Articles tagged with: Pentatonic Kalimba

18 November 2017

Why is Pentatonic Kalimba with Alto such a hot combo??

Written by Mark Holdaway, Posted in News and Announcements

These two kalimbas can sound so good together!

Why is Pentatonic Kalimba with Alto such a hot combo??

The pentatonic kalimba and the Alto kalimba are a great natural pairing. They can create a gorgeous contrast that works when two players can "jam with deliberate abandon" - meaning players who are technically proficient and can also really move, respond, and dance with each other's music. The pentatonic's basic traits contribute to the very attractive alliance it can make with the Alto.

The pentatonic kalimba is a bit of a mystery. It seems so simple - a perfect instrument for a beginner. Everything you play on it sounds great - playing it is a bit like finger painting - you just move your thumbs around and your movements somehow are transformed into beautiful sound. Which is probably why experienced players love jamming with the pentatonic kalimba! It represents freedom, and when you play it, you might very well feel as if you are flying.

29 September 2016

Free Tablature! Alto and Pentatonic Kalimba Kushaura and Kutsinhira

Written by Mark Holdaway, Posted in News and Announcements

Following the lead of traditional mbira music works great on modern day kalimbas too!

Free Tablature!  Alto and Pentatonic Kalimba Kushaura and Kutsinhira

How do you play two kalimbas together?  There is no particular tradition for doing that, but there is a deep, wide, and wild tradition of playing two mbira dzavadzimu together - one plays the kushaura part (the leading part) and the other plays the kutsinhira part (the following part).  Often the same high notes are played in the two parts, but the kutsinhira part's high notes will echo the kushaura part's high notes.  If a particular high note is repeated in the first part, the second part will often insert the same high note in between the repeated notes of the first part - that is, one part plays in the gaps of the other.  The resulting music sounds like you are trilling that note twice as fast as a single player should be able to play it.  

So, the next logical step is to apply this method of joining two mbiras together to the Hugh Tracey kalimbas . 

26 June 2016

Getting a Second Kalimba

Written by Leslee Morrison, Posted in News and Announcements

Leslee Morrison's Second Kalimba Has Opened a New World of Possibilities

Getting a Second Kalimba

Acquiring a second kalimba in a different tuning is almost like stepping into the exciting realm of kalimba for the first time - everything seems so fresh and new.   However, unlike the first time, I come to the second kalimba with an established set of rhythms and thumb patterns I learned on the first kalimba.  These patterns do transfer to the second kalimba, and it feels like I am flying.

 

13 April 2016

TIP: Exploring Exotic Pentatonic Tunings - p2

Written by Mark Holdaway, Posted in Tips

What is the most important note on the kalimba? Understanding the use of the root note

TIP: Exploring Exotic Pentatonic Tunings - p2

The most important thing you need to figure out when you pick up a new kalimba is:  "where is the One?"  By the "1", I mean the root of the scale, the key of the kalimba, the note that you consider "home base", and probably the most important note on the kalimba.

(To complicate matters, there are usually multiple correct choices for which note you want to be the root - for example, you choose one note to be the root, and you are in G minor - you choose a different root note, and even though all the notes are exactly the same, you are in Bb major.  We will ignore all of those alternative understandings for now.)

What you learn about the root note is probably applicable to every kalimba you will ever pick up, so it is worth understanding - or if you know about this already, it is worth learning more.

13 April 2016

TIP: Exploring Exotic Pentatonic Tunings - p3

Written by Mark Holdaway, Posted in Tips

The next most important thing: find the kalimba's scale

TIP: Exploring Exotic Pentatonic Tunings - p3

When you pick up a new unknown kalimba, the first thing is to find the root notes.  The root, or "1", is the starting place for the scale. Once you know where the "1" note is, you need to map out the entire scale. You won't have the entire "Do Re Mi Fa So La Ti Do" scale, as some notes will be missing and other notes will be "tweaked" - that is, flattened or minorized. (Yeah, I made that word up.) You can actually learn to do this entirely by ear, but for now we'll rely upon the tuning charts, which basically tell us the answers, and we just have to be able to translate that information onto the kalimba.

Imagine you have an Ake Bono-tuned kalimba in your hand. Locate the lowest "1" note (it's right in the center).  Go up the scale - pay attention, you need to find the tine that is the next longest.  It could be be one on the left, or it could be the one on the right.

13 April 2016

TIP: Exploring Exotic Pentatonic Tunings - p4

Written by Mark Holdaway, Posted in Tips

Now, find the octave pairs on your kalimba

TIP: Exploring Exotic Pentatonic Tunings - p4

When you picked up a new unknown kalimba, the first thing was to find the root notes.  The second thing - look for and play the scale, from the low root note to the root note an octave higher.

This tip informs the third thing to do with your new unknown kalimba: find the octaves.

This is generally true, but not universally true:  most kalimba tunings follow a pattern, or scale, and continue with notes from that same scale in an upper octave.  Some instruments don't have octave intervals, but almost every tuned kalimba I have ever seen does have clear octave intervals. You don't have to have octaves in your tuning, but it helps the listener and it definitely helps you play if your tuning does have perfect octave intervals.

