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What's the right kalimba for ME?

There are a lot of different kinds of kalimbas out there in the world, and many are not real musical instruments though they claim to be. Kalimba Magic only sells quality kalimbas, and there is a very wide selection of them. We know it can be overwhelming when trying to make a choice. The Buyer's Guide is here to help you choose the kalimba that's right for YOU.
Are you a musical beginner? An experienced musician who wants to really get into the kalimba? A percussionist who doesn't know that much about music but who can sure feel it? Are you looking for a cool and funky instrument? Are you looking to connect with the Spirit World, or with the cultural history of the continent of Africa?
Kalimba Magic's Buyer's Guide recommendations are based on many years of personal experience plus the feelings and opinions of hundreds of other kalimba players. But no matter what kind of buyer you might be, it is most important that you are drawn to your kalimba. If a certain kalimba keeps jumping out at you, your vision and experience of playing this kalimba is more important than any recommendations in this Buyer's Guide. So check out our recommendations, but first and foremost, listen to your heart.

Questions?

If you have any questions, feel free to contact us via the email form, or speak directly to Mark Holdaway at 520-488-7641.

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I am a beginning musician

If you have never played a musical instrument before, it makes sense that you choose a kalimba that is not only within your reach, but also one that will instruct you in music in general, and guide you on your way to your next kalimba. Every one of the following kalimbas can serve a beginner very well.

Catania 6-Note Pentatonic Kalimba

Catania 6-Note Pentatonic Kalimba

The Catania 6-Note Pentatonic Kalimba is great for kids 5 years and older / $35 / Watch Video / Comes with Free 20 Page Song Booklet / How to Play the 6-Note Kalimba

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Catania 8-Note

Catania 8-Note

The Catania 8-Note is great for kids 6 years and older / $38 / Listen / Watch / Comes with a free 4 page song book / Learn

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Goshen 9-Note Student Karimba

Goshen 9-Note Student Karimba

The Goshen 9-Note Student Karimba is great for kids 6 years through adults who want to make African music / $35 / Watch / Learn / Comes with a free 16 page instructional booklet.

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Hokema 5-Note Chordal Kalimba

Hokema 5-Note Chordal Kalimba

The Hokema 5-Note Chordal Kalimba is tuned to the chord of your choice and has very smooth tines, great for kids 4 and up. A great idea is to get several and tune them to different chords. / $49 / Listen to three chordal 5-Notes / Watch / Available in chordal choirs.

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Hugh Tracey 8-Note Kalimba

Hugh Tracey 8-Note Kalimba

The Hugh Tracey 8-Note Kalimba is another option / $64 / Listen / Watch / Learn

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Catania 12-Note kalimba

Catania 12-Note kalimba

The Catania 12-Note kalimba offers more harmonic possibilities. / $51 / Listen / Watch / Learn

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I am a musician, but I'm new to the kalimba

Have you done well learning a musical instrument in the past? Or perhaps you just love the kalimba sound and are confident that you will do well with the kalimba. You don't need to start with an 8-Note kalimba! The two-octave Alto kalimbas are not a bad place to start if you are confident of future success.

Hugh Tracey 15-Note Alto

Hugh Tracey 15-Note Alto

The Hugh Tracey 15-Note Alto is good for anyone aged 12 or older. / $133 / Listen / Watch / Watch 2 / Learn

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Hugh Tracey Celeste Alto

Hugh Tracey Celeste Alto

The Hugh Tracey Celeste Alto is the same instrument as the 15-Note Alto, on a board rather than a box, and works better for smaller hands. / $95 or $115 with pickup / Listen / Watch / Learn

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Hugh Tracey Treble Kalimba

Hugh Tracey Treble Kalimba

The Hugh Tracey Treble Kalimba has more tines, but is about 15% smaller in every dimension as the tines themselves are shorter, narrower and closer together. This model works nicely for smaller hands. / $124 or $136 with pickup / Listen / Watch / Learn

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Hugh Tracey B flat Kalimba

Hugh Tracey B flat Kalimba

The Bb (B flat) Treble Kalimba is one of my favorite kalimbas of all time. Formed by retuning and repainting a Treble kalimba to be more like an Alto kalimba. / $109 or $121 with pickup / Watch / Watch 2 / Watch 3 / Learn

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I am a skilled musician on the kalimba

If you are a skilled musician, you will be able to get a lot out of the kalimba. I recommend one of the Hugh Tracey diatonic kalimbas (Alto or Treble), or perhaps the chromatic kalimba. The Alto, a 15-Note box-mounted instrument, is our best seller, and the Treble with 17-Notes is the second-best seller.

