The short answer: the D Treble Kalimba, modified from the Hugh Tracey Treble Kalimba, is modeled after the Alto Kalimba, and it “reads” Alto Tablature. Get an Alto Book or Download, and it will work for this kalimba.
What do you notice about the kalimba above? The richly grained kiaat wood is an exceptional example of the Hugh Tracey Treble Kalimba. It has a 1/4 inch jack and a pickup. And look at the painted tines – the far left and right tines are painted, and three unpainted tines congregate at the low central tines… and one of those tines has a dot on it! Why?
Whats up with this tine layout? To understand this, you need to understand one single fact: I have made the 15-note, two octave, G tuned Alto Kalimba the standard setup, and I make other kalimbas – such as this 17-Note D Treble Kalimba – relative to the Alto.
Compare the tunings of the Alto and the D Treble
Understanding the Alto Tuning
The kalimba diagram with blue tines represents the tuning of an Alto Kalimba. First, notice that the Alto tuning, with 15 tines, covers exactly two octaves, from one G in the center, to a higher G in the middle of the left, to the top note on the right is also G. G is also a special note, because the presence of just the F# makes these notes be in the key of G. Hence, G is not only the lowest note, it is also the Root Note or the Key Note. In terms of “Do Re Me”, it is the “Do”. In terms of the degrees of the scale (that is, the numbers on the diagram), it is the “1”.
I have marked every “1” tine on these diagrams with a black dot. But on the Alto, we don’t need actually those dots. Why? Because G = 1 is the lowest, longest central note. If you ever got confused about that, it is also squeezed in between two painted tines, like no other note on the Alto kalimba. The next G up on the left side is a painted tine, and the top G on the right is also a painted tine.
This is really great, because if you are ever lost, going back to the “1” note is like landing on home bass – it is often a safe note. And they are so easy to find on the Alto kalimba in its setup.
Understanding the D Treble Tuning
Basically, the D Treble is mimicking the G Alto kalimba.Instead of looking at the note LETTERS, look at the note NUMBERS. Look at where the painted tines are, and look at the dots on the “1” tines. The arrows indicate the very tight correspondence between the two kalimba’s notes.
Anything you can play on the Alto kalimba – any song, scale, or pattern – can be reproduced on the D Treble kalimba. You play with the same thumb strokes, using the painted tines as your guides. When you play on the D Treble, it will sound a 5th higher though. This means that the D Treble can “read” any Alto tablature. However, if you have a sound recording of the Alto kalimba playing the tablature, as it is pitched differently than the D Treble, you cannot “play along” with the recording. Rather, play the recording while following the tablature with your eyes, and moving your thumbs accordingly, but without playing the kalimba. When the recording stops, reset your mind. Singing “Do Re Mi Fa So” will take you from G to D, for example. Then start playing the same music on your D Treble.
What About The Two Extra Notes on the Treble?
One important difference: the Treble kalimba has two more notes than the Alto kalimba, and we stuck those two tines right in the middle of the kalimba, B and C#. What to make of these notes? First, B is the relative minor of D. If you try to play in the key of B, you will be in the natural minor, which is a great place to be. In other words, your “D Treble Kalimba” doubles as a “B Minor Kalimba” for free.
But if you are reading Alto tablature, it only covers 15 tines. It does not cover those two lower tines, 6 and 7, or B and C#. Reading Alto tablature onto a D Treble, you need to “forget” about the two lowest notes. A first step is to put a “dot” on the low D tine, like a target. Use a Sharpee marker – they wear off, but you can reapply as long as you need that. That dotted note is the root note, remember to aim for there. If you need more help, a “training wheel” approach would be to cut out a little bit of sticky note and cover them up so you cannot play them. I have also scooted the two tines over so they are temporarily touching, reminding me not to play them.
There Are More Books for the Alto than Any Other Kalimba
OK, at some point, this statement won’t be true any more. Other people are writing books for kalimbas. Soon, there will be more instructional materials for the “17-Note Kalimba in C” than for any other kalimba. But Kalimba Magic offers 18 hard copy books and instructional downloads, which is quite a bit.
There Are No Books Just for the D Treble Kalimba
Sorry – but you don’t really need them, because you have access to the Alto Library.
How To Get a D Treble Kalimba?
You can make a D Treble from any 17-note kalimba – simply tune and paint according to the tuning chart above.
Or, you can get a Hugh Tracey D Treble Kalimba, set up by Kalimba Magic, the people who invented this setup!
Here is the Hugh Tracey D Treble Kalimba + PU.
By the way, the D Treble does not need to stay in D. We can tune it up or down by as much as a step in a half. We can ship a D Treble in the keys of C, C#, D, D#, E, or F.
And the D Treble is part of the Matched Pair Alto + Treble Kalimbas.
This shows the “Matched Pair” – and Alto tuned down to F, and a D Treble tuned up to F, making them an octave apart.