The kalimba tines hurt my thumbs. What should I do?
When Portugese missionary Father Dos Santos wrote the oldest words that described the kalimba in 1586, he also mentioned that the players would grow their thumb nails long so that playing the metal tines would not hurt their thumbs. I grow my nails about 1/8 to 3/16 of an inch beyond my thumb flesh. With these nails, I can play for five or more hours in a day and experience essentially no pain from contacting the metal tines. By the way, when I play, my thumb flesh comes down flat on the tines to stop any buzzing, and then the thumb nail tip slides off the tip of the tine to start a new note.
Alaska Piks Are Awesome
What if you can’t grow your thumb nails? Or worse – what if your thumbnail breaks? There are Alaska Piks – guitar finger pics that can be put on your thumbs. BTW, the XL size pik (sized for XL fingers) fits perfectly on my normal-large sized thumbs.
You do need to have a wee bit of thumbnail for the Alaska Pik to slide under, so it remains stiff and doesn’t flop when you pluck a tine. I always take Alaska Piks to gigs. More than once I have broken a nail while loading in equipment, and having an Alaska Pik on hand can save a gig from going south. You will have to practice for a few minutes to recalibrate where your thumbnail tips are after putting on a pik. Alaska Piks do glissandos just fine.
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Learn more about thumb nail care on the “How to Play” page.Read more