Articles tagged with: Free Tablature

04 January 2017

Songs for the Chromatic Kalimba: "Carol of the Bells"

Written by Mark Holdaway, Posted in News and Announcements

Finally a breakthrough! Chromatic tablature that is easy to read and understand!

  Songs for the Chromatic Kalimba:

The Chromatic kalimba is a wonderful innovation based on the standard Hugh Tracey diatonic kalimbas such as the Alto and the Treble. Diatonic kalimbas play basically like the white notes on a piano. As long as a song stays in key with no accidentals, you can probably play it on an Alto or Treble kalimba. (An "accidental" is a note that is not in the key signature and requires a "flat," "sharp," or "natural" symbol. For the kalimba, though, this is a foreign concept, as "accidental" usually means "that note isn't on the kalimba.")

If a song changes keys or has accidental notes, and you want to play it on a kalimba, you need a Chromatic kalimba, which has all the notes of the scale, not just the piano's white notes, but all the black ones too - the flats and sharps. Hugh Tracey Chromatic kalimbas are two-sided: they have the sharps and flats on their back sides, and the diatonic keys on the front sides.

"Carol of the Bells" is a beloved holiday song that can at best be performed in an approximate manner on the Alto kalimba - you really need the Chromatic kalimba to get the song just right.

28 December 2016

Songs for the Karimba: Building a Karimba Song

Written by Mark Holdaway, Posted in News and Announcements

Learn this technique and write your own songs

Songs for the Karimba: Building a Karimba Song

The African-tuned karimba is a very interesting instrument.  Jega Tapera was a South African who played traditional music on a 13-note karimba, a historical folk instrument.  In the 1950s he was discovered by Andrew Tracey, who recognized his excellence, and Tapera subsequently began teaching at the Kwonangoma School in Rhodesia, where the 15-note version of the African-tuned karimba came into being in 1960 to further Tapera's music.  In 1980 the 17-note version was first made by Tracey's South African company, African Musical Instruments, which still sells Hugh Tracey kalimbas today.

Based on much scholarly research, Andrew Tracey put forth a very interesting theory that the karimba is very close to the "original mbira" in southern Africa, dating back over a thousand years, and that the traditional songs still played today on the karimba have roots that are equally ancient.

I find the karimba to be a great instrument, one that "speaks the African tongue."  It is easy for me to create my own African-sounding music just by following a few simple rules.  I'll share some of those with you here.

24 December 2016

Songs for the Freygish Karimba - "Coventry Carol"

Written by Mark Holdaway, Posted in News and Announcements

Free Tablature for "Coventry Carol" from the Freygish Download

Songs for the Freygish Karimba -

"Coventry Carol" is a 16th century English Christmas Carol.  It has the haunting feel that some old English music evokes, and as a youth I was charmed by it and used to long to play music such as this song.

This old Christmas carol and the Freygish-tuned karimba were made for each other - both are in the exotic-sounding harmonic minor scale.  This and many other great songs are part of the Freygish Download, and you can get the tablature for "Coventry Carol" free in this article. Let's talk about how this song works.

30 December 2016

Songs for the Student Karimba: Borrowing From a Karimba Song

Written by Mark Holdaway, Posted in News and Announcements

This old, old instrument lives on and can play lots of 17-Note karimba music

Songs for the Student Karimba: Borrowing From a Karimba Song

The "student karimba" is my own invention - or rather, it is my re-invention.  I came up with the name, but Andrew Tracey calls it the "kalimba core" as well as the "original mbira".  I like to call it “the kalimba that time left behind.” While this little instrument is far from popular these days, it was mentioned in the first scholarly article on the kalimba written in 1950 by missionary A.M. Jones.  I feel this simple instrument’s pattern is truly important because of where it stands in the history of all thumb pianos: it is the likely foremother of every southern African lamellaphone according to Andrew Tracey’s work. He asserts that it began to be used over a thousand years ago.  Playing this "kalimba core" or "original mbira," we are standing where ancient humans stood.

