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Mark Holdaway

TIP: A Karimba Improvisational Strategy Part 4

Mixing it up on the left side Mixing it up on the left While the three lower right notes sound great together (the C#, B, and A from the previous tip), the best is when you can create melodies using both the lower row notes and the upper row notes. Notice the pattern here – the first note of each measure is changing, but that changing note is answered by an unchanging two note phrase. The long range plan in this series: the right thumb will play something low, strong, and supportive while the left thumb plays a dancing melody. Ultimately, I’d like you to be able to improvise on

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Blog
Mark Holdaway

TIP: A Karimba Improvisational Strategy Part 5

The third intervals Exploring the third intervals This is an exercise which uses every “third” interval (some are major thirds, some are minor thirds, but that is not our focus right now) in the lower row tines. They sound great and there are a lot of them. At measure 4, make sure that you start on the correct two notes, as you can start out incorrectly but it still sounds right. In measures 1 and 2, try playing the two indicated notes with the right thumb and right index finger. The long range plan in this series: the right thumb will play something low, strong, and supportive while the left

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Mark Holdaway

TIP: A Karimba Improvisational Strategy Part 2

Giving the left thumb some good ideas – an arpeggio Up and down the A major arpeggio This exercise reduces the notes further and only plays the notes in the A major arpeggio. These will often be the most important notes for the left thumb, as they trace out the A major chord. The long range plan in this series: the right thumb will play something low, strong, and supportive while the left thumb plays a dancing melody. Ultimately, I’d like you to be able to improvise on the left side. This exercise lays the foundation for the left thumb dancing.        

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Mark Holdaway

TIP: A Karimba Improvisational Strategy Part 3

Scale fragment on the left thumb Using scale segments I find that there is a lot of African music that can be played in small scale fragments with just three notes. There are a lot of permutations you can make with these three notes. Let symmetry be your first guide, and let your ear be the second guide. A visually symmetric pattern often sounds great, but your ear is the final judge. The long range plan in this series: the right thumb will play something low, strong, and supportive while the left thumb plays a dancing melody. Ultimately, I’d like you to be able to improvise on the left side.

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Blog
Mark Holdaway

TIP: A Karimba Improvisational Strategy Part 1

An Overview of a 13 Part Series of Tips for the African-Tuned Karimba Up and down the pentatonic scale Most karimba music gets two or more different musical lines going at once. Keeping these two different musical lines going is a bit like juggling. Sometimes each thumb takes on a separate musical line, and sometimes the thumbs take on both themes, with one or two musical lines bouncing back and forth between the two thumbs. In this series of tips, I show you a very simple way of thinking about the karimba that will give you access to some basic improvisational skills. For this purpose, we are going to approach

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Mark Holdaway

TIP: Exploring Exotic Pentatonic Tunings – p11

Is this the end, or the beginning? This series of tips is a bit different from what I have done in the past. I suppose there are many ways to think about the notes on a kalimba. I am usually very focused on the details of exactly which notes to play and when to play them. The series of tips that is just ending represents a higher level view, yet is still technical in nature. While this way of looking at music will not instruct you to play any one song, it could transform your entire understanding of music and strengthen every song you play from now on. I hope

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Blog
Mark Holdaway

TIP: Exploring Exotic Pentatonic Tunings – p10

Looking at the other notes on the G minor Pentatonic Here is an interesting constellation of facts: when you make a given interval minor, that means you flatten it by a half step.  However, because of the details of where some notes have been removed from the pentatonic scale, when you go from the major pentatonic scale to the minor pentatonic scale, you need to raise the pitch of three notes. Which three notes have to be raised to make the minor pentatonic scale? The three notes that are not the “1” and the “5”! Remember, the “1” and the “5” notes usually define the key.  They are the ones that

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Mark Holdaway

TIP: Exploring Exotic Pentatonic Tunings – p9

Looking at the other notes on the G Ake Bono Tuning The F7 Bebey and the G minor Pentatonic scales are made up of intervals of two or three half steps (two half steps is a whole step, and three half steps is also known as a minor 3rd).  The Ake Bono tuning is very strange in that it has two intervals that are only a half step, and also one interval between adjacent notes in the scale that is two whole steps. The intervals in this scale are both closer and farther apart than the intervals on the other scales. The Ake Bono scale starts as 1 2 3-, or

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Blog
Mark Holdaway

TIP: Exploring Exotic Pentatonic Tunings – p8

Looking at the other notes on the F7 Bebey Tuning In the previous tip, we stated that the “5” and the “1” form the backbone of the music, and the other notes of the scale provide different spices.  Let’s look at what those spices are. I should note that the way people understand harmonies changes over time and culture.  Early European music listeners in the 13th and 14th centuries perceived the minor 3rd as being happy, and the major 3rd being sad.  Most western listeners today – and I would assert at this point, most global listeners – now hear the minor 3rd as being mysterious or melancholy, while the

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