What About the 21-Note Kalimba?

The 21-Note Kalimba can use all the 17-Note/C Books.

Several Chinese companies have been making pretty good 17-note kalimbas lately. They are roughly copies of the Hugh Tracey Treble Kalimba, but are tuned to the key of C. I paint my 17-Note Kalimbas in C differently than suggested by the Chinese, so that the kalimba is consistent with my library of tablature.

More recently, there have been some 21-Note Kalimbas made. This post shows you how at least some of these kalimbas are tuned, and how you might paint them so that you can use Kalimba Magic materials to learn to play.


How to Tune and Paint a 21-Note Kalimba to use Kalimba magic materials.

The key thing to realize is that the low note of the 21-Note Kalimba (F) is not the root note (C).

Of course, I am glossing over the fact that I don’t (yet) have any instructional materials created specifically for the 21-Note kalimba.

There will be suggestions of different ways to paint the 21-Note Kalimba… however, if you color the tines as indicated here, you will be able to draw upon a wide body of materials for the 17-Note Kalimba in C.

The 21-Note Kalimba reads “17-Note in C” materials by ignoring the bottom four tines.

The 21-Note Kalimba has four extra low notes for harmonies.

You can start out by pretending that you only have 17 notes – for example, cut a sticky note to be wide enough to just cover the central four tines. When covered with the sticky note, the new lowest note will be “C” to the right of center, and then “D” on the left. The sticky note is like training wheels – remove when no longer helpful.

You are now all set up to use any of the books or instructional downloads available for the 17-Note Kalimba in C.

But, how will you use the lower notes of your 21-Note kalimba? Here are three ideas:

  1. The extra notes add low bass notes to chords… but usually not the C chord. As you learn some 17-note songs, remove the sticky note so you can access all of the tines. Look for places in the music that have a G chord (ie, the notes G, B, D). When you find a place with a G chord, you can also try playing the low G on the left of center, or even the low G, B, and D on the left of center. Similarly, when an F chord is being played, with notes F, A, C… you can add F or any of those three notes on the lower tines on the right side of center.
  2. Retune to the key of F. Another approach to the 21-Note Kalimba is to tune the three “B” tines to “Bb”. Now, the low note (F) is the root note. You will be able to use any book or download for the Alto or 17-Note Kalimba in C – these have the root note on the low tine. However, you will want to paint the tines differently: central F is not painted, then paint the central G and A tines… skip two tines on both sides, then paint the middle F and G… skip two more tines on both sides, then paint the middle E on the left and the high F on the right… skip two tines on both sides, then paint the high tines, D on the left and E on the right. Then alto tablature will instruct for the lower 15/21 tines, and 17/C tablature will instruct for the lower 17/21 tines.
  3. Wait a few months, I’ll write a guide. Sometime this year, I will come out with a short download that shows you, in detail, exactly how to utilize these lower tines in the 21-Note kalimba.

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