Great music for G minor and Ake Bono tuned 11-Note Pentatonic Kalimbas
It turns out there are dozens of possible ways to arrange the notes into a pentatonic scale. A pentatonic scale is any scale that has five unique notes per octave, a simplification over the standard seven note major scale. The pentatonic scales tend to sound raw, earthy, primitive. About 40% of the kalimbas Hugh Tracey encountered in his travels around Africa had various sorts of pentatonic scales, and Maurice White of the band Earth, Wind and Fire put his kalimba into a pentatonic scale to make it resonate more with Africa.
My take: With fewer notes, there is less potential for making mistakes on the pentatonic scale. This frees one up to play more powerfully and more emotionally.
It is pretty easy to change the tuning from one sort of pentatonic scale to another – this is something you can do yourself. You could explore all of these exotic tuning destinations on your own, with a single pentatonic kalimba.
As it happens I have transcribed onto tablature a couple of songs that I improvised on the pentatonic kalimba, each in an exotic tuning. I happen to like them both a lot! The tablature makes it very easy for you to learn them and both are available right here on this page. In addition to the tablature, the songs are also presented on video, giving you some great tools to help you learn how to play like a pro!
“Malian Blues” on pentatonic kalimba in G minor tuning
I love this song by the way. It has a strong Malian bluesy groove, and I play this song with my band (in A minor).
I have gone through this song with a fine-tooth comb, and I figured out exactly each note that I played (the video was an improvisation, but with structure in mind), and put it into tablature. The symmetry and geometrical patterns themselves are stunning, and it is worth downloading this 6-page, 56-measure PDF just to study the patterns even if you don’t own a pentatonic kalimba.
“Peaceful Mystery” on the Pentatonic kalimba in G Ake Bono tuning
I have no idea how, wandering through kalimba space, I came to these patterns that weave the soul of “Peaceful Mystery”, but I did. Now I have also documented exactly what notes were played, so that, if you have your pentatonic kalimba tuned to the Ake Bono scale, you can learn to make this music too.
This tablature is eight pages and 120 measures.
By the way, the backing tracks for these songs are also available, so when you learn to play this song on your pentatonic kalimba, you can jam along with the same music I have backing me up.
Every 8 or 16 measures in the tablature, there is a time code in the right margin corresponding to the time in the video. If you start the video at that time, you will see and hear the phrase at that point in the tablature. That time code really helps you to use the tablature and the video together.