There are thousands of songs that you can teach yourself on these capable and versatile instruments, and you can write your own compositions in many different styles including folk, classical, rock, funk, New Age—you name it.

We also have many instructional resources and books for the Alto and Treble kalimbas, and many musical pieces are available in electronic KTabS tablature for free or for almost nothing.

If you need to play in other keys, the "Bb Treble" can be tuned to Ab, A, Bb, B, or C, and the "D Treble" can be tuned to C, Db, D, Eb, or E. And if you are particularly ambitious in your kalimba playing, you may want to get a chromatic kalimba.

Hugh Tracey 15-Note Alto

Hugh Tracey 15-Note Alto

The Hugh Tracey 15-Note Alto (2 octaves) is not too hard to play and offers great harmonic possibilities. / $133, or with pickup $145 / Listen / Watch / Watch 2 / Learn

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Hugh Tracey 17-Note Treble

Hugh Tracey 17-Note Treble

The Hugh Tracey Treble has more tines (17), but is smaller, offers more harmonic complexity and requires more dexterity (or smaller hands!). / $124, or with pickup $136 / Listen / Watch / Learn

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Hugh Tracey B flat Treble

Hugh Tracey B flat Treble

The Hugh Tracey Bb Treble starts out as a Treble, but is tuned and painted like the Alto with the root in the bass. This has been my favorite kalimba for 10 years now. Can tune to Ab, A, Bb, B, or C / $109, or with pickup $121 / Watch / Watch 2 / Watch 3 / Learn

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Hugh Tracey D Treble

Hugh Tracey D Treble

The Hugh Tracey D Treble is similar in concept to the Bb Treble. Can tune to C, Db, D, Eb, or E / $109, or with pickup $121 / Learn

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Hugh Tracey Chromatic Kalimba

Hugh Tracey Chromatic Kalimba

The Hugh Tracey Chromatic Kalimba offers the ultimate in harmonic flexibility on a hand-held kalimba: 26 notes (flats/sharps are on the back side), 2 octaves, fully chromatic. Recommended for very serious players. Comes with pickup! There are three different models: Watch Alto Chromatic / Watch Celeste Chromatic / Learn

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I just want to produce beautiful, relaxing sounds effortlessly!

Want to make beautiful sounds effortlessly? While musical talent helps, you can still make lovely, even magical sounds on the kalimba, even if you don't have any confidence in your musical abilities. While this is actually true of all kalimbas to some extent, it is especially true of the Hokema kalimbas. First, the Hokema kalimbas have very soft tines, making them easy, smooth, and soothing to play. But more important, these instruments have note layouts that really make delightful songs spring forth easily. The sansula is roughly based on the note layout of the ancient African karimba, and the mystical-sounding Japanese Ake Bono scale (an A minor pentatonic scale). It is compatible with the A minor Hokema Pentatonic kalimba, but sansulas are also available in other tunings.

New on the Beautiful Music Kalimba Scene is the Lotus-tuned Karimba - be sure to check it out as well!

Sansula Renaissance

Sansula Renaissance

The Sansula Renaissance with a synthetic Remo drum head membrane is a New Age wonder! / $200 / Listen / Watch / Learn

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Hokema Pocket Sansula

Hokema Pocket Sansula

The Hokema Pocket Sansula is the same instrument, but without the frame drum membrane. / $69 / Listen / Learn

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Deluxe Sansula

Deluxe Sansula

The Deluxe sansula is the same instrument as the Pocket sansula, but has a natural goatskin head. / $250 / Listen / Watch / Learn

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Kalimbula (Sansula)

Kalimbula (Sansula)

The Kalimbula is mounted on a wooden face, has a ceramic body, and comes in any of the Sansula tunings. Acoustic ($160); with piezoelectric pickup ($205); with piezo and internal microphone ($250) / Watch / Learn

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2B/9-Note Kalimba

2B/9-Note Kalimba

The 2B/9-Note Kalimba is absolutely wonderful. Sweet and charming, each one comes in its own tuning - take the luck of the draw or request whatever tuning you want (more about tuning selection in How to Play the 2B/9-Note) / $108 (resonator frame, illustrated in the video, is extra) / Listen / Watch / Learn about 2B/9 tunings

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2B/14-Note Kalimba

2B/14-Note Kalimba

The 2B/14-Note Kalimba is also absolutely wonderful, and each one comes in its own tuning / $185 (resonator frame is extra, see details in 2B/9-Note above) / Watch / Learn about 2B/9 tunings