The kalimba core was very likely added-to over centuries to create other instruments. This post looks at ways that this may have happened and how the instruments maintain their original core, and how they and the music they play are related.

And the cool part?  Most African songs that are played on the 17-Note karimba (for which Kalimba Magic has a lot of music) have substantial sections that can be played on these core eight or nine notes. What’s more, music that is intended for the student karimba can be played on the 17-Note karimba too!

26 December 2016

Songs for the 8-Note Kalimba - "Away in a Manger"

Written by Mark Holdaway, Posted in News and Announcements

Free Tablature for "Away in a Manger" for the truly versatile 8-Note Kalimba

Songs for the 8-Note Kalimba -

Kalimbas generally have more tines than an 8-note does. You may be wondering what could you do with only eight notes.  While it might seem that a kalimba with only eight notes would not be very capable, it turns out that there is quite a bit of music available to the 8-Note kalimba.

Almost every 8-Note kalimba is tuned to the C major scale, playing from low to high: "Do Re Mi Fa So La Ti Do."  In addition to being useful for many songs in C, you can attain a "new and different instrument" by simply retuning a single note down by a half step.  By tuning the 7th note, B, down to B flat - the kalimba is thrown into the key of F with a fundamentally different note layout, and a whole world of different songs can be played on the instrument in this tuning.  "Away in a Manger" is one such song.

10 December 2016

"Away in a Manger" - First learn the Easy Melody, then Add Chords. Voila!

Written by Mark Holdaway, Posted in News and Announcements


Often people think of the kalimba as a very simple instrument.  However, it stands proudly with the harp, the guitar, and the keyboard as instruments that can play both a melody and musical accompaniment - in other words, you can play complex music with the kalimba.

I'd like to show you a few rules of thumb that are very useful in creating a more interesting and profound-sounding song, starting with an easy, familiar melody. It will help you know where, when and how to create simple chordal accompaniment which can very easily make your kalimba playing absolutely gorgeous.

06 December 2016

Peaceful Protest

Written by Mark Holdaway, Posted in News and Announcements

A download of peace and protest songs for the Alto Kalimba

Peaceful Protest
Things in the world may be looking difficult for you, no matter where you are.  Here in the US, I am one of more than a few (more like millions) who are disillusioned and extremely concerned about many things...including climate change and the prospects for dealing with it, now that a new presidential administration is coming in - one that seems to offer nothing good for our world's environment, and actually is looking downright destructive.  A few months ago, I felt optimistically that we had a chance at preventing the worst consequences of climate change.  With the election going the way it did, I think we have thrown that chance down a deep dark hole.

01 December 2016

Easy Christmas Carols - "God Rest Ye Merry, Gentlemen" on Alto

Written by Mark Holdaway, Posted in News and Announcements, Tips

You may be surprised - you can play this simple carol and you can read tablature!

Easy Christmas Carols -

I've heard this story from more than a hundred people by now: people had been living under the burden of the belief that they were simply unable to make music, but then they discovered the kalimba, and they discovered they could make music on the kalimba, and they were even appreciated for the music they were able to make.

If you are reading these words, you probably know you can make music.  But you might be convinced that you cannot read tablature. 

This blog post is a message to you: you CAN read tablature, and you CAN play songs that everyone around you will recognize.  And Christmas carols are the perfect place to start.

30 November 2016

Playing "When I'm Gone" (the "Cups" song) on C Alto Kalimba

Written by Mark Holdaway, Posted in News and Announcements

Get the free C Alto tablature for this huge internet hit song


A few years ago, I saw a 10-year-old girl flipping her cup to this song, and I have to admit I was blown away by how well she was doing it.  Last month when I found the video for Anna Kendrick's pop song "When I'm Gone" and connected it to the cup routine I'd seen some years before, I suddenly understood why this video has 300 million views - it takes dozens of views to learn how to do that cup jive!

