A New Painting Option for the 17-Note Kalimba in C

Two Different Colors lets you take instruction from two different sources

Learn more about Kalimba Tablature

Why are some tines painted? Mainly to help you keep track of where you are on the instrument… but also to assist you in transferring notes from kalimba tablature to the kalimba.

There are now two different systems for painting the 17-Note kalimba in C. The Chinese system paints 5 tines, including the central tine. On the other hand, the Kalimba Magic system paints 6 tines.

If you want to use the Kalimba Magic instructional materials for the 17-Note kalimba in C, you need to use the Kalimba Magic painting system. If you want to use the Chinese instructional materials, you should use the Chinese painting system.

I have recommended people get their kalimbas unpainted, and they can color selected tines with Sharpie marker, which is removable, so you can change to whatever system you end up using, or even go back and forth.

And now – here is a way of painting the tines that embraces both the Chinese and Kalimba Magic systems.


First of all, why are there two systems for painting these kalimbas?

The Chinese kalimbas are near copies of the Hugh Tracey 17-Note Treble kalimba. The Chinese copied the way the Treble kalimba was painted, but not the way it was tuned. While the Chinese-painted kalimbas look just like the Treble kalimba, they are in different keys, play different music, and require different books. What a mess!

I started writing kalimba tablature 15 years ago. My tablature is tied to the way the kalimba is painted, as it uses the painted tines as guide posts. About 13 years ago, I made a generalized tine-painting system, based on the limited Hugh Tracey tine painting system.

TabExample I generalized the Hugh Tracey tine painting system in a logically consistent manner so it would work optimally with kalimbas of different keys and my tablature and my series of kalimba books. Logically, the 17-Note Kalimba in C is like the Hugh Tracey Alto kalimba, with the root note, “1,” or “Do” located on the central tine. Painting the 17-Note Kalimba in C in a way similar to the Alto kalimba, with 6 painted tines, gives you a great many advantages.

Kalimba tablature has several white columns and several shaded (or colored) columns, which represent the painted tines. (The black line in the center of the tab represents the separation between the kalimba’s left and right sides.) If your kalimba is painted the same way as the tablature implies, it makes it easy to transfer the notes from the tab to the kalimba. If your kalimba is painted in a way different from the tablature’s assumption, it can become confusing and difficult.

In the image above, and in the tablature to the left, there are 6 tines painted teal blue (the Kalimba Magic system). This will work for the Kalimba Magic books. In the image above, there are also 5 tines painted red (the Chinese system). The red tines will work for Chinese instructional materials. (The red tines would also work with the Treble Books… if you retuned to the Treble’s standard G tuning with a B in the bass… which you probably don’t want to do.)

To purchase a kalimba painted this way, with 5 tines painted in one color and 6 tines painted in another color, check the “Double Tine Painting System” box when you order your Heart-17 Kalimba. If you are particular about which colors you want, and which color you want used for the 5-tine Chinese system and which you want used for the 6-tine Kalimba Magic system, be sure to send us that info in the COMMENT field when your order your Heart-17 kalimba.

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