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Hokema Pentatonic

Hokema Pentatonic

The Hokema Pentatonic in A minor is beautiful and soothing to play. / $105 / Listen / Watch

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Box-mounted Lotus Karimba

Box-mounted Lotus Karimba

The SaReGaMa Lotus-tuned Karimba falls into the category of "twiddle your thumbs and beautiful sounds come out", but you can also progress on this instrument to deeper, more complex music. / Board-mounted Lotus / Box-mounted Lotus / Watch / Learn

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I am a percussionist looking to play kalimba

Percussionist often have an exquisite sense of rhythm, but might not have a good understanding of melody and harmony. They often have superior dexterity and love to play fast. Simpler kalimbas with fewer notes and larger spacing between tines might appeal to them. Percussionists often understand music in terms of patterns and energy flow. Fortunately, the kalimba responds to such players. Many percussionists can handle anything in our shop, so don't feel limited to the following suggestions:
Box-mounted 15-Note Karimba in F

Box-mounted 15-Note Karimba in F

The 15 African Karimba, mounted on the larger Alto box and pitched in F rather than in A. / $147 or $159 with pickup / Watch / Learn

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Hugh Tracey Box Pentatonic

Hugh Tracey Box Pentatonic

The Hugh Tracey Box Pentatonic. The pentatonic scale was used extensively across Africa / $120, or with pickup for $132 / Listen / Watch / Learn

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Hugh Tracey Celeste Pentatonic

Hugh Tracey Celeste Pentatonic

The Hugh Tracey Celeste Pentatonic is a great deal for $95, or with pickup $115 / Listen / Watch / Learn

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SaReGaMa Lotus-Tuned Karimba

SaReGaMa Lotus-Tuned Karimba

The pitches of the tines jump up and down as you go across the instrument, and you are somewhat at the mercy of the built-in patterns of the note layout. That said, you can create geometrical and rhythmic patterns that interact with the patterns inherent to the note layout, and often magic ensues. / $130, or $150 with pickup / Watch / Learn

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I want to rock out and WAIL! Where are the electrics?

Want to rock out? Maurice White of Earth, Wind and Fire made his reputation on a Hugh Tracey kalimba equipped with an electronic pickup. All of the Hugh Tracey kalimbas come with an optional electronic pickup. It is a piezo-electric device hooked up to a 1/4 inch jack, so you can use a guitar chord and plug your kalimba into a guitar amp, a computer (for recording), an effects processor, a PA system - anything you can do with a guitar, you can do with a kalimba.

The pickups add only $12 to the price of a box-mounted kalimba, or $20 to the price of a board-mounted kalimba. The pickups do not negatively affect the acoustic sound of the kalimbas, but they are a life-saver if you are performing with a loud band or jamming with some drummers. And you can totally hypnotize yourself playing through digital delay and reverb. There is literally an undiscovered universe of sound hidden in the electric kalimba!

The acoustic "wah-wah" effect is only weakly detected by the electronic pickup, coming through at about the 20% level, and in the context of a loud band, a resonating box does not provide much "wah-wah either. Some people like the solid body electric kalimbas better, and some people like the box-mounted electric kalimbas better. I find that the box-mounted kalimbas are more susceptible to feedback, but in spite of this, the box is what I use when I perform with my band Baba Marimba.

Hugh Tracey 8-Note with pickup

Hugh Tracey 8-Note with pickup

The Hugh Tracey 8-Note with pickup is great fun, and pretty easy to play. / $84 / Watch / Learn /

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Hugh Tracey Celeste Pentatonic kalimba with pickup

Hugh Tracey Celeste Pentatonic kalimba with pickup

The Hugh Tracey Celeste Pentatonic kalimba with pickup is totally wonderful for jamming out! / $115 / Listen / Watch / Learn

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Hugh Tracey Hotshot-11 (Celeste Diatonic 11-Note Kalimba) with pickup

Hugh Tracey Hotshot-11 (Celeste Diatonic 11-Note Kalimba) with pickup

The Hugh Tracey Celeste Diatonic 11-Note (AKA Hotshot-11) kalimba with pickup is a great little kalimba! / $115 / Listen / Watch / Learn /

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Hugh Tracey Celeste Alto with pickup

Hugh Tracey Celeste Alto with pickup

The Hugh Tracey Celeste Alto with pickup sounds a bit metallic - pretty cool through an effects processor. / $115 / Listen (electric) / Watch (acoustic) / Learn

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Hugh Tracey Celeste Treble with pickup

Hugh Tracey Celeste Treble with pickup

The Hugh Tracey Celeste Treble with pickup is favored by advanced players, fast players, or those with smaller hands. / $115 / Watch / Learn

