News and Announcements

15 April 2019

Easter Hymns for the 17-Note Kalimba in C

Written by Mark Holdaway, Posted in News and Announcements

Beautiful hymns on the kalimba - what more can I say? Heaven!

Easter Hymns for the 17-Note Kalimba in C

To me, holidays have always been, at their core, about music. The music pervades the essence of the celebration and the ceremony. The music deepens our experience of the numinous moment.

And it gives you a great gift that you can bestow on any around you when you can create such beautiful and moving music. That is why I study Christmas carols, and that is also why I learn Easter hymns.

13 April 2019

Exotic Tunings for 17-Note Kalimba

Written by Mark Holdaway, Posted in News and Announcements

Reinvent your Kalimba, Re-energize your Kalimba Playing

Exotic Tunings for 17-Note Kalimba

If you ever get to the point where you feel your kalimba is old hat, or you cannot think of anything new to do on it, you need to come back to this article.

By retuning your kalimba to a new tuning, you basically get a new instrument that presents you with a new world view and plays new music, all for the price of... the five or ten minutes it will take for you to retune your kalimba.

You would be amazed - these tunings sound so rich and amazing and different! Just listen to each one. Each is a land I would love to explore.

16 April 2019

10 Easy Tips - Scales on the 17-Note Kalimba in C

Written by Mark Holdaway, Posted in News and Announcements

These Tips will help you discover new scales on your kalimba - and their format fits perfectly on your phone!

10 Easy Tips - Scales on the 17-Note Kalimba in C

Learning your kalimba's musical scale is very important to understanding your kalimba and the music it can make. The scale is like a magic key that will open many doors. But what if I told you that your kalimba, just as it is, plays several different scales?

Each scale is like a universe of musical possibilities. We have ten tips for you about how to use four different scales, on the 17-Note in C, in your music. Each of these four scales is like a different land, or a different flavor. If you want this sort of richness in your kalimba playing, read on!

17 April 2019

The Kalimba and Transformation

Written by Mark Holdaway, Posted in News and Announcements

Humans have transformed the kalimba over millenia. The kalimba can also transform us.

The Kalimba and Transformation

The kalimbas that we play and see today seem like very modern instruments, but the kalimba is rooted in many centuries of history and tradition. As is normal for humans, we have been busy remaking the kalimba and transforming these instruments into something new. It's a process that has been going on for millenia, and people continue to transform the kalimba into something ever more amazing.

But why do all of this work, continually remaking the kalimba?

In part, because of love. Those who love the kalimba have always sought to improve upon it.

In part, because the kalimba is a tool that we, individually, can use to transform ourselves, becoming better humans.

10 March 2019

Finally! A Hard Copy Book for the 17-Note Kalimba in C

Written by Mark Holdaway, Posted in News and Announcements

The "44 Beginner Songs" Book is a Printed, Paper Version of the Popular 44-Songs Download

Finally! A Hard Copy Book for the 17-Note Kalimba in C

People have been asking me for a hard copy book for the newly popular 17-Note Kalimba in C - the new kalimbas that have been made in China over the last 18 months. These are sold under a variety of names, including Donner, Walter, Gecko, and Heart-17, but all of these are essentially the same instrument, with the same number of tines and the same note layout.  In other words, all of these kalimbas can use the same book.

That book is "44 Beginner Songs for the 17-Note Kalimba in C." This hard copy book has the same material as the ebook download of the same name.

If you have been waiting for a book for your 17-Note Kalimba in C, this is it!

25 March 2019

Kalimba Americana for Alto Kalimba

Written by Mark Holdaway, Posted in News and Announcements

Play favorite folk and popular music on your Alto kalimba!

Kalimba Americana for Alto Kalimba

This is the music I grew up with - the American song book! These are some of the songs that bind us together as citizens of the great American experiment. To many of us, this is some of the sweetest music in the world!

This 54-page PDF download with clickable links to MP3 files has tablature for 29 different versions of 25 different songs. This book has enough easy songs to have a beginner playing right away, and it has enough complex songs to keep you working for months or longer!

11 March 2019

How does the Kalimba Relate to the Piano?

Written by Mark Holdaway, Posted in News and Announcements

The kalimba's unique note layout really affects the music it makes

How does the Kalimba Relate to the Piano?

A customer recently asked:

"I am having a lot of trouble playing my kalimba. I took piano lessons as a child for three years and I think this is the trouble. Is there a tip to help me make sense of reading the kalimba music as opposed to reading piano music?"

The kalimba and the piano are very different instruments! Two big differences between them are that the kalimba only has a small subset of the notes the piano has, and the notes on the kalimba are arranged in a way that is fundamentally different from the arrangement on the piano.

While the general music introduction you got from piano lessons will be helpful on your kalimba journey, the specific muscle memory (and the way you think about reading and playing music) that you developed from playing piano is pretty much irrelevant to playing the kalimba.

15 March 2019

Maurice White's Kalimba Tuning Revisited

Written by Mark Holdaway, Posted in News and Announcements

Maurice White (of Earth, Wind & Fire fame) started playing the Hugh Tracey Kalimba in his signature tuning 50 years ago

Maurice White's Kalimba Tuning Revisited

In ancient Africa there were dozens or even hundreds of great kalimba innovators, all lost to the dust of time. These ancestors we must honor, explicitly or implicitly, every time we pick up a kalimba.

Two people of the modern era who have done the most to move the kalimba forward are Hugh Tracey and Maurice White.

Hugh Tracey studied traditional African instruments extensively, and he also made the first commercial kalimbas to be marketed globally, starting in the 1950s. On this website, his name is well known.

Maurice White, leader of the pop and R&B band "Earth, Wind & Fire" is the world's first kalimba star. He played the Hugh Tracey kalimba, but with a twist.

25 March 2019

A cool custom tuning - and live looping!

Written by Mark Holdaway, Posted in News and Announcements

Only at Kalimba Magic

A cool custom tuning - and live looping!

This kalimba started life as a standard Hugh Tracey Alto kalimba with pickup, in standard G tuning. What is it now, and how did it get there?

Let's start with "How did this kalimba get to be this way?" This kalimba setup and tuning are the result of a series of requests from one of my repeat kalimba customers, Dajari Makena. He and I have collaborated developing great tunings. He wanted half the tines bent upward. He wanted a unique D minor tuning. He wanted something that reflected Africa. He wanted treble tines on the upper row. And he wanted a special paint job.

Yes, it took a bit of fiddling with, but when this kalimba was born from the imagination of a beloved client and my own interpretative tuning, I was so struck by it that I had to share it with 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.

25 March 2019

25% off Fancy Quilted Kalimba Bags

Written by Mark Holdaway, Posted in News and Announcements

Coupon Code BAG25

Many people have been eyeing these nice kalimba bags made by Louise Sloman-Fuller. Louise knows kalimbas - she worked at AMI in South Africa for almost 20 years, taking big orders and organizing kalimba shipments all around the world. Now she makes arts and crafts, including these sweet, unique bags for kalimbas.

If you have been sitting on the sidelines, now is the time to jump in and make your move with this 25% coupon code.

22 February 2016

Is it Kalimba, Karimba, or Mbira?

Written by Mark Holdaway, Posted in News and Announcements

What name should I use for my thumb piano?

Is it Kalimba, Karimba, or Mbira?

When discussing thumb pianos, people use the instrument names kalimba, karimba, mbira, mbira dzavadzimu, and mbira nyunga nyunga - sometimes with specific intent, and sometimes nearly interchangeably.  Where are these different names from, and what do they mean?

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."

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

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.

[12 3 4 5  >>