13 January 2016

Introducing the Hang-9 Kalimba

Written by Mark Holdaway, Posted in News and Announcements

Exploring the wide collection of handpan tunings on a simple kalimba

Introducing the Hang-9 Kalimba
The Hang-9 kalimba on a Halo handpan

The handpan drums such as the Hang and the Halo are very magical instruments, in large part because of the really cool tunings they come in.   However, they have certain drawbacks - the multi-thousand dollar price tag, the waiting lists, and their inability to change tunings come to mind.

The Hang-9 is a brand new kalimba offered only by Kalimba Magic that encapsulates the tunings and note layouts of the handpan drums in an inexpensive kalimba that can be retuned to any of the tunings. The Hang-9 was given this name because it has 9 notes which are based on the tunings of the Hang drum and other handpan drums. Continue on to hear what the Hang-9 sounds like.

The Hang-9 Kalimba started out life as a Catania 8-Note, but we have modified it by adding an extra tine, painting four of the tines, and retuning it to one of the handpan tunings - tunings popular on the Hang Drum, the Halo, or other handpans.

The handpan and Hang-9 notes map
into each other perfectly. If you were to cut
the handpan along the dotted line and
spread it out, its note layout would look just like
the kalimba's. 

We have nine notes instead of eight because there are several handpan scales that want nine notes.  The diagram to the left indicates how the Hang-9 tines map into the handpan notes.  Often the Hang-9 kalimba notes will be an octave higher than the handpan notes.  

The close correspondence between Hang-9 and handpan notes has several interesting implications:

  • You can play the same melodies and harmonies on a $50 Hang-9 as you can on a $2000 handpan.
  • Once your handpan is in a tuning, it is never going to be in any other tuning, but the Hang-9 can change tunings fairly easily. You can change among several tunings on the Hang-9 to find out which tuning you really want for an eventual handpan purchase.
  • If you cannot afford a handpan purchase, you can get some of the feel for the music it makes by playing an inexpensive Hang-9 in one or more of the handpan tunings.
  • If you have a handpan, you can get a Hang-9 kalimba tuned to the same scale and have a friend play one while you play the other. You can even look at each other's instrument and because of the visual mapping of the notes, you can actually see what notes they are playing and you can play along.
  • And finally, you can actually use the kalimba tablature to read off music for the handpan.


Hang-9 Tuning Examples, played on the (no longer available) Catania kalimba

Hang-9 Tuning Examples, played on the (no longer available) Catania kalimba

Halo Drum and Kalimba Duet! Many thanks to Serena Gabriel who played the Golden Gate Halo drum while I played the Hang-9 kalimba in Golden Gate tuning.

The Golden Gate is a bright-sounding Halo tuning.

This is my own tuning, based on the mixolydian mode and the Grateful Dead song "Fire on the Mountain".

Thomas Bothe makes kalimbas with two levels of tines; the lower level of tines plays one chord or space, and the upper level plays another chord or space. This Hang-9 tuning reproduces just the lower level of tines, making this kalimba a very peaceful place. You can't do a lot with this tuning, but then again, you don't have to. Enjoy the magic!

Ake Bono, an ancient Japanese scale, is always a great choice.

Silverado is a very uplifting tuning - wonderful to play.

This tuning feels like a flower opening up - magical and positive!

Between the dark and the light, a mystical-sounding mixture of minor and major.


About the Author

Mark Holdaway

Mark Holdaway

Mark Holdaway has been playing kalimba for over 30 years.  He invented his kalimba tablature in 2004, and has been writing books and instructional materials for kalimba ever since.  His business, Kalimba Magic, is based on the simple proposition that the kalimba is a real musical instrument capable of greatness.  Mark's kalimba books are a down payment on this proposition.

Comments (5)

  • Chewy


    22 January 2016 at 02:46 |
    Hi mark do you have a d minor tuning as I have a Bali steel pan in d minor. Cheers, chewy


  • dan smith

    dan smith

    23 January 2016 at 22:38 |
    Hey Mark, I love your Kalimba magic site !!! Have you ever heard a kalimba song done by Taj Mahal on his Recycling The Blues album. Id like to see if you know the tuning. Seems Ive heard similar tunings on your site . Thanks , Dan


  • Jonas Bergmansson

    Jonas Bergmansson

    11 February 2016 at 03:20 |
    What a great idea to connect the worlds of handpan and Kalimba! They sort of resemble each other in timbre too.

    But did you know though Mark, that the handpan makers, especially PanArt, really dislike their instruments being labeled as "drums"?


  • sam maeva

    sam maeva

    13 September 2016 at 02:59 |
    Awesome blog Mark! I've started a Hang Drum Blog and would love it if you could spread the love!Cheers!Sam



  • LoveHangDrum


    17 September 2016 at 17:14 |
    The original makers insist that the title of the instrument be Hang for their brand of hand pan. While the term Hang Drum is commonly used verbally, in writing it is most proper to refer to instruments made by the company Pan Art as simply “hang” and all others as “hand pans”.


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