Instructional Resources for the Alto Kalimba

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

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.


Why is the Alto such a great kalimba ? The tines are wider than your typical kalimba’s, and the tine spacing is a little wider too, making it easier to hit the right notes on this kalimba. The larger size means it plays lower notes, which are more supportive of singing. The key of G is useful, especially if you play kalimba with a guitar player. And with exactly two octaves, it is easy to get your head around the Alto kalimba’s note layout. Oh, and did I say that there are more resources to help you learn to play the Alto than for any other kalimba?

Alto Tuning

This article collects all the Alto books, instructional downloads, and Alto kalimba models all in one place to make it easy for you.

We have five hard copy books for the Alto kalimba. The Fundamentals and the Spirituals books come with recordings on CDs. The Hymnal, Classical, and Advanced Carols do not come with recordings, but only tablature. You can, however, download the KTabS files for these books and listen to how the songs go with the free KTabS reader.

Alto Fundamentals Book

Starting book for the Hugh Tracey Alto Kalimba – 32 pages with photos, music CD included. When I learned how to play kalimba 30 years ago, there were no books. This was the very first kalimba book I wrote that uses kalimba tablature. There are now many books for the Alto kalimba, but no matter what kind of music you want to play on your Alto, you should probably start with this book.Visit Product Page

Alto Spirituals

African American Spirituals arranged for the Hugh Tracey Alto Kalimba – 70 pages, with CD included.

Each song comes in a Basic (B) arrangement (melody only or similar), and an Advanced (A) arrangement. Both arrangements are presented on the accompanying CD.

The songs that we’ve included in the book are: “Jacob’s Ladder,” “Ezekiel Saw The Wheel,” “‘Tis Me O Lord,” “Wade In The Water,” “Balm in Gilead,” “Kum Ba Ya,” “Nobody Knows the Trouble I’ve Seen,” “Swing Low Sweet Chariot,” and more!Visit Product Page

Advanced Alto Carols

This book of 20 arrangements of advanced Christmas carols for the Alto is great for the person who has been seriously playing kalimba for a year or more. This 48-page book provides the tablature for arrangements of Christmas carols as performed by Mark Holdaway. The book does not come with a CD, but you can download the KTabS files and play them through the Free KTabS Reader.

The book includes these carols: “Angels from the Realms of Glory,” “Angels We Have Heard on High,” “Away in a Manger” (American version), “Away in a Manger” (English version), “Bring a Torch, Jeanette, Isabella,” “Carol of the Bells,” “Deck the Halls,” “Emmanuel,” and more!Visit Product Page

Classical Alto – classical music melodies for alto kalimba

Here is the Mark Holdaway and Sharon Eaton collection of 20 classical tunes for the Alto kalimba. This is a progressive set of arrangements, with the first ones appropriate for beginners, and the last tunes providing a challenge to the best kalimba players. This book does not come with a CD, but you can purchase the KTabS files from the KTabS website. You can see (and hear) how the songs go when you play the KTabS files with the KTabS program or the KTabS Reader.

Our classical alto book includes: “New World Symphony” (Versions 1 & 2), “Joyful, Joyful We Adore Thee” (Version 1 & 2), “New World Symphony” (Version 2), “Brahms’ Lullaby” (Versions 1 & 2), “Gymnopedie,” Bach’s “Minuet in G,” and more!Visit Product Page

Alto Hymnal

The Alto Kalimba Hymnal has the tablature and words for 50 of Sharon Eaton’s favorite hymns. “Amazing Grace,” “How Can I Keep From Singing?,” “Jesus Loves Me,” “There is a Balm in Gilead,” “What a Friend We Have in Jesus,” and 45 others. The first 10 songs are simple melody lines only, so beginners can make good use of this book. The next 10 hymns use occasional harmony. The next 10 hymns use three-part harmony. Whether you are a novice or an old pro, this book will have something lovely for you to play.Visit Product Page
An “eBook” is a PDF file with live links to MP3 sound files. You can view it on your computer, your tablet, or your phone. A “download” is a ZIP file which contains the PDF, KTabS, and MP3 files for the songs in the collection. The download must be unpacked and is not as organized, user-friendly, or as instructive as the eBooks are, but it is still quite useful.

