancient Africa

Why Get an African-Tuned Karimba?

One of the most important things I can say about the kalimba (including the karimba and mbira) is that the understanding of how to play these instruments comes to dwell in my thumbs, while the interpretation of the music into phrases or pulses takes place in my ear or my head.

The brain's frontal cortex is where we slowly puzzle out the music when we're first starting to learn it.  But once we get rolling, it is a different, more primitive part of the brain that is making the music happen - I am guessing it is the cerebellum, which deals with motor control and procedural learning - and that would include learning and playing karimba music. And that is why we can think and talk about something entirely different while we tie our shoes or brush our teeth.

When I play karimba, it feels as if my body is in tune with the ancient Africans when they played similar music, and that my thumbs come to know the way, all on their own.

05 February 2019

Why Get an Alto Kalimba?

Written by Mark Holdaway, Posted in News and Announcements

starting with 20% savings with coupon code HT20, Let Me Count the Reasons

Why Get an Alto Kalimba?

I have recently heard from several people who were trying to purchase an Alto kalimba, but their attempts were somehow foiled. Some ignorant sellers are marketing cheaper kalimbas, claiming them to be Hugh Tracey Alto kalimbas. One fellow who was trying to get a good deal had bought two different kalimbas that claimed to be Hugh Tracey Alto kalimbas... but neither of them were! He begged me: "How am I going to get an Alto kalimba?"

Well, it isn't that hard.

I have been selling the Hugh Tracey Alto kalimba to the world since 2005. And it is one of my favorite kalimbas. I play it more than I play any of the hundreds of other kalimbas I have around me. It is like a reliable best friend that I can always count on. But the Alto is currently being overshadowed by the ubiquitous and inexpensive Chinese-made 17-note kalimbas, but it is really deserving of much more attention.

Read on to find out the most important reasons why you should have your own Alto Kalimba.

07 February 2019

My Personal Experience Using Alaska Piks

Written by Mark Holdaway, Posted in News and Announcements

I learned so much from dealing with a recently broken thumb nail

My Personal Experience Using Alaska Piks

Don't you hate it when people write about an experience as if they have had it, when they haven't? OK, that was me last month, but I got religion in recent weeks.

Last month I wrote a blog post on how to fine tune your Alaska Piks to your thumb. This month I broke a thumb nail, but I was obliged to play kalimba anyway... Let's just say I now have a whole lot more useful information on using Alaska Piks with the kalimba. And lots of illustrations!

So, if you want the skinny on how to REALLY use Alaska Piks on your kalimba, karimba, or mbira, proceed!

06 February 2019

Going Low: Chords with the 5th in the Bass

Written by Mark Holdaway, Posted in News and Announcements

This technique can get you a lower bass note to better support the music

Going Low: Chords with the 5th in the Bass

Making a chord is simple on a diatonic kalimba: Pick the note you want the chord to be based on - let's say C - and then play that note and the next two shorter tines on the same side of the kalimba. Those three tines will make a triad with the notes 1 - 3 - 5. Will it be major or minor, or even diminished? It depends on which key you are in and what note you started on - but it will always be a beautiful chord.

("Diatonic" means your kalimba plays only the notes Do Re Mi Fa So La Ti Do in some key [with no notes outside of the key], for at least an octave, likely more. Diatonic kalimbas include the Hugh Tracey Alto and Treble kalimbas, or the 10-Note and 17-Note Heart kalimbas.)

This post is about an important strategy to get you to low notes on your kalimba without fundamentally changing the harmony.

07 February 2019

Learn to play "The Wizard" Theme Song

Written by Mark Holdaway, Posted in News and Announcements

This is one magical tuning

Learn to play

The Hokema B11 Kalimba - also called the "Melody Kalimba" - has a lot of untapped potential. In its standard G major tuning, it does a lot of nice music. But so many other exotic tunings are also possible, and those exotic tunings have not really been explored at all - until now. Today we are taking another look at the exotic B11 tuning that I call "The Wizard."

Last summer when I created an instructional download for the B11 Wizard tuning, I did things in the wrong order. After the download came out, I wrote an enchanting little piece of music and made a YouTube video of the song to popularize the download… it should have been IN the download, and so I never wrote down the tablature for what I call "The Wizard Theme Song."

Well – apologies for that blunder, and here is the tablature for the song now, for you, for free. Enjoy!

05 February 2019

For Sale: Imitation Karimbas With Bogus Tuning

Written by Mark Holdaway, Posted in News and Announcements

They copy the form, but what is within? buyer beware!

For Sale: Imitation Karimbas With Bogus Tuning

Half the intelligence of playing kalimba resides within your thumbs, and half the intelligence is collected from the ancestors and embedded in the instrument design and its tuning.

What happens when you copy the form of an instrument, but cut it off from its tradition and replace that with something that you made up?

The 17-note instrument with two levels of tines pictured here looks a lot like a Hugh Tracey African-tuned karimba. It looks like it should play traditonal African music. But it is not the same at all, and does not play traditional African music in this made-up, partially chromatic tuning.

07 February 2019

ABNA BON - Ambient Recording Artists Focusing on Karimba

Written by Mark Holdaway, Posted in News and Announcements

The kalimba shapes their compositions. They shape the kalimba's sound in their recording process.

ABNA BON - Ambient Recording Artists Focusing on Karimba

Anna Donahoo and Bob Guido are ABNA BON. This husband-wife duo produces cool ambient music for various soundtrack projects, and their music includes live drums, guitar, bass, keyboard, violins, voice... and of course, kalimba. They have an ethereal sound all their own. Part of that sound comes from their philosophy, part of the sound comes from their recording techniques, and part just comes from the inherent nature of the kalimba.

"With the kalimba, melody and rhythm are kind of the same. You can't think of melody on the kalimba without thinking about the rhythm. The kalimba makes you think of the two in a different way than you would with a guitar or a piano." - Anna Donahoo.

11 January 2019

New Easy-to-use Download for 17-Note Kalimba in C

Written by Mark Holdaway, Posted in News and Announcements

44 Beginner Songs Replaces Clunky 66-Song Download

New Easy-to-use Download for 17-Note Kalimba in C

At the end of last summer, Amazon sales of inexpensive Chinese-made 17-Note kalimbas tuned to the key of C started to spike. These kalimbas were delivered to people with either a short instructional manual in Chinese, or no instructions at all. Peeved customers who bought from Amazon found me, vented their frustrations, and begged me for an English version of the short Chinese manual.

Of course, I saw a great opportunity. I shot from the hip and made a "primitive" Zip file download for the 17-Note in C from an earlier version of "66 Songs" for a different kalimba. But a significant fraction of those who have purchased this Zip download have trouble a) finding the download button, and b) dealing with ZIP files.

With this new single PDF download, "44 Beginner Songs for the 17-Note Kalimba in C," I have eliminated the customer's need to deal with a ZIP file. You will, however, still need enough tech savvy to be able to find the download link in your Kalimba Magic email invoice. If not, there is always email.

12 January 2019

Why Kalimba Tablature?

Written by Mark Holdaway, Posted in News and Announcements

And what about staff notation for a kalimba?

Why Kalimba Tablature?

Recently, Lilly wrote to Kalimba Magic:

"I am experienced with reading standard staff musical notation, and I don't really like the kalimba tablature, and I don't understand why you use it. Can I just read staff notation with my kalimba? Please give me the main advantage to using tablature to notate kalimba music."

Yes, Lilly, I think there are some really big advantages to using kalimba tablature rather than staff notation. Consider kalimba tablature to be my chosen way of expressing my 33 years of kalimba-playing experience to you. It is a doorway to my kalimba-playing thought process.

14 January 2019

Tablature for "Karimba Walk"

Written by Mark Holdaway, Posted in News and Announcements

You can totally learn how to play this song!

Tablature for

One of my good habits is to walk about 2 miles every morning while I play kalimba. This is time by myself, with the sky above me and the earth below me. It is time with a kalimba in my hands and a song in my heart. It is an essential element of my mental, physical, and spiritual wellness.

Most mornings, I stick with one song for most or all of the walk. I find the song deepens as my walk proceeds. On good mornings, I get an entire new song. And sometimes, I record them.

"Karimba Walk" is a syncopated walking-tempo song that I play here on the Hugh Tracey African-tuned Karimba, in the style of traditional African two-phrase karimba music. And now you can totally learn to play it too!

There are so many juicy details about karimba music here - if you play African karimba, this is a "must read."

15 December 2018

Exotic Sansula Tunings - C Major

Written by Mark Holdaway, Posted in News and Announcements

Learn how to play guitar chords with any sansula - and get a taste of the rules of chorded improvisation

Exotic Sansula Tunings - C Major

My friend Andrea Eckardt and I are back with another exotic Sansula tuning, showing the world just how easy it is for a Sansula and a guitar to make great music together.

The Sansula is made by Hokema in Germany. The tines of this exotic kalimba make a crystal-clear sound, amplified by the Sansula's oval-frame drum body.

Today we are going take a very close look at how the guitar accompanies the Sansula; I dissect our improvisation "blow by blow," and share six rules that can help any chording instrument (guitar, piano) successfully and gracefully accompany a Sansula.

11 January 2019

Two Diametrically Different Kalimba Playing Approaches

Written by Mark Holdaway, Posted in News and Announcements

Careful, precise, and planned - or Wild, Free, In-the-moment - both are important

Two Diametrically Different Kalimba Playing Approaches

When I'm asked how I learned kalimba, I tell this story: while I had known what a kalimba was since the age of two, I only discovered how wonderful kalimba music could be when I was 24 and I witnessed an amazing player close up. I immediately went out and bought a kalimba, and then I wandered alone in the wilderness for 10 years, finding my own way.

In that wandering, I found that my path branched in two opposing directions. On one, I tried to learn songs exactly, with precision and repeatability. On the other, I aimed for pure delight in the spontaneous flow that come only from improvisation. And over time I learned that these two approaches enhance each other.

