I love this karimba design for fast Celtic jigs and reels
Over the years, I’ve had about a dozen people specifically request a kalimba in the key of D for Celtic music. (To be sure, not all Celtic music is in D, but quite a bit of it is in this key.) In the past, I would end up pointing inquirers to the D Treble kalimba. But this isn’t the most desirable solution either.
While the D Treble is a fine kalimba, the tines are close together and if you have large hands, you might not like to play on this one. Additionally, Celtic music tends to be very fast, and if (big fingers or not) you try to play a kalimba with very close tines quickly, you might get frustrated. I am speaking from experience here.
So, here is a new design for this specific purpose. I enjoy playing Celtic music on this kalimba… you might like it too!
The Celtic D tuning is shown here. In addition to a full two octaves of the D major scale, it also has the leading tone – C# – in the bass (careful, don’t use this lowest note blindly, as it is not the root) and the 2nd E above the top root note. These aid in turnarounds.
Even though it seems this is a “left handed” kalimba – that is, the lowest note, C#, belongs to the left thumb, followed by D on the right thumb – you rarely will use that low C#. The next note, D, does belong to the right thumb, so it will look and feel like a right handed kalimba.
Another handy feature is that the lower octave notes, or the lower row (neglecting the low C#), have the same note layout as an 8-note kalimba – that is, if you are not yet ready to tackle the upper row notes, or if you want to give this kalimba to a child, you can actually use the “Best Ever Book of 8-Note Kalimba Music” to get you going.
Even though the upper row of tines doubles back toward the center (unlike the Alto, Bb Treble, or D Treble), most things that you can play on the Alto can also be played on this kalimba. The translation from Alto Kalimba to Celtic D Karimba is not trivial, but it is possible – meaning there are thousands of songs waiting for you on this instrument, should you choose to dive in.
The jig “Road to Lisdoonvarna” is the song that plays when you open this article and is in the video at the bottom of this page. It is written out here in tablature. The upper (bent) tines are represented by gray columns, the straight lower tines are represented by white columns:
By the way, this song is not in D major, but is in E dorian mode, a minor-sounding scale. This D Major karimba also plays in B natural minor, E dorian mode, and A mixolydian mode.