Easy Alto (eBook)

A new, easy-to-use e-book that shows you how to get started with kalimba playing. While this book begins at a very basic level, it accomplishes some cool things that will ease your kalimba playing in the direction of understanding and musical competency. Chords and arpeggios (chords played one note at a time) are the easiest things to do on your Alto kalimba. Scales, which require crossing over, are the hardest things to do. We focus on both of these musical elements, and show you how to create some impressive music without a lot of work.

54 pages, 46 examples, exercises, and songs, this e-book comes as a PDF with clickable links to drive your web browser to play the MP3 files.Visit Product Page

Easy Christmas Carols on the Alto Kalimba (eBook)

Are you a beginning kalimba player who wants to learn some Christmas carols for your 15-Note Hugh Tracey Alto kalimba in G? Perhaps you have owned an Alto kalimba for years, and have never really explored it? Or perhaps you’ve been playing for years, and now is the right time to really dig in and learn some songs? If you fit one of these descriptions, this is the download for you.

There are 32 carols in this collection, but four of them are repeats at different levels of difficulty, making 28 different unique carols. Most of the songs are “Level 1” and “Level 2,” meaning you should be ready to play them today, or in about a week of playing. Several other songs are “Level 3” (includes three-note chords) and a few are “Level 4” (more complex).Visit Product Page

Kalimba Americana for Alto Kalimba (eBook)

This is a great collection of music in the traditions of American folk, spirituals, and patriotic music with a few protest songs thrown in, to make a collection as wonderful and as diverse as the people of America. If you want to learn to play like a pro, this is a great place to start!

The download is a simple 54-page PDF file with tablature for 29 songs (four are repeats with basic and advanced versions). The PDF file has live links to the MP3 sound recordings of each song. Songs rated from Skill Level 0 – 4. Of the 29 songs, 18 are Level 0, 1, or 2, making this a good option for beginning kalimba players. The songs below are ordered from easiest to most difficult.

“Ha Ha, Thisaway,” “The Muffin Man,” “Clementine,” “Deep In The Heart of Texas,” “Here We Go Looby Loo,” “Oh! Susanna,” “Marines’ Hymn,” “Fanfare for the Common Man,” “My Grandfather’s Clock,” “Taps,” “This Train,” and much more!Visit Product Page

Advanced Alto Carols (Download)

Download tablature in PDF and KTabS format for advanced versions of 20 Christmas carols arranged for the Hugh Tracey Alto kalimba by Mark Holdaway. This download is a 20 MB ZIP file containing the PDFs and KTabS files, as well as MP3s of KTabS playing, for the following songs: “Angels from the Realms of Glory,” “Angels We Have Heard on High,” ” Away in a Manger,” “Bring a Torch, Jeanette, Isabella,” “Carol of the Bells,” “Deck the Halls,” “Emmanuel,” “Fairest Lord Jesus,” “The First Noel,” “God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen,” “Good King Wenceslas,” and more!Visit Product Page

Alto Spirituals (Download)

This is a PDF ebook.
Download tablature in PDF and KTabS format for 21 African American spirituals in both basic-melody-only (B) and Advanced (A) arrangements with harmony.

The following songs are available in the ebook: “Jacob’s Ladder” (A), “Ezekiel Saw The Wheel” (B), “‘Tis Me O Lord” (A,B), “Wade In The Water” (A,B), “Balm in Gilead” (A,B), “Kum Ba Ya “(A,B), “Nobody Knows the Trouble” (A,B), “Swing Low Sweet Chariot” (A,B), and more!Visit Product Page

Music for the G minor Alto (Download)

Each different tuning is like a different landscape to explore. The G minor Alto kalimba has a very intimate feel, and creates introspective and moody-to-mystical music. I enjoy playing this one on my morning walks very much, and much of the musical ideas in this download were generated from playing on my walks.

