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Mark Holdaway

TIP: A Karimba Improvisational Strategy Part 9

A left thumb suggestion A suggestion for a left thumb part The goal here is for you to play the right thumb’s two-note chord part more or less as written, and to invent your own left thumb part. You may have already been successful with this, or you might feel you have no clue of what to do. If the latter is true, here is a left thumb suggestion for you. Notice how the left thumb and right thumb do not overlap. The left thumb plays the same part in measures 1, 2, and 3. In going from the high E to the middle A on the left side, you

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Mark Holdaway

TIP: A Karimba Improvisational Strategy Part 10

Another left thumb suggestion, same right thumb pattern Another left thumb suggestion Our objective with these lessons is to give you the tools, understanding, and confidence to improvise with your left thumb while the right thumb “holds down the fort”. Here is another suggestion for the type of thing your left thumb could do. The first three measures are almost the same for the left thumb – measure 1 goes up the scale fragment, measure 2 goes down the scale fragment, and measure 3 goes back up. Measure 4 on the left is different, emphasizing B as the first and last note of the little phrase. Again, B is a good

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Mark Holdaway

TIP: A Karimba Improvisational Strategy Part 11

Left thumb dancing in the upper notes Our objective with these lessons is to give you the tools, understanding, and confidence to improvise with your left thumb while the right thumb “holds down the fort”. Here is another suggestion for what your left thumb can do – dance in the upper row notes, and between the upper and lower row notes. Again, please try your own left thumb variations played along with the written right thumb part.                      

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Mark Holdaway

TIP: A Karimba Improvisational Strategy Part 12

Starting to branch out You are by no means confined to exactly what we have written down. You can change it up in a thousand different ways to make it your own. Here is a very simple example: instead of playing the chord in each measure twice, this one plays each chord only once, on the opening beat of each measure. Furthermore, the left thumb plays with the right thumb on the opening chords. This complexity is somewhat compensated for by the fact that the right side is doing the same pattern three out of four times.                      

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Mark Holdaway

TIP: A Karimba Improvisational Strategy Part 7

Right thumb backup for Left Thumb improvisation Simplified right thumb backing part These two-note chords can be played by the right hand. The main reason to play entirely with the right hand is that this frees up the left hand to dance on that pentatonic scale. In order to play these two notes with the right hand, play the left note with your right thumb and the right note with your right index finger. The thumb will pluck down, and the right index finger will actually come from under the tine and it will pluck upward. (By the way, this is the mbira right-finger technique. Usually on karimba, the right

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Mark Holdaway

TIP: A Karimba Improvisational Strategy Part 6

The fourth intervals Exploring the fourth intervals This is an exercise which uses the “fourth” intervals (ie, they span 4 notes) on the lower row of karimba tines. Again, be sure that you are starting on the right two notes. You may want to go back to the previous tip and see how the “thirds” sound compared to the “fourths”. My take on it: the third intervals sound more European, and the fourth intervals sound more African. Of course, it really isn’t that simple – both European and African music use both 4ths and 3rds, but I think the way the 4th sounds is itself more African, and the way the

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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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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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