TIP: Alto Kalimba Riff #1

Free Tablature to help you play the music in this YouTube video on your Alto Kalimba

Click to download the PDF tablature for this exercise

When you look at a kalimba, you see a tiny, unassuming instrument. But if the possibilities of the kalimba are considered all at once, they can boggle the mind. An easy way to reduce the overwhelm when starting to learn something new is to pare down the number of tines you use, making the kalimba into a simpler instrument.


If your Alto kalimba only had six notes rather than fifteen, it would be much easier, right?  This video will teach a very useful trick – temporarily marking a few notes on each side of your Alto Kalimba with a Sharpie marker to help you learn parts of a song.  By drawing your attention, it becomes easy to move your fingers to the tines that have the marks on them.  The riff (or repeated melodic phrase) we study here uses marked tines.

Sounds simple, right?  And it turns out you can make some really cool music with just a few notes!

There is a variety of ways to approach this. You can sit down with your Alto kalimba in hand and learn from the video below, ignoring the tablature provided in the following links. You should be able to follow the video. It does get faster toward the end when I “cut loose” a bit.

Or you could choose to approach this song in a more systematic manner. In the buttons/links below, you’ll find tablature that gives a few exercises to help you learn this song. In addition, there is tablature for each of the four phrases (which I refer to as “parts” in the video). These are all bite-sized chunks that, with patient repetition, you can actually accomplish in one sitting. Each button’s title shows the time location in the video that applies to that particular tablature section.

If you are already accomplished with reading and using tablature, you might just decide to begin with the tablature for the full riff (at the bottom of the list).

If you’re not sure what to do, just start with the video, and if there is something in the video that you aren’t getting, you can download the tablature for that section of the video.

Exercise 1 – at 0:40 – Right Hand Only – full song

First Phrase, partial – at 2:00 in the video

The First Phrase – at 1:38 in the video

The Second Phrase – at 3:02 in the video

The Third Phrase – at 4:05 in the video

The Fourth Phrase – at 4:55 in the video

The Full Riff in tablature – at 5:48 in the video

The chord progression that underlies this riff is | G | D | C | D |, and the full progression is illustrated beginning at 5:30 in the video. The first phrase is in G, the second is in D, the third is in C, and the fourth phrase is in D. Each of these phrases will be dominated by the notes in the chord that the phrase is based in. So, each phrase uses just a few notes, and as you go from one phrase to another, these notes change to match the changing chords. Earlier in the video, I demonstrate which tines to mark before it shows me playing each phrase with those marked tines.

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