Exotic B11 Tunings Overview

We have four tunings out now – let’s pause and consider

A Box Lotus and a Regular Lotus Karimba

The B11 is a really cool kalimba concept. Even though it has only two more notes than the Sansula on which it was modeled, it can go to many, many more places, musically, emotionally, and vibrationally.

Just as the Sansula does, the B11 naturally leads you down pleasing avenues of discovery. The lower notes work together one way, the upper notes work together another way, and the upper and lower notes can dance together in many ways.

But the arrangement of those notes – the exact order in which they are laid out – has a tremendous effect on a kalimba’s music and its meaning to us.  Click through to hear and see the musics that several different B11 kalimba tunings can create.


If you own a B11 kalimba, you can achieve these various retunings yourself with a few tools and an electronic tuner. Retuning can take as little as 5-10 minutes. Or you could choose to have multiple B11 kalimbas, each in a different tuning.

When people come to visit my house – ie, Kalimba Magic Laboratories – they fall into two basic groups: those who try to ignore the piles of sansulas and B11 kalimbas spread around my house, each labelled with the name of an exotic tuning; and those who jump in to experience what these strange tunings are all about. Wait… PILES OF SANSULAS AND B11’s?

I admit it. Investigating so many tunings on a single instrument may seem extreme. Consider, if you will, the 17-note kalimba. It has a lot of musical possibilities. But with only 9 notes on a sansula, or 11 notes on a B11, there may be enough going on to be interesting, but the musical possibilities of one individual tuning are really quite limited. Each different tuning explores a small region of “musical possibility space,” playing different music and evoking a different range of emotions and sonic worlds. And deep inside me I just know and feel how much more wonderful these marvelous facets of musicality can make their players’ experience. 

A friend who was very helpful to me in clarifying the B11 Exotics project had these reflections:

“What I really enjoyed about exploring the B11 was learning about how the layout works – learning about its structural makeup, like the crossovers, or splitting the instrument into a lower part and an upper part. I felt the thrill of exploring how the different tunings each had different emotional relevance. I liked discovering where I could fly … or walk… feeling a season or a memory, contentment or joy, enjoying what the instrument was revealing to me!”

One of my visitors who came in and picked up about a dozen different sansula and B11 tunings said the following after an hour of playing together:

“The experience of playing these different kalimbas allowed me to be vulnerable… I let go of my defenses. Thoughts and feelings that I had been suppressing could rise to the surface where I could feel them and acknowledge them. Sort of like a Jungian sand tray for musicians.”

In the last two months, I produced two instructional downloads for exotic B11 tunings (the Wizard and the Four Winds). Plans for the next one were put on hold because I was busy creating the long-awaited Sansula download for the standard sansula tuning which we are proud to present elsewhere in this very newsletter.

So, that’s what’s been happening at Kalimba Magic regarding the B11 tunings and the latest Sansula effort. And I almost forgot to tell you: These exotic tunings are also available on the B11/Melody Sansula, also featured in this newsletter!

Touring the versatile Four Winds tuning. Listen to each of the four tunings during this video. The B11 Four Winds has an instructional download. I love the strength, clarity and diversity of this tuning.

The B11 Wizard tuning demonstrating its mysterious and haunting moves. An instructional download is also available for this tuning.

The Dajari F B11 tuning (coming soon) showing its sweet and fun side. Bright and shiny!

The B11 Melody = Standard G tuning – which is itself a very capable tuning.

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