I put in my dozens of views - but it wasn't to learn the cup trick. I was, at first, freeform jamming along on the kalimba.  But slowly, the more I played with this song, the more my playing settled down into a repeatable part.  And that's what I share with you here.

09 October 2016

The Freygish Karimba Download, Redux

Written by Mark Holdaway, Posted in News and Announcements


The Freygish Karimba Download, Redux


"The Freygish-tuned karimba plays delightful songs, mostly in C harmonic minor.  This instrument brings alive baroque melodies and harmonies, romantic music box waltzes, fiery Middle-Eastern music, and hot Latino cumbia - nostalgic, sensual, mysterious and sweet.  This karimba plays unique music that is not played by any other." (From the back cover of the Freygish karimba download.)

The instrument that you can hear right now, which is playing in the video below, is the Freygish karimba, and the song is "Music Box Farewell," which is the last composition in the Freygish Download.

If you don't know about the Freygish Karimba, come on in and listen to what it does and learn a bit about this wonderful gem of an instrument.

03 August 2016

New Music Tabs for 2B/14 kalimba in "E1 Tuning"

Written by Mark Holdaway, Posted in News and Announcements, Tips

Half the 2B/14 kalimbas we shipped last month were in E1 Tuning - Now there is music for the E1 Tuning

Thomas Bothe is famous for his delightful kalimbas as well as for his unique, individual kalimba tunings.  However, there was one day last month when I was fulfilling orders, and I tuned three 2B/14 kalimbas to the E1 tuning - which is perhaps the classic 2B tuning that most represents Thomas Bothe's soul.  Simple, delicate, easy, and beautiful.

Two of the three customers requested the E1 tuning after they had learned about it from the various 2B tunings I have documented online.  The third 2B/14 customer just asked for "a special tuning" - and I thought "I'm gonna make this E1 tuning an extra special tuning by writing some extra special music for it!"

08 April 2016

Free Tablature for Pentatonic Kalimbas in Exotic Tunings

Written by Mark Holdaway, Posted in News and Announcements

Great music for G minor and Ake Bono tuned 11-Note Pentatonic Kalimbas

Free Tablature for Pentatonic Kalimbas in Exotic Tunings

It turns out there are dozens of possible ways to arrange the notes into a pentatonic scale. A pentatonic scale is any scale that has five unique notes per octave, a simplification over the standard seven note major scale.  The pentatonic scales tend to sound raw, earthy, primitive. About 40% of the kalimbas Hugh Tracey encountered in his travels around Africa had various sorts of pentatonic scales, and Maurice White of the band Earth, Wind and Fire put his kalimba into a pentatonic scale to make it resonate more with Africa. 

My take: With fewer notes, there is less potential for making mistakes on the pentatonic scale. This frees one up to play more powerfully and more emotionally.

It is pretty easy to change the tuning from one sort of pentatonic scale to another - this is something you can do yourself. You could explore all of these exotic tuning destinations on your own, with a single pentatonic kalimba.

As it happens I have transcribed onto tablature a couple of songs that I improvised on the pentatonic kalimba, each in an exotic tuning. I happen to like them both a lot! The tablature makes it very easy for you to learn them and both are available right here on this page. In addition to the tablature, the songs are also presented on video, giving you some great tools to help you learn how to play like a pro!


18 December 2015

Free Tablature - Learn "Carol of the Bells"

Written by Mark Holdaway, Posted in News and Announcements

Free PDF and KTabS Tablature for Alto, Treble, B flat Treble, and Chromatic Kalimbas

Free Tablature - Learn

"Carol of the Bells" is not only a beautiful song that is great to learn on the kalimba, it is also a strategic stronghold of kalimba technique. The basic music consists of two different parts played at the same time, which in this case is not that hard. If you can learn this song, you will be entering the marvelous world of playing two voices of music at the same time on kalimba. Not up for heavy lifting? Please enjoy the video of me performing "Carol of the Bells" on the Alto Kalimba.

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