Today we'll talk a little more about improvisation versus learning specific riffs and songs, and see two recently-made videos that illustrate these two starkly different ways of approaching kalimba playing.

06 January 2019

Using Alaska Piks on Kalimba

Written by Mark Holdaway, Posted in News and Announcements

If you don't have much thumb nail, these inexpensive piks can help

Using Alaska Piks on Kalimba

When I would teach large kalimba classes in the past, one of the supplies I had to bring with me was the Alaska Pik. If you have no thumb nails, plucking the kalimba's metal tines can be painful. Eventually, novice players will either grow their thumb nails or develop calluses on the playing surface of their thumbs. Until then, or in emergencies, the Alaska pik can be a life saver!

Ken Purcell, the inventor of Alaska piks, was vacationing in Alaska when he got the idea for his PVC guitar piks. While they were initially designed for guitar finger pickers, the piks also work great on kalimba players' thumbs. I always carry a set of three piks with me in case I break a nail or two before a gig. I carry three piks in case I step on one!

11 December 2018

Why Should You Buy From Kalimba Magic?

Written by Mark Holdaway, Posted in News and Announcements

Because of the greatly superior overall kalimba experience that you'll have with us

These days, most people find Kalimba Magic after they have bought an inexpensive Chinese-made 17-Note kalimba from Amazon or eBay, and they are mystified and confused and want to learn how to play it and maintain it. They google something like "Learn to play 17-Note Kalimba," up comes a results page dominated by Kalimba Magic content. There's a good reason for that!

Kalimba Magic is unique. Almost nobody in the world has created quality kalimba instructional materials. I have written 45 kalimba downloads and 25 kalimba books. And these books and ebooks are not small: 40, 60, some are even 100 pages. Most of the books link to MP3 files (older ones have CDs), and all of our downloads have MP3 files, so you can hear what the music that you're learning should sound like.

There are some other things to know about Kalimba Magic that can make your experience with kalimbas immeasurably more worthwhile and rewarding.

09 December 2018

Exotic Sansula Tunings - G Major

Written by Mark Holdaway, Posted in News and Announcements

This is so different from the Sansula's melancholy standard A minor tuning

Exotic Sansula Tunings - G Major

"Oh - it's so small... it only has nine notes - that's not much."

I must admit, hearing comments like that always leave me a bit disconcerted. Yes, she was a piano player who was accustomed to having scores of notes at her fingertips. I could have explained to her: "This is a magical instrument that just creates its own music, just the way it is. These 9 notes have a special story to tell."

But the words did not come out. Instead, I started playing that small nine-note Sansula... and then picked up another Sansula in a different tuning... and then another. After listening, she nodded with understanding, and said "Oh, what a charming little instrument! And it seems there is not a single wrong note on it." Of course not! With only nine notes, you have to make them all count!

08 December 2018

Three Inexpensive Soft-Shell Kalimba Cases

Written by Mark Holdaway, Posted in News and Announcements

The Small case fits the 10-Note Kalimba, Medium fits the 17-Note or Treble, Large fits the Alto and Chromatic

Three Inexpensive Soft-Shell Kalimba Cases

How do you safely travel with your kalimba, keeping it from potential accidental trauma? For an unfortunately long period of time, my answer has been "I pack it between my underwear and socks." The fragile Sansula has a nice soft bag and a very nice wood case. But if you play one of the more standard kalimbas, once its box wears out, you might be packing yours between a few T-shirts too.

To those who would persist about this glaring deficiency, I would say: "Go to Target's back-to-school section in August, and pick out a nice padded/insulated, soft-sided lunch sack."

Today, I am happy to recommend a new solution: tough, attractive, black, zipping, form-fitting, well-padded soft-shell kalimba cases, at $10, $11.50, and $13. Most kalimba pages in the Kalimba Magic Shop now have the option to add one of these kalimba cases.

10 December 2018

Playing well Together: 10-Note and 17-Note Heart Kalimbas

Written by Mark Holdaway, Posted in News and Announcements

A great pair of kalimbas for a beginner and an experienced player. Sweet video, too!

Playing well Together: 10-Note and 17-Note Heart Kalimbas

Yes, I have been making the point about the 10-Note and the 17-Note kalimbas for months: the lower notes (the 10 inner tines) on the 17-Note kalimba in C are an exact match to the notes of the 10-Note kalimba in C. One consequence: if playing on 17 notes is too hard, hide 7 of those tines and just play it as if it were a 10-Note, using the 10-Note downloads. Another consequence: if you get the 10-Note and do well with it, you can then buy the 17-Note kalimba and everything you learned on the 10-Note is immediately transferable to the 17-Note.

But today I am making a different point: if you are a mother, father, grandmother or grandfather, and you want to get a bigger kalimba for yourself and a simpler kalimba (which could be played together with yours) for your child or grandchild, I think the 10-Note and 17-Note kalimbas will make a great team for you and your special kalimba partner.

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