As you know, it's hard to resist the beauty of, and the urge to make, kalimba music; that's why you're here! Over many years I have written dozens of books to help a lot of people who want to learn to play these instruments. It's an ongoing project, as each different kalimba needs its own books, and new kalimba tunings and layouts are being invented (and not just by me) all the time. It ends up being a big part of my life's calling, because nobody else in the world is creating anything like this.
But while I am deep in the recesses of KM headquarters doing this, it gets lonely and quiet and I forget sometimes about why I spend my time at it. So when I got this letter in the mail today, handwritten in pencil, I was thrilled to be reminded:
"Your kalimba tablature method is far superior to any numbers-based systems. Your method is the ONLY way I want to learn to play my kalimba!"
So although what Andrew Tracey said is true, that the best way to learn kalimba is from a teacher - you can look over his shoulder and see what he is doing, and he can correct you when you're doing it wrong, the second-best way - in the world - is right here at your fingertips, as instantly available instructional downloads. Kalimba Magic downloads are inexpensive, portable, and multifaceted - work in both visual and aural media. They are based on my simple and intuitive, yet versatile and powerful kalimba tablature that shows you exactly which tines to play, when, and for how long. And each song also has an associated sound file that lets you know what the song is supposed to sound like.
Thirteen of KM's kalimba downloads have just been improved and updated - each is now a single downloadable PDF file, complete with written instruction and tablature, and the sound files can be instantly accessed over the internet. For best results, first save the PDF to disk (your computer) rather than view it in your web browser. Downloads look and work great on Macs, PCs, iPads, and Tablets. Once you have downloaded it and are viewing it in Adobe Acrobat or in iBooks (on Macs), click on a song's title, and your web browser will open a new window and start playing that MP3 file.
My editor, Sara Edelman, is learning the 10-note kalimba now from a new download (to be released soon), and she is overjoyed to be able to toggle from the tablature page to the window where that page's song or exercise is playing for her to compare her work to how it's supposed to sound. She says she loves being able to practice as long as she likes, and then listen as briefly or as long as she chooses to the MP3 file to check her timing, phrasing, and note positioning.
Below, I present these 13 reworked kalimba downloads, with a short description and a single example song that comes from the download.
Karimba songs, short and long, from both early field work (A.M. Jones, Hugh Tracey, Andrew Tracey, Paul F. Berliner) and modern recordings. Both 2-phrase karimba music and 4-phrase mbira music. 72 pages / 32 songs.
This book teaches kalimba through three different modalities: (1) Games and fun activities that permit the student to explore the structure of the kalimba and music on their own. (2) A numbers-based tablature system that teaches well-known songs with numbers above the words; the numbers are marked on the kalimba tines. (3) The full kalimba tablature system that is used in the other books.
In other words, if you really know nothing about music, or if you have found the tablature in the other download books is too difficult for you right now, start here for success. 32 pages, downloadable MP3s.
This ebook explores what the 10-Note Kalimba is - the kinds of music and patterns you can do with it. It has a few scales, a few chords, a few songs you know, a few songs you don't know, several challenging exercises to get your left and right thumbs working together, and a bunch of cool patterns that are both remarkably easy and really good sounding. 58 pages, with downloadable MP3s, formatted for tablet computers.
It just so happens that the 10-Note Kalimba can play a lot of traditional African music. You get the full repertoire of the student karimba (ie, Andrew Tracey's hypothesized original mbira). Additionally, a few of the easier mbira songs can be further simplified to fit convincingly on this tiny monster of a kalimba.
These songs will challenge your concept of music and your concept of African music. These songs will break you out of the complacency of twiddling your thumbs in simple alternating left-right patterns. And these songs will blow your mind and introduce you to the melodic, harmonic, and rhythmic genius of the African mind of 1000 years ago.
The Freygish-tuned Karimba plays delightful songs, mostly in C harmonic minor. This instrument brings alive baroque melodies and harmonies, romantic music box waltzes, fiery Middle-Eastern music, and hot Latino cumbia - nostalgic, sensual, mysterious and sweet. This kalimba plays unique music that is not played by any other. Utterly charming. 69 pages / 54 songs.
The B11 is a nifty Hokema kalimba - with two more notes than the B9 Sansula, it is harmonically more capable, and tuned to a major key. Its mood is fundamentally different than the Sansula. Beginner through advanced. 74 pages / 64 songs.
Made in America, the Afroharp was a brief historic competitor to the Hugh Tracey Kalimba, but it went extinct, manufactured last in the 1970's. Now I put the original Afroharp tuning on the Hugh Tracey Alto Kalimba. Whichever instrument you have, this is the only instructional material for Afroharp tuning in the world. 47 pages / 41 songs.
The Beautiful E tuning was my first alternative Sansula tuning that totally broke out of the melancholy Sansula feeling. Joyful and energetic, I love this music, and hope you will too! 49 pages / 33 songs.
The 8-Note kalimba is a great instrument to start on, but lets face it: you can only play "Twinkle Twinkle Little Star" and "Joy to the World" so many times before you want something different. This mystical C minor tuning is just that. 28 pages / 20 songs.
Are you mystified by, and intimidated by, kalimba tablature? Do you feel you are starting from square one? This download gently leads you by the hand and helps you make friends with your Alto Kalimba. 53 pages / 47 songs.
The second most common tuning for the usually-major Alto Kalimba is G minor. An exploration of what the key of G minor brings to your Alto. (You can retune the Alto to G minor by moving 6 tines down by a half step - a few minutes of work.) Perfect if you are looking for new inspiration. 33 pages / 29 songs.
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.