13 April 2016

New Tip Series for Three Exotic Pentatonic Tunings

Written by Mark Holdaway, Posted in News and Announcements

How to understand a new tuning, and how to make sense of the tuning charts

The pentatonic scales have a great power, related to the fact that playing them does not require as much thought as other scales demand. They have fewer notes, and they are simpler instruments, both physically (with more space between adjacent tines) and intellectually. However, there are some important basic things that you should know about pentatonic scales, and these little bits of wisdom are applicable to almost any scale at all.

In other words, learn the lessons these simple scales have to teach, and you can take those lessons to any kalimba and any tuning you want.


This series of tips focuses on the tunings and music of three different exotic pentatonic kalimba tunings: the F7 Bebey tuning, the G Ake Bono tuning, and the straight G minor pentatonic tuning. I have recently produced videos on YouTube with each of these kalimba tunings. Most of these tips point out something important about each of these tunings; if the student then watches the associated video it can help cement their understanding of the tip.

You have probably seen the tuning charts that we provide with almost all of our kalimbas. On the charts that we produce, we include both the note name (letter) and the note number, which indicates the degree of the scale. This series of tips will educate you about how to use the number system with any kalimba.

And why would you want to know? I think this stuff is most useful as a conceptual framework to inform your improvisation. In other words, if you want to improvise better (or write better music), this is a good place to start.

Tip series on Exotic Pentatonic Tunings

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.