This 34-page, 29-song PDF is filled with tablature and tips on how to play the music. See the additional image to get a feel for what the pages are like.Visit Product Page

Kalimba Latino Download for Alto (Download)

This download consists of a ZIP file containing tablature PDFs, KTabS files, and MP3s for each of 7 songs for the Alto Kalimba with a Latin flair, featuring cumbia, montuno, and ranchero music.Visit Product Page

10 Traditional African Pieces for Alto (Download)

Welcome to the January 2009 collection of traditional African karimba tunes arranged for the Hugh Tracey Alto kalimba. This work represents the largest collection of traditional African music that can be played on the Alto kalimba. We are hoping for more music soon. This is a ZIP file download.Visit Product Page

11 Advanced Traditional African pieces for Alto (Download)

This download consists of a ZIP FILE containing tablature PDFs, KTabS files, and MP3s for each of 11 traditional African Karimba songs, arranged for the Hugh Tracey Alto Kalimba in G. These songs and their multiple variations were collected from the literature by Ivodne Galatea, with assistance from Mark Holdaway.

Important note: these songs were created on the African tuned Karimba, also known as the mbira nyunga nyunga, and playing them on the Alto is possible, but is more difficult, and will require some special tricks – in other words, this will be a challenge, but it should be worth the effort you put into learning this music.Visit Product Page

Peace and Protest Songs (Download)

Primitive ZIP file download includes tablature in PDF and KTabS format for 30 Peace and Protest Songs for the Alto Kalimba, a total of 53 pages of music. ZIP file includes 30 PDFs, 30 KTabS files, and an AAA_README file explaining what you have and how to use it. These tunes are mostly intermediate to advanced, very few are basic.

The tunes include: “Blowing in the Wind,” “De Colores,” “Deportee,” “Down By the Riverside,” “Eyes on the Prize” (Basic and Advanced) “Finlandia” (This is My Song, O God of All the Nations) and more!Visit Product Page

66 Songs for C-tuned Alto (Download)

66 Songs for the Hugh Tracey C-Alto Kalimba is a big ZIP file that includes PDF and KTabS format files for each song. MP3s for only about seven of the songs are included. African, classical, folk, peace, patriotic, Christmas, African American Spirituals, reggae, etc!Visit Product Page

Advanced Alto (Download)

Download tablature in PDF, KTabS, and MP3 format for 34 songs, riffs, and exercises for the advanced Alto player – a great next step after the Alto Fundamentals Book! Also works for the Bb and D Treble kalimbas.

This instructional download includes tablature PDFs for 34 songs. Some are full songs that are 1, 2, or 3 pages long. Some are just riffs or exercises, half a page or less.Visit Product Page
The Alto kalimbas were first made by Hugh Tracey in the 1960s, shortly after he finalized the design for his Treble kalimba. The Alto is slightly larger and slightly lower than the Treble kalimba. The Alto gives a richer tone that is more supportive of singing. People with larger hands tend to prefer the Alto kalimba.

Hugh Tracey Alto Kalimba

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Hugh Tracey Alto Kalimba + PU (pickup)

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C-tuned Alto

The low note and high note are still G as in the standard Alto tuning, but the F# has been tuned to F natural. The C notes in this photo have dots on them to help you find your way. Why would anyone want this kalimba? It plays different music than the standard tuning, and you might need to play in C rather than in G. If you want the C to be in the low tine, you should get a Bb Treble kalimba tuned to C, or a Heart-17, which comes in C standard.Visit Product Page

C-tuned Alto + PU

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Hugh Tracey Celeste Alto

The celeste kalimba models are mounted on a solid board, rather than a box. These kalimbas are not as loud as the box kalimbas, and have a flatter EQ curve – that is, the box kalimba’s midrange boost is absent, making each note more similar in volume. The celeste models are better for people with smaller hands. You can also mount these kalimbas on a resonating object or inside a dry gourd resonator.Visit Product Page

Hugh Tracey Celeste Alto + PU

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Sweetheart Deal (Alto and Treble)

Hugh Tracey Alto and Treble kalimba, with pickups, in the standard G major tuning.Visit Product Page

Matched Pair (Alto and Treble)

Hugh Tracey Alto and Treble kalimbas, with pickups, retuned to make the Treble an octave higher than the Alto.Visit Product Page


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