Do You Want to Travel Strange New Lands With Your Kalimba? Consider Exotic Tunings

Whenever I change the tuning on my kalimba in a small way, I have the sense that I am standing next to a great ocean of possibilities. I have experimented with hundreds of retunings. However, even a 13 tine kalimba will have billions of possible tunings. No matter how deep I go into alternative kalimba tunings, I will only scratch the surface of those possibilities.

This blog post tries to do the math in a simple but persuasive way.

By the way, those billions of tunings? Some will have redundant notes, meaning the same note twice, or more. But that is a thing in traditional African tunings. Another consideration: there will be hundreds of mathematically different tunings with the same notes, but in a different order on the kalimba. But that is a thing too! The way you arrange the notes is important, because the note arrangement will suggest certain musical phrases, and will make other musical phrases more difficult.

You can see what I mean in this TikTok video. To achieve this Lotus Lite tuning, I had to take the kalimba apart and rearrange the tines to match the longest tines with the lowest notes. But you can see that this is a delightful tuning that will make unique music and give you a totally different kalimba experience. Tine order totally matters when you are twiddling your thumbs!

@kalimbamagic Star-13 Kalimba in Lotus Lite Tuning #lotuskalimba #kalimbajamming #kalimbamusic ♬ original sound – kalimbamagic

So, what are you waiting for? There is a seemingly infinite world of possible tunings out there. I have started the ball rolling, with a few interesting and obvious tunings. You can explore those. But the bigger game here is: you can create and explore your own tunings that serve up the music you want to create.

Do you need assistance with the mechanics of tuning? See here:

How to Tune the Kalimba

And if you don’t have the confidence to retune yourself? Or, if you get your kalimba to a point where you can’t get it back together? Or you want to collaborate with me, suggesting a type of tuning, with me applying my understanding to the kalimba and the scale?

You can see the Kalimba Doctor about that!


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