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Mark Holdaway

Rests in Kalimba Tablature

What? Those squiggly lines are supposed to mean something? There are going to be some really great kalimba players in the next 2-10 years. A lot of kids are getting into the kalimba, and some of them will study, and go off and work on kalimba on their own, and invent their own style, and then reappear on the world stage as master kalimba players. Cool! Go for it! One budding young kalimba player has been avidly tearing up all of the instructional material we sell for the 17-Note kalimba in C… but when she didn’t understand what those squiggly lines meant, we heard from her about it. Those squiggles are called “rests.”

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Mark Holdaway

Mark’s Rule of Thumb

OK – at the same time, play one note with your left thumb, and one with your right – and I’ll show you how to make that sound great every time The kalimba is fundamentally a polyphonic instrument – meaning it plays multiple notes at the same time. It does have more limitations in its ability to play multiple notes than, say, piano or guitar. But those limitations on the kalimba also make it very easy to make some very pretty music  – for example, any two adjacent notes on one side will always harmonize. Three adjacent notes will always make some sort of triad, a sweet three-note chord. But what

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Mark Holdaway

Chords on the 17-Note Kalimba in C

And how to play melodies above them. This recipe works for any diatonic kalimba with alternating note layout In an article I wrote earlier this month, I said that every non-traditional kalimba in the world owes its existence to Hugh Tracey. (Of course, they also owe their existence to the hundreds and thousands of people in Africa who pioneered and played the karimba, mbira and related instruments over the last 1000 years.) But most non-traditional kalimbas are copies of the Hugh Tracey kalimba’s design and note arrangement. That note arrangement makes it particularly easy to create melodies high up on the instrument, and simultaneously to produce good chords low down

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Blog
Mark Holdaway

Instructional Resources for the Alto Kalimba

There are more books, ebooks, and instructional downloads for the Alto than any other kalimba, and they’re all here in this post! The Alto kalimba has been my favorite kalimba for over 30 years (though I do get infatuated with other kalimbas from time to time, I always come back to the Alto). As such, I have written more books and instructional downloads for the Alto kalimba than for any other kalimba. With so many books to help you on the way, this makes the Alto kalimba a great choice for you. There are so many reasons why the Alto kalimba is an excellent one to play. If you have

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Blog
Mark Holdaway

Instructional Resources for the Pentatonic Kalimba

This kalimba is great for everyone, beginner to pro! One thing that was clear after Hugh Tracey’s decades of research into the many types of traditional kalimbas in Africa was that a large proportion of them – about 40% – were in pentatonic tunings. This is one of the reasons why Hugh Tracey kalimbas are available in several pentatonic models. What’s so great about the pentatonic scale? Well, with fewer notes (just five per octave), it is conceptually simple, for one. And the Hugh Tracey kalimbas carry that simplicity through to make it physically simpler to play – with larger gaps between the tines, it is easier to play the tine you intended

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Blog
Mark Holdaway

My Story of Hugh Tracey

He understood the potential loss of traditional African music to the encroachment of the west, and worked his whole life to preserve it Hugh Tracey is a complex and important historical figure in the contemporary kalimba world. I should start by stating my relationship to Hugh Tracey: for the last 33 years, I have played instruments he designed, and for about half that time I have made most of my living by selling Hugh Tracey kalimbas. So I might be a little prejudiced, but Hugh Tracey’s work was clearly pivotal in the trajectory of modern lamellaphones. Hugh Tracey, a white European man, cherished traditional African music and made it his life’s

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Mark Holdaway

Instructional Resources for the Treble Kalimba

It was the original hugh tracey kalimba The Treble kalimba maintains a special place in the history of the kalimba: when Hugh Tracey began to market his new invention in the early 1950s, it was the 17-Note Treble kalimba. The Alto kalimba started selling in the 1960s. The Pentatonic kalimba came in the 1970s as an answer to Earth, Wind and Fire, and the African-tuned Karimba came around 1980, fulfilling Andrew Tracey’s dream to popularize this traditional African instrument.  But the Hugh Tracey Treble was THE original Hugh Tracey kalimba.   Kalimba Magic also offers Treble kalimbas in the keys of Bb and D. These are my own modifications of

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Mark Holdaway

Instructional Resources for the African Karimba (mbira nyunga nyunga)

We have resources for the 17-Note Karimba in the key of A, the 15-Note in F (mbira nyunga nyunga), and Student Karimba All of the instruments in the karimba family are very closely related, in fact Andrew Tracey hypothesizes that they all possess the original mbira tuning from 1300 years ago when the first metal-tined instruments were made. The 8-Note version may actually be the exact replica of the original mbira. Jege Tapera played a 13-note version. It was copied and key-shifted to make the 15-note version of the instrument in the key of F, which is now commonly known as the mbira nyunga nyunga. And AMI has been making

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Blog
Mark Holdaway

How is the Karimba related to the Mbira Nyunga Nyunga?

The mystery of the evolving names of the kalimba Evidence indicates that in 1950, kalimba and karimba were used more or less interchangeably to describe any traditional African thumb piano. Seventy years ago, mbira dzavadzimu meant exactly what it does now – a particular traditional Shona thumb piano – and the mbira nyunga nyunga probably was not even a thing yet. Seventy years ago was just before Hugh Tracey began to build and sell a new instrument which he called a kalimba, which combined features of many traditional instruments and had a western tuning.                                 

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