Kalimba Pratcice Tips from the Alto Fundamentals Download

We are looking for a spirit that transcends paper and ink.

These kalimba practice tips are from my old 2006 book “Kalimba Fundamentals for the Alto Kalimba.” I recently upgraded it to also be available as a PDF download.

I play a dozen different musical instruments, and playing the kalimba is quite different from any other. The kalimba stretches your mind in two directions at once!

These tips will help you get the most out of your kalimba practice, no matter what kalimba you play.

* Try walking while playing. If you do, always try to walk in time with the beat of the music. Let your walk be a representation of the music, and the music be a reflection of your bodies motion. Let your walk be a steady beat that supports the music, so that your thumbs’ notes may float more above that support.

* Relax! You are training your mind and body to do something amazing, and it will work better if you are relaxed. You may want to begin your practice with a moment of meditation. Certainly, if you are frustrated with something you are working on, take a break.

* Get in touch with your emotional spiritual side. Be open to amazing things happening to you. Let the kalimba teach you and transform you.

* Take the exercises as slowly as you need to.

* Have you ever looked at one of those stereo graphic projections and just not seen anything, and then all of a sudden you look at it just right and something pops out? That is what we are looking for in many of these exercises, a three dimensional form popping out of two dimensional notation. We are looking for a spirit that transcends paper and ink.

* After you can play through the tablature, try to get away from the tablature. As much as possible, try to play the exercises and songs from memory. If you can imagine in your mind’s eye, your left and right thumbs plucking the appropriate tines, this is almost as good as practicing.

* It is not easy to look at the tablature and to look at your kalimba at the same time. You may have to take the music just one or two measures at a time. Alternatively, you could learn to play without looking at your kalimba, but just looking at the tablature. If you are trying to do that, pay more attention to how far each thumb needs to jump to get to the next tine it needs to play.

* Don’t be afraid of mistakes. The kalimba is laid out so a mistake made by plucking the wrong tine, but on the correct side, will usually sound almost as good as the intended note. If you like the way a mistake sounded, remember it and do it again!

* When you get to the end of the exercise, repeat it. Make it into a seamless loop, and notice how the exercise changes as you become more comfortable with it. Don’t just stop after you play the riff correctly for the second or third time. Rather, once you get the notes, keep taking the ride, for there are more lessons those notes have for you. You need to really let them soak in to get those lessons.

* The written exercises are just starting points. Experiment with leaving out some of the notes. Feel free to change anything around. Make your own variations, and create great structures by traversing your variations. Build and play!

* If something doesn’t makes sense, listen to the sound recordings and see if you can figure it out… or just go on to the next exercise.

* Play every day for a minimum of 20 minutes. If you are truly inspired with joy and excitement, play longer.
* Many exercises can be shifted in pitch by starting them on a higher or lower time but on the same side. Try it and see if you like it. Many exercises can be shifted in pitch by reflecting each note to the opposite side of the kalimba from what they were originally written on. Again try it and see what it sounds like.

* Try to tell secret stories within your music.

* Make friends with the notes.

* Whatever you want to convey in your music, hold that feeling or thought in your heart while you play, and imagine that the feeling is being broadcast through your music.

Here are a few more Kalimba Practice tips:

Practice TIP: Make it Fun!

Practice TIP: Structure vs Play – 1

Practice TIP: Explore The Notes That Aren’t There

TIP: Playing the Alto Kalimba – Easy Alto

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