Which kalimba is best for me?

Which kalimba is best for me?

Which Kalimba is best for me?

Kalimba Magic sells many different kinds of kalimba and the choice can be overwhelming. However, every kalimba that we sell is an excellent instrument for somebody, and part of what we do is try to match the perfect kalimba and tuning with each person.


The Hugh Tracey Alto Kalimba – and the Bb Treble (a Treble that is set up to look and feel like an Alto kalimba) are the real workhorses in my collection. Why? There are more songs that I can play on these kalimbas than any other kalimba. There are also correspondingly more books and instructional materials for these kalimbas than for any other. They are easy to understand and they are easy to learn. Even if you are a beginner, if you have rhythm or if you have some music experience or if you have confidence (or any combination of these), the Alto Kalimba is probably a good choice.

Remember that people with smaller hands often prefer the Treble or Bb Treble kalimba to the Alto..

Not all Hugh Tracey kalimbas are mounted on resonant boxes – some are called “Celeste” models, and are mounted on a narrower resonant board. These have a more “music box” sound, and fit very well in smaller hands. The celeste kalimba shown here is an Alto (with 15 notes), but the celeste kalimbas are also made as 17-note Trebles, 11-note diatonics, 11-note pentatonics, and 17-note karimbas.

What is the difference between an Alto and a Treble and a Pentatonic? The number of tines and the tuning and range of the kalimba.


Some people don’t want to shell out over $100 for an instrument which they have no idea whether they (or their kids) will like. We have three kalimbas that are under $40 that are really pretty good instruments. They will certainly give you a good feel for the kalimba. The reduced number of tines to play will tilt the odds toward a successful experience, and the music you learn on these instruments will be applicable to larger, more complex instruments. Think of these as “gateway kalimbas”.

  • If you want to play African music, the
    Goshen 9-Note Student Karimba (shown in the photo) looks, feels, and sounds very smooth, and young or inexperienced thumbs will be happy with it. Plus there is an introductory booklet for kids that comes with it for free, and a longer book/CD is available for the more serious player.
  • The Catania 6-Note Pentatonic Kalimba can actually play dozens of songs such as “Amazing Grace,” “Swing Low, Sweet Chariot,” and “I Wanna Hear That Funky Dixieland, Pretty Mama Come and Take Me By The Hand (Black Water)”. This kalimba comes with a numbers-based booklet – perfect for children 5 and up, but I like to take this one with me on my kalimba walks because it is so simple!
  • The Catania 8-Note Diatonic Kalimba, tuned to the “Do Re Mi Fa So La Ti Do” scale, has a numbers-based book, a tablature-based book, and an instructional download with 32 songs. There is a lot of music playable on this kalimba, including “Joy To the World” and a simplified version of “Over the Rainbow”. This instrument is a great introduction to the kalimba. In addition, it’s not difficult to retune, and there are dozens of possible alternative scales that work on it, which will help broaden your kalimba experience.


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