TIP: Exploring Sansula Tunings – p9 – The Heavenly A Tuning

From the Heavenly A Sansula Song Book

The Heavenly A Sansula Song Book

The Heavenly A Sansula tuning is Rick Tarquinio’s answer to my Beautiful E Tuning.  True to its name, the Heavenly A Sansula is quite lovely.  Not only is this a good tuning in which to improvise, but this tuning actually supports a great many songs.

The song in this lesson is “Sadza Madya Here”, a traditional African piece for the karimba, but it sounds great on the sansula as well.

Even if you never move an inch toward learning this song, learn this song’s techniques.  You can hear it on the media player below.

The first lesson: measures 1-12 are dominated by dyads – two note chords – played with one note on the left and one note on the right.  This sounds strong and full.

Lesson 2: see how the third chord in measure 1 is made of G# and C#?  This presents a bit of a problem, as both of those notes are on the left side of the sansula.  One way to do it is to reach your right thumb across a bit to the left side to pluck the G#.  Another way is to play both the C# and the G# with your left thumb – though a small thumb would make that difficult.  There are several spots in this music that require a thumb to cross over or for a thumb to play two notes on the same side.

Lesson 3: look at Variation 3, measures 13 – 16.  The rhythm and texture of this variation are totally different than the first three sections.  This section uses a single note, syncopated melody line.  However, look back to the notes used in the first section, measures 1-4.   While the correspondence isn’t exact, you can trace out the same notes snaking through the first phrase (measures 1-4) as you can in this very different variation (measures 13-16).  That is the fundamental rule to this type of traditional African music – you can create diverse variations in the music, but each variation must be true to the underlying chord progression, which does not change.  The rhythms of the different variations are also consistent in some way.

It is my feeling that when you play or listen to this kind of African karimba music, it is almost impossible to be anything but happy.

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