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

I kid you not. Lex, a friend of mine who has hit upon hard times, came to Kalimba Magic. Months earlier he had given up his African-tuned karimba in an act of stepping away from a bad relationship that strongly referenced the African-tuned karimba.

But, Lex had a need to make music. He came over to see what instrument I had that might speak to him.

Sara was editing the A minor Karimba book, and we had the A minor karimba on the kitchen table for reference.

When Lex picked up the A minor Karimba and began plucking, his jaw dropped, then he smiled - and then he spontaneously laughed and said "Mysterious and enchanting!" I quietly looked up at Sara's laptop - no, the computer was not open to the back cover of the eBook that declares this tuning is "Enchanting and Mysterious" - but obviously it is mysterious and enchanting. Lex did go home with an A minor karimba that day.

Yes, it was the same instrument Lex recently had to let go of, but in A minor, it plays quite different music. What a joy!


This 48 page PDF ebook download has links to sound files for 24 different learning exercises and 3 grand compositions for the A minor karimba. Live links to MP3 files make this easy to use from computer, tablet, or phone.

Here is an Article equating Karimba with Mbira Nyunga Nyunga.

The Hugh Tracey karimba is a modern 17-note version of the karimba, a respected member of the traditional African mbira / kalimba family tree.

The traditional tuning which Hugh Tracey documented in the 1950s for the karimba has a classic African sound - it puts the 3rd, the 6th, and the 7th tones of the scale somewhere in between western major and minor intervals. Octaves and 5ths were more or less the same as the western intervals.

If playing the karimba together with western instruments like guitar or piano is desired, these African microtonal intervals can be “rectified” to the closest western note by retuning, usually to major intervals. But a karimba that is retuned to minor intervals is also a treat to play. The minor 3rd, 6th, and 7th make for a lovely and enchanting sound. This book explores the possibilities of the minor-tuned African karimba.

The music that I am presenting for the A minor-tuned karimba is not traditional African music, but it is built on many of the principles of African music. Most notable of those is the cyclic nature of African music. You learn a little bit of music, and you repeat it, over and over again, without a gap between the last time and the next time. As a song continues, little by little, new and interesting variations are woven into the music, and it grows in complexity. Eventually, the song gradually winds down until it is soft and simple once again.

Here is one of the exercises from the book, showing you one of the two techniques for using your right index finger in addition to the two thumbs. Instead of different "variations", the different repeated sections illustrate different levels toward learning the final syncopated phrase in measures 9-12.

Am Karimba p37
Click sound icon to download the MP3 file to hear how this goes!

If you already have a karimba, African-tuned or Western Major tuned, you can probably accomplish the retuning to minor yourself. See the link to the tuning page below.

If you have difficulty retuning your kalimba, you can send it in to the Kalimba Doctor. See the link below.

If you already play several songs on the Western Major or African tuned karimba, and you want to keep those songs, you may want to invest in a new A minor karimba to own in addition to your other tuning.

If you have a G minor tuned karimba, the sound recordings for this download will be off in key by a whole step, but the tablature will still work for your karimba.

By the way: this book replaces the old download "Three Original Pieces for Gm Karimba." Those three compositions have been reworked and recorded, and the exercises all build skills you will need to play the three big pieces. And of course, it has all been bundled up into a nicely organized and nicely edited single PDF ebook download. It is what I do for a living!

About the Author

Mark Holdaway

Mark Holdaway

Mark Holdaway has been playing kalimba for over 30 years.  He invented his kalimba tablature in 2004, and has been writing books and instructional materials for kalimba ever since.  His business, Kalimba Magic, is based on the simple proposition that the kalimba is a real musical instrument capable of greatness.  Mark's kalimba books are a down payment on this proposition.

Leave a comment

You are commenting as guest.