News and Announcements

29 April 2018

The Hokema Kalimbas have Gone Electric!

Written by Mark Holdaway, Posted in News and Announcements

Pickups are now available on nearly all Hokemas

The Hokema Kalimbas have Gone Electric!

The kalimba has always been a cool instrument. Different. Ethnic. New Age. Ancient. And just plain fun.

But throw in an electronic pickup, and you can take the kalimba to a whole new level of FUN.

It is a cliche, but the Germans do build things very well - smooth, precise, shiny... and now great sounding pickups for Hokema's beautiful kalimbas.

Thank you, Peter Hokema!

29 November 2016

Cool Ethnic Tunings for the B11 Kalimba

Written by Mark Holdaway, Posted in News and Announcements

From Persian to celestial, each of these alternative tunings offers a totally different spin on this great kalimba

Cool Ethnic Tunings for the B11 Kalimba

The reports on the new Hokema B11 Kalimba are all coming in glowing - people love this kalimba.  Of course, everyone loves the sterling workmanship, ease of playing, and incredible sound of the huge Hokema hit, the Sansula, but the musical possibilities and adaptability of Hokema's latest, the B11, really exceed that of the Sansula by leaps and bounds, and the B11 carries the same quality and has a gorgeous sound too.

I have just developed five cool new tunings for the B11, and would love to share them with you!  In addition to this post's tuning charts for all the tunings, you can also listen to demo recordings of each so you can hear how each individual tuning sounds, and easily compare them.

29 November 2016

A Download and Book for the Hokema B11 Kalimba

Written by Mark Holdaway, Posted in News and Announcements

There is a lot of cool music you can do on this one - we start from the beginning

A Download and Book for the Hokema B11 Kalimba

Peter Hokema has done it again!  He has created a charming little kalimba that seems to just captivate everyone who hears it, the B11 "Melody" kalimba. 

And Mark Holdaway has done it again, creating an instructional download/book filled with great music, illustrating many of the wild and wonderful things you can do on the B11 kalimba.

Read on to learn more about the unusual B11 "Melody" kalimba, and to see what kinds of things are in "Exploring the Hokema B11 Kalimba," available as a hard-copy book or download. You can also hear one of the more advanced songs you can play from the B11 collection.

12 May 2018

Karimba Buzzers - adding or removing

Written by Mark Holdaway, Posted in News and Announcements

This is so easy - it takes about 30 seconds

 Karimba Buzzers - adding or removing

While the sound of buzzers (or rattles) on a karimba is very distinctive, it is not for everyone. Also, the term "buzzers" (which create an intentional sound effect)  is very different from what we call the "buzz," which is an unwanted and unpleasant sound that results from an improperly seated tine. We deal with fixing the "buzz" in another article.

This article explores the role of karimba rattles in African music, looks at some of the different ways of making the rattles, and shows you how to take the them off - or put them back on - the Hugh Tracey karimba. I also mention one of my favorite ways to soften the sound of the Hugh Tracey rattles, which, at least to my ear, makes a very pleasing sound.

18 May 2018

Free Blank Tablature for Ten Different Kalimbas

Written by Mark Holdaway, Posted in News and Announcements

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

Free Blank Tablature for Ten Different Kalimbas

You may or may not know that I invented kalimba tablature in 2004. My first kalimba student would take in my personal instruction well, but then when he went home, he would forget what I had taught him and would not be able to practice it. When I put marks indicating notes on a paper representation of his 15-Note Alto kalimba, he did not need to remember, and could pick up his kalimba each day and practice. 

What marks did I use? The standard symbols for notes used in western staff notation work for me. You can use whatever you want.

It turns out that the tablature concept is quite extensible, and can cover a wide variety of kalimbas. I offer you blank sheets of this tablature for several types of kalimba, all for free. Enjoy!

29 April 2018

Does the low note on your Deluxe Sansula Wobble? Here is the fix

Written by Mark Holdaway, Posted in News and Announcements

This simple trick will get your deluxe (goatskin) sansula sounding great again

Does the low note on your Deluxe Sansula Wobble? Here is the fix

Along with the Sansula's beautiful sound and mind-blowing special effects - that is, the deep wah-wah tonal modulation you can get by lifting and lowering the resonant frame onto a flat surface - there are some drawbacks among the different types of Sansula. They can be a bit finicky but are definitely worth having and playing. Knowing how to keep them at their best is easy.

The Standard Sansula (which Kalimba Magic no longer carries) sounds good but has the considerable flaw that, when the instrument is dropped from a height of 1 meter or more, its paper-thin membrane will break.

The Sansula Renaissance, with its synthetic Remo drum head membrane, is robust with respect to droppage, but if you mistreat the drum head by stretching the membrane too much, it can get a bit stretchy and soft. It still plays and "wahs," but just seems a bit tired after a few years.

And the Deluxe Sansula, with a goatskin membrane, can (in a very dry climate) get dried out to the point that the low note sounds as both A and A sharp, beating together in a markedly unpleasant manner.

But the FIX is in!

29 April 2018

Did you buy an inexpensive Chinese-made 17-note kalimba in C? At a loss about finding a book to help you learn?

Written by Mark Holdaway, Posted in News and Announcements

OK - I can help you

Did you buy an inexpensive Chinese-made 17-note kalimba in C? At a loss about finding a book to help you learn?

Long before Kalimba Magic started writing books for the Hugh Tracey kalimba and touting the advantages of Hugh Tracey kalimbas, there was trouble afoot. A Pakistani company had started to make poor quality copies of the 17-note Hugh Tracey kalimbas. They cost about 30% of what the Hugh Tracey kalimbas sold for, but the company advertised that "tuning doesn't matter” – their instruments basically came untuned. So I really didn't have to worry all that much about the competition. Yes, people would still buy these cheap kalimbas, and they got more or less what they paid for.

Lately, however, a new 17-note Treble copy has sprung up from China. These instruments are a bit different, in large measure because they are well-tuned. Did you acquire a 17-note kalimba made in China, but cannot find any kind of instructional materials? Well, there is a ton of help for you, you just need to be aware of a difference in tuning that we will guide you into handling with ease.

26 April 2016

A Fantastic Instructional Download for the Sansula

Written by Mark Holdaway, Posted in News and Announcements

The C Major Sansula Tuning has always been beautiful - and now it is accessible!

A Fantastic Instructional Download for the Sansula

Kalimba Magic sansulas are normally sold in the A Minor tuning, which produces music of an enchanting, mystical and melancholy nature. I created the C Major sansula tuning in 2011 in response to a customer’s request for a sansula in C.  I love this tuning; it is simply happy and positive, potentially majestic and even euphoric. I am often struck by how easy it is for the C Major sansula to produce music of great simplicity and beauty. If something gorgeous happens in the midst of my time spent with it, I take careful notes (whenever i come up for air!).

The C Major sansula book, a downloadable PDF, covers some of what this delightful instrument can do. With 48 pages and 32 original compositions and exercises written just for this tuning, this book gives you enough material to occupy you for many months as you improve your sansula skills. Included among these compositions are the two YouTube videos I have made with the C Major tuned sansula and the C Major tuned kalimbula.

 

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.

 

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."

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