Here is the long story:
Hokema made lovely Sansulas with out-of-this-world level wah-wah special effects… but they only had 9 notes. Atmospheric, but not able to play a lot of real music.
Then came the B17 – a larger sold-body kalimba with extra space between the tines, and sweet sound and sweet hardware. This plays the same body of songs as the common 17-Note Kalimba in C… but with better high notes and more space between the tines. The downside? To get that extra space between the tines, the B17 was really big, and not so easy to hold.
After this came the B15 kalimba – a significantly smaller solid wood body with two rows of tines – 7 wider lower row tines, and 8 narrow upper row tines. The B15 is much easier to hold than the wider B17.
Now, built on the same smaller body as the B15, is the B17 Mini. The B17 Mini has the same tines and notes as the larger B17… but with much less space in between the tines. In fact, the spacing between the tines on the B17 Mini is about the same as the standard sized 17-Note Kalimbas in C. And of course, it plays the standard body of 17-Note C kalimba music.
Now – why would you want the tines to be closer?
You can play faster. The glissando chords are easier. And if you have been playing with close tine spacing, that is just what you are used to.
And – why would you want the tines to be farther apart?
If the tines are farther apart, it is easier to pluck the tine you had intended. With more space in between the tines, it can beckon you to slow down and play more peacefully. It is easier in general I find.
Extra gaps where the screws go?
Note that the two central screws holding down the pressure bar result in extra gaps between the tines. Three ways to deal with this:
(1) Ignore this gap, and just learn where the tines are. It is easier than you might think.
(2) The tines around the gap can be modestly scooted over to make the gaps go away. The playing tips will all be similarly spaced, but not all the tines will be parallel. This is not a kalimba problem, unless it is an aesthetic problem for you.
(3) My favorite solution: get one of the two level kalimba tunings. As you can see, the larger gaps between adjacent tines on the same row result in the gaps caused by the pressure bar screws to be unnoticeable.
B17 Mini Kalimba Recast as a 17-Note Karimba
Here, I show you what Kalimba Magic can do with these kalimbas – turn them into karimbas!
Says customer Jon N. about his Am Karimba tuning on his Hokema B17 Mini:
“Hokema Karimba Magic!!! Thanks Mark – a beautiful instrument for improvisation. I really like the way you bend the upper register tines. For me, the spacing gap between the tines is perfect!”
And while we are here, also check out the B15, which has the same body as the B17 Mini: