Cool Ethnic Tunings for the B11 Kalimba

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

Each different tuning offers a different flavor of music

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.


The Sansula, with nine tines, was born to create an atmosphere with very little effort.  The eleven-tined B11 is set up to create melodies with simple accompaniment.  The details of what types of melodies you can create rests in the intricacies of the scale that the B11 is tuned to – which need not be the standard G major.

The tuning of a kalimba defines the universe of musical possibilities open to the instrument.  Each of these B11 tunings creates music that is uniquely distinct and wonderful.  Each one pulls me into its own world, and I can easily imagine spending days or weeks on each of these tunings.

The standard B11 tuning plus five alternative tunings with ethnic or celestial flare


By the way, each of the below recordings was made with the kalimba in a deze, a resonator made from a large dry gourd, which provides a bit of buzz and distortion, a desirable characteristic in African music (your speakers are fine!).


The Ake Bono tuning is a five-note scale with an oriental flare.  The standard Sansula tuning is similar to the Ake Bono scale.

Listen to B11 in G Ake Bono Tuning


The Klezmara scale is a Middle Eastern, six-note scale that has its own magic.

Listen to B11 in Klezmara Tuning


The Hitzaskiar scale is a 7-note Persian scale that has four half-step intervals in an octave.  Compare this to the standard major scale which has two half-step intervals per octave.  Those extra half-step intervals make the music from this B11 tuning even more mysterious and exotic.

Listen to B11 in Hitzaskiar Tuning


This Bothian tuning was inspired by Thomas Bothe and the tunings he invents on the 2B/9 and 2B/14 kalimbas.  It has every note in the key of C, but they are not sequential.  The lower row and upper row define two separate musical spaces that interact favorably. 

Listen to B11 in C Bothian Tuning


The Celestine tuning is one I invented for my friend Celeste.  It is basically an Eb Lydian (which is the same as Bb major) scale, and to me is one of the most celestial and angelic-sounding of all.

Listen to B11 in Eb Celestine Tuning


Wow – I just got through recording the demo for each of these B11 tunings, and I am freshly impressed.  What a joy to play them again!  They are each so different, and on the B11 kalimba, each one is fun to play.  And the best part of this endeavor so far is that I know there are plenty more amazing and wonderful tunings – these five are just the first catch! 

Retuning a B11 kalimba is not all that challenging, and you can probably accomplish retuning your B11 yourself.  I use a T15 driver bit that I got as part of a $10 set from Home Depot.  It is a 6-pointed star that will turn the bolts on Hokema kalimbas.  I loosen the two bolts by only about 120 degrees (one third of a turn).  Why so little?  This way the pressure bar is loose enough to permit the tines to move, but still tight enough to keep the tines from falling off.  With the loosened bolts and pressure bar, I retune the tines, then retighten by the same amount, and then do a touch up on the tuning, as the retightening will alter the tuning slightly. Please see the link below to learn more about how to retune your kalimba.

If you aren’t a master at retuning yet, fear not, because at Kalimba Magic we are the tuning experts, and we would be happy to either do the retuning for you as part of the Kalimba Doctor services, or you can purchase a B11 Kalimba from us in one of these exotic tunings.  Or you could empower yourself by learning to tune – follow the tuning link below.

As I continue my explorations of different tunings on this instrument, I will share with you the really outstanding ones.  B11 kalimbas in these fabulous exotic tunings are not complicated to play and make great music that is easy to play with other instruments like guitar or keyboard. With one instrument you have a passel of different (and excellent) tunings. The possibility is great that more cool tunings will be born and that I will compose music and books for the shape-shifting B11.


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