13 April 2016

TIP: Exploring Exotic Pentatonic Tunings - p5

Written by Mark Holdaway, Posted in Tips

Learn about how to use the second-most important note, the 5th

TIP: Exploring Exotic Pentatonic Tunings - p5

If the most important note on the kalimba is the root, or "one", the second most important note on the kalimba is the "5".  There is really no reason why a kalimba tuning has to have a "5", but almost every tuning does have a "1" and a "5".  This is because a "fifth" - the pitch interval between the "1" and the "5" - or also the actual sound made by playing the "1" and "5" together - is a fundamental interval. To get technical for a minute, when two notes are playing a perfect 5th apart from each other, the sound waves line up every 2 cycles of the lower note's wave, or every 3 cycles of the upper note's wave. It is just like the "2 against 3 rhythm", only it is happening 100 times or more per second.  We do not perceive it as a rhythm, we perceive it as a strong harmony.

By investigating this tiny collection of three pentatonic kalimba tunings, I am going to demonstrate the importance of the "1" and "5" notes in music in general. Compare the note numbers that are present in each of the three tunings. Only one tuning has a 2.  One has a major 3, the other two have a minor 3.  Only one tuning has the 4.  One tuning has a minor 6.  And two tunings have a minor 7.  No tunings have a minor 2, an augmented (raised) 4, a major 6, or a major 7. But every one of those tunings has a "1" and a "5". In fact, "1" and "5" are the only two notes that are shared in all three of these tunings.

13 April 2016

TIP: Exploring Exotic Pentatonic Tunings - p6

Written by Mark Holdaway, Posted in Tips

More about using the 5th

TIP: Exploring Exotic Pentatonic Tunings - p6

The 5th interval is so important that an entire book could be written on it alone. The attention and time you devote to learning and practicing with it is much more than valuable. Let me hear from you about how you are absorbing and growing with this essential knowledge, which will underscore most of your kalimba endeavors

The 5th is such a significant interval that it tends to show up all through the scale, not just between the "1" and the "5".   If you can learn the other pairs of notes on your kalimba that also make 5th intervals, you can bring all of the power of the 5th interval in to other sounds and chords, adding depth and breadth to your playing.

13 April 2016

TIP: Exploring Exotic Pentatonic Tunings - p7

Written by Mark Holdaway, Posted in Tips

The distinctive relationship between the "5" and the "1" on your kalimba

TIP: Exploring Exotic Pentatonic Tunings - p7

Here is a classic characterization about the "5 - 1" interval. Think, for a moment, about "5" as "Heave!", and the "1" as the "Ho!" It's kind of like call and response: the "5" is the call, and the "1" is the response. Once you play the "5" (or say "Heave!"), you are priming the ear for the "1" (or "Ho!").  You can play the "5" and NOT go to the "1", but doing that can leave the listener seriously up in the air. To prevent their feeling toyed with, replace that resolution with something that's worth the surprise - make it good and satisfying!

 

 

 

13 April 2016

TIP: Exploring Exotic Pentatonic Tunings - p8

Written by Mark Holdaway, Posted in Tips

Looking at the other notes on the F7 Bebey Tuning

TIP: Exploring Exotic Pentatonic Tunings - p8

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 major 3rd intervals imply more positive expressions.

13 April 2016

TIP: Exploring Exotic Pentatonic Tunings - p9

Written by Mark Holdaway, Posted in Tips

Looking at the other notes on the G Ake Bono Tuning

TIP: Exploring Exotic Pentatonic Tunings - p9

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 one, two, minor third.  It falls short of the major - it is minor, mysterious and moody.  But often totally beautiful.

13 April 2016

TIP: Exploring Exotic Pentatonic Tunings - p10

Written by Mark Holdaway, Posted in Tips

Looking at the other notes on the G minor Pentatonic

TIP: Exploring Exotic Pentatonic Tunings - p10

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 are (almost) always present in the scale.  If you want to make some music that is really odd, try a scale that doesn't include the 5th and see what you can do with it!

13 April 2016

TIP: Exploring Exotic Pentatonic Tunings - p11

Written by Mark Holdaway, Posted in Tips

Is this the end, or the beginning?

TIP: Exploring Exotic Pentatonic Tunings - p11

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 that you experience some of this transformation in your kalimba playing and all your music playing.

Did you gain some understanding of how to approach a new kalimba and how to understand its notes?

Do you have a kalimba in one of these exotic tunings that you would like more instructional information on? 

07 January 2016

Exploring Pentatonic Tunings

Written by Mark Holdaway, Posted in News and Announcements

Pentatonic tunings are culturally and musically important. We present new kalimba video of three different tunings for the pentatonic kalimba

Exploring Pentatonic Tunings

Aboriginal peoples all across the globe have used pentatonic scales in their music.  One of Hugh Tracey's fundamental findings was that about 40% of all the kalimbas he documented in his expeditions across Africa were tuned to pentatonic scales.

Find out what makes the pentatonic scales so essential!