Articles tagged with: Pentatonic

26 May 2016

Words About Maurice White's Kalimba Playing

Written by Mark Holdaway, Posted in News and Announcements

And how you can get a kalimba like Maurice White's

Words About Maurice White's Kalimba Playing

A lot of people who play kalimba were first exposed to the instrument when Maurice White of the band Earth, Wind and Fire pierced their hearts with its sound so many years ago, first beginning in the 1970s .

While I did always like hearing Earth, Wind and Fire on the radio, I never even knew Maurice White played kalimba until after I started Kalimba Magic and people started pointing out the sorts of things I would need to know to stay in business.

Now I'm making up for lost time.

31 May 2016

How Maurice White's Kalimba Playing Touched My Life

Written by Mark Holdaway, Posted in News and Announcements

Joe Hernandez is learning to play all of Maurice's kalimba parts

How Maurice White's Kalimba Playing Touched My Life

There are probably tens of thousands of kalimba players around the world who first learned about the kalimba from Maurice White. One of them is Joe Hernandez:

"I saw Maurice White play in 1988 in Kansas City, the first time I had ever actually seen a kalimba. I was amazed and wish I had attempted to find one and start playing back then. Thanks to Kalimba Magic, I finally got my own kalimba and I love it. Too bad it took me over 30 years to discover where to get one."

But wait till you see what Joe is doing with his kalimbas.

01 April 2016

TIP: Exploring Exotic Pentatonic Tunings - p1

Written by Mark Holdaway, Posted in Tips

The method you will learn in this series of tips will help you understand any kalimba's tuning

TIP: Exploring Exotic Pentatonic Tunings - p1

All of the specially tuned kalimbas we sell come with a card indicating the note names and note numbers of each tine. The letters are of obvious use - they tell you what note to tune each tine to if any ever go out of tune.

But if you have been mystified by the meaning of those numbers, this series of tips will help you learn how to use them. We present to you a laboratory of three different pentatonic kalimba tunings. The numbers guide us on our journey of understanding these kalimbas and how to drive them - but this information is not limited; it will help you to understand any kalimba.

Even if you don't have a pentatonic kalimba in your house or in your future, I invite you to jump in and work on understanding how the notes of any kalimba's tuning work with each other.

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!

 

08 April 2016

A New Pentatonic Tuning from 1970's Africa: F7 Bebey

Written by Mark Holdaway, Posted in News and Announcements

Francis Bebey used this tuning in his song "Breaths" - what a great tuning!

A New Pentatonic Tuning from 1970's Africa: F7 Bebey

Someone called a few months back. His wife had recently died, and he was working on healing from that great loss. He had played mbira dzavadzimu in the past - and since the mbira is all about helping us to connect with the ancestral spirits, I figured he wanted some help with that.

But instead of being drawn to mbira music, this man was drawn to the song "Breaths", written by Francis Bebey, with lyrics focusing on how our ancestors live on in the physical world around us. For a bit of background, Francis Bebey was a guitarist, singer, songwriter, and kalimba player from Cameroon. Remember, Cameroon is close to the original birthplace of the kalimba - Gerhard Kubik (Austrian ethnologist famous for his African music study and collections) asserts that bamboo-type kalimbas originated there about 3000 years ago, and they are still made there today.

The bereaved caller wanted to learn to play "Breaths", and the first thing he needed was to know which kalimba it could be played on and in what tuning. So I began some research to give him an answer.

With detailed listening, I discovered that Francis Bebey used a simple pentatonic scale, but it was one that I had not encountered before. And upon jamming with this tuning, I immediately decided to share it with the world, because it really is cool and African and funky. Watch the video "Floaty Kalimba" and see if you're not won over!

08 April 2016

Retuning the Pentatonic Kalimba

Written by Mark Holdaway, Posted in News and Announcements

A Guide to Changing from G Major Tuning to Other Exotic Tunings

Retuning the Pentatonic Kalimba

Why would anyone retune their kalimba? Well, I hope you DO tune up your kalimba every few weeks or so, at least to maintain its correct original tuning. However, once you learn the skills required to brush up the kalimba's tuning, you also possess the skills required to explore alternative tunings - you just need to push or pull the tines a bit farther than the very delicate moves required to fine-tune the kalimba.

But again, why would someone retune their kalimba to a different tuning? Because different musics are available to different tunings, and because different tunings help produce different emotional expression. If you ever start to get bored with your particular kalimba and what you can do with it, you should consider changing to another tuning to see what new music might speak to you.

This article walks you through four different possible retunings for the 11-note pentatonic kalimba. So, if fear or uncertainty were preventing you from taking the plunge and retuning your kalimba, you now have the tools and guidance to jump into the river and baptise yourself in the flow of ever-changing musical possibilities. Really - once you begin to explore new tunings, it's a whole new world!

11 April 2016

How One Music Therapist Uses the Pentatonic Kalimba

Written by Mark Holdaway, Posted in News and Announcements

MT Lee Anna Rasar Specializes in the 6-Note Pentatonic

How One Music Therapist Uses the Pentatonic Kalimba

One of the best kalimbas to use in music therapy is also our least expensive kalimba - the 6-Note Catania Pentatonic kalimba. While there are a lot of spirituals and children's songs that can be played on the 6-Note Pentatonic, probably its best uses are improvisational in nature. You just pick it up, twiddle your thumbs, and music comes out!

Lee Anna Rasar is a professor in the Music Therapy department at University of Wisconsin, Eau Claire. She has used the 6-Note pentatonic kalimba and other kalimbas extensively in music therapy. The following is from a letter that Lee Anna wrote to Kalimba Magic about a variety of her successes:

I have found the pentatonic kalimbas to be very useful in music therapy because they allow immediate access to people who do not read music and who may have difficulty understanding and reading adaptive notation systems or following cues. They are also useful with groups of adults and children to allow immediate performances together without first needing practice time.

29 February 2016

Backing Tracks from Kalimba Magic Videos

Written by Mark Holdaway, Posted in News and Announcements

You can jam along to these tracks with several different kalimbas

Backing Tracks from Kalimba Magic Videos

When I make a video of the kalimba, I often feel the kalimba needs support from other instruments, so I add some guitar or bass or rhythm tracks to get some lower sounds in the mix.  I have remixed those support tracks from five of my recent videos.  Most of them have a few seconds of kalimba in the beginning to help you get oriented in the song, and then the kalimba drops out and all that is left is the supporting instruments that should sound really good when you add your own kalimba playing.

How do you know which kalimba to use for which track?  We give you hints about several different kalimbas or tunings that will work for each.  You may very well have a kalimba that will work with one or more of these songs, and if you are willing to retune your kalimba, you can definitely make it work.

I'll also share a little secret about how I record this music - it will probably surprise you! 

25 November 2015

Using the 6-Note Songbook on Any Kalimba

Posted in News and Announcements

If you are having difficulty finding your way around a big kalimba, step back and simplify

Using the 6-Note Songbook on Any Kalimba

If you would like to play specific songs on your kalimba but you don't know where to start, or if you feel you haven't really connected well with your kalimba, you might want to consider getting the 6-Note Pentatonic Song Book.