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Hugh Tracey Box Pentatonic with pickup

Hugh Tracey Box Pentatonic with pickup

The Hugh Tracey Box Pentatonic—also comes with a pickup. / $132 / Watch / Learn

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Hugh Tracey Alto with pickup

Hugh Tracey Alto with pickup

The Hugh Tracey Alto—also comes with a pickup. / $145 / Watch / Watch 2 / Learn

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Hugh Tracey Treble with pickup

Hugh Tracey Treble with pickup

The Hugh Tracey 17-Note Treble also comes with a pickup. / $136 / Watch / Learn

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Hugh Tracey Chromatic Kalimbas

Hugh Tracey Chromatic Kalimbas

The Hugh Tracey Chromatic Kalimbas all come with a pickup by default. There are three different models: Watch Alto Chromatic / Watch Celeste Chromatic / Learn

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African-Tuned Karimba

African-Tuned Karimba

While I amplify my personal karimbas by playing them in a gourd and micing the acoustic sound, they do come with built-in electronic pickups. I find the buzzers to be a bit hard through the pickup, so try removing the buzzers or taping the buzzers down to dampen their rattle.

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SaReGaMa Lotus-tuned Karimba

SaReGaMa Lotus-tuned Karimba

If you are seeking to control your kalimba precisely, this is probably not the right instrument for you. The pitches of the tines jump up and down as you go across the instrument, and you are somewhat at the mercy of the built-in patterns. That said, you can create geometrical and rhythmic patterns that interact with the patterns inherent to the note layout, and often magic ensues.

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Kalimbula by Hands on Drums

Kalimbula by Hands on Drums

The Kalimbula is mounted on a wooden face, has a ceramic body, and comes in any of the Sansula tunings. Acoustic ($160); with piezo electric pickup ($205); with piezo and internal microphone ($250) / Watch / Learn

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I would like to use my kalimba to connect with Africa and African music

Seeking the genuine African experience? All kalimbas, no matter where they are made, owe a huge cultural debt to Africa. Hugh Tracey kalimbas are made in Africa, but the Hugh Tracey karimbas (yes, with the "r" in there) are the genuine African article. Hugh Tracey African-tuned karimbas are tuned to a traditional Shona scale with non-western intervals, and the note layout of the lower row of tines is thought to be the "original tuning" of the first kalimbas invented over 1000 years ago. The upper row of tines was probably added something like 500 years ago. African-tuned kalimbas generally all have two octaves in A (in between major and minor), or they can be retuned to the western scales of A major, A minor, G major, or G minor.

Hugh Tracey Karimba

Hugh Tracey Karimba

The Hugh Tracey karimba is a truly ancient, authentic African instrument / $120, or with pickup for $140 / Listen (A African Tuning) / Listen (G) / Listen (G no buzzers) / Listen (G taped buzzers) / Watch 1 / Watch 2 / Learn

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Box-mounted Karimba

Box-mounted Karimba

The same 17 African karimba notes, mounted on a resonant box. / $143 or $155 with pickup / Watch /

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Box-mounted 15-Note Karimba in F

Box-mounted 15-Note Karimba in F

The 15 African Karimba, mounted on the larger Alto box and pitched in F rather than in A. / $147 or $159 with pickup / Watch /

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Goshen 9-Note Student Karimba

Goshen 9-Note Student Karimba

The Goshen 9-Note Student Karimba is great for kids starting at age 6 and adults who want to make African music / $35 / Watch / Learn / Comes with a free 16 page instructional booklet.

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Hugh Tracey Box Pentatonic

Hugh Tracey Box Pentatonic

The Hugh Tracey Box Pentatonic. The pentatonic scale was used extensively across Africa / $120, or with pickup for $132 / Listen / Watch / Learn

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Hugh Tracey Celeste Pentatonic

Hugh Tracey Celeste Pentatonic

The Hugh Tracey Celeste Pentatonic is a great deal for $95, or with pickup $115 / Listen / Watch / Learn

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I want to play hymns on my kalimba

Want to play hymns on the kalimba? The kalimba has a heavenly sound, much like a harp, and the instrument really lends itself to playing hymns. While some hymns require a few notes out of the key, there are a great many hymns that can be played perfectly well on the Hugh Tracey Alto and Treble kalimbas. We have hymnals with kalimba tablature for 50 Christian hymns for either of these kalimbas, for $14. Perfect for playing with a church choir or for comforting the ill or dying. In my personal heaven, the angels play kalimba!

Treble Kalimba Hymnal

Treble Kalimba Hymnal

The Treble Kalimba Hymnal by Sharon Eaton has 50 hymns, progressing from very simple to complex. / $14

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Hugh Tracey Treble Kalimba

Hugh Tracey Treble Kalimba

The Hugh Tracey Treble Kalimba, with over 2 octaves of the G major scale, is lovely on hymns. / $124 or $136 with Pickup

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Alto Kalimba Hymnal

Alto Kalimba Hymnal

The Alto Kalimba Hymnal by Sharon Eaton has 50 hymns, progressing from very simple to complex - and the Alto Hymnal works with the Treble Hymnal, so you can play Alto together with a Treble player who is using the Treble Hymnal! / $14

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Hugh Tracey Alto Kalimba

Hugh Tracey Alto Kalimba

The Hugh Tracey Alto Kalimba, with 2 octaves of the G major scale, can play hymns. / $133 or $145 with Pickup

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I want to play Christmas music on my kalimba

Like to play Christmas carols? Most everyone knows a bunch of Christmas carols, so it should be easy for you to learn how to play along with these tunes. We have multiple books for Alto and Treble kalimbas, plus downloads for the C-Alto, the 8-Note, and the 12-Note kalimbas. The kalimba sounds oh-so-beautiful playing Christmas music. This is one of my favorite kalimba applications.

Hugh Tracey Alto Kalimba

Hugh Tracey Alto Kalimba

The Hugh Tracey Alto kalimba is a great choice for Christmas music. / $133 or $145 with PU / Listen / Watch / Learn

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Hugh Tracey Treble Kalimba

Hugh Tracey Treble Kalimba

The Hugh Tracey Treble kalimba is also a good choice for Christmas music. / $124 or $136 with PU / Listen / Watch

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Hugh Tracey B flat Treble

Hugh Tracey B flat Treble

Set up to feel like an Alto, but three semitones higher, the Bb Treble can read Alto tablature. The Bb Treble is my instrument of choice for Christmas Carols because of its higher, shimmery tone. / $109 or $121 with pickup / Watch / Learn

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Chromatic Kalimbas

Chromatic Kalimbas

If you are really serious about playing Christmas Carols, you may want a Chromatic Kalimba. The front side is tuned just like the Alto, and the flats are on the back played by the fingers. You can read Alto tablature for the front side. There are three different models, all with built-in pickups:

Watch Alto Chromatic / Watch Celeste Chromatic / Learn

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I want to play classical music on my kalimba

Want to play classical music on the kalimba? The kalimba is a beautiful instrument on which to play classical music. Mark Holdaway and Sharon Eaton have transcribed 20 favorite classical melodies to kalimba tablature, and classical kalimba books are available for both Treble and Alto kalimba. These classical music arrangements for kalimba range from simple, single note melodies (e.g, New World Symphony theme) to very complex arrangements with counterpoint (e.g., Pachelbel's Canon). If you love classical music, now is a great time to start building up your chops with a kalimba and the classical music tablature!

Classical Alto Book

Classical Alto Book

The Classical Alto Book, arranged by Mark Holdaway and Sharon Eaton, includes 20 classical pieces for Alto kalimba. / $14 / Watch / Watch 2

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Hugh Tracey Alto Kalimba

Hugh Tracey Alto Kalimba

The Hugh Tracey Alto kalimba is a great choice for classical music. / $133 or $145 with Pickup / Listen /

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Classical Treble Book

Classical Treble Book

The Classical Treble Book, arranged by Mark Holdaway and Sharon Eaton, includes 20 classical pieces for Treble kalimba. / $14 / Watch / Watch 2

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Hugh Tracey Treble Kalimba

Hugh Tracey Treble Kalimba

The Hugh Tracey Treble kalimba is also a good choice for classical music. / $124 or $136 with Pickup

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Hugh Tracey Chromatic Kalimbas

Hugh Tracey Chromatic Kalimbas

The Hugh Tracey Chromatic Kalimba offers the ultimate in harmonic flexibility on a hand-held kalimba: 26 notes (flats/sharps are on the back side), 2 octaves, fully chromatic. Recommended for very serious players. Comes with pickup! There are three different models: Watch Alto Chromatic / Watch Celeste Chromatic / Learn

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Hugh Tracey B flat Treble Kalimba

Hugh Tracey B flat Treble Kalimba

Of course, my favorite kalimba to play classical music on is the Bb Treble, which reads the Alto Kalimba tablature. / $109 or $121 with pickup / Learn

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Questions?

If you have any questions, feel free to contact us via the email form, or speak directly to Mark Holdaway at 520-488-7641.

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