"Learning to play kalimba," says Andrew Tracey, son of Hugh Tracey, who in the 1950's created and gave the world a kalimba that the western ear could understand, "is best done by learning from someone who knows how to play kalimba." But what if you don't know anyone who plays the kalimba?
If you know very little about the kalimba, start here! We'll introduce you to some important things to know about the kalimba, including how to tune it, how to fix a buzz, and what the different parts are called.
The kalimba is one of those rare instruments that you can play without really knowing anything about music or anything about the instrument. There are certain "rules of thumb" you can learn, and you can sound really good armed with those and a bit of confidence.
If it matters to you what notes you are going to play - that is, if you want to learn specific songs and want to achieve specific learning, Kalimba Tablature is a very good way to accomplish that. Tablature is a map of the kalimba that shows you which tines to play to make a song.
KTabS is a music editing program for your computer that lets you create your own tablature, or animate the tablature we have written. It is a great tool for learning to play kalimba or for creating your own music.
The most important thing you can do to sound good is to keep your kalimba in tune. If anyone tells you that kalimba tuning doesn't matter, don't believe them!
For centuries, kalimba players have grown their thumbnails long to help them play for hours without pain. But what if you don't have that kind of thumbnails? Read and learn!
The Alto Kalimba is one of the most versatile kalimbas - there are a dozen books and downloads available for it, and there are thousands of songs you can play on it, including traditional African music.
The Treble is the original kalimba that was sent around the world by Hugh Tracey in the 1960s. Slightly smaller than the Alto but with two more tines, the Treble is favored by people with smaller hands or superior manual dexterity.
Do you want a real challenge? Do you want a kalimba that will allow you to play essentially any sort of melody or harmony? Then the Chromatic Kalimba is your instrument. The Chromatic is really two kalimbas, with one row of tines on each side of its resonating box or board. It has the "white notes" on the front and the "black notes" on the back.
Do you want to play traditional African music? The African-tuned karimba has a wide and deep repertoire of music from across the vast Zambezi Valley, and is thought to be closely related to the original mbira tuning from 1300 years ago.
New Age musician SaReGaMa is a master at inventing new kalimba tunings. He has turned on a whole new generation of kalimba players, with both his brilliant playing and innovative tunings. Learn here about his special karimba tunings, the Lotus, the Freygish, and the Air tuning; watch Saregama's karimba videos, and check out instructional materials and karimbas available for purchase.
Pure magic, the New Age Sansula is a delight to play. Perhaps the most beautiful sounding kalimba, and with nine notes it is not so complex...the challenge here is to get sonic diversity through alternative tunings.
The 9-note student karimba - also called the "kalimba core" by Andrew Tracey - is likely the same instrument first documented by Father Dos Santos in 1586. A great place to start, the student karimba's design has a rich tradition of centuries-old African music, and its ancient 9 note layout underlies the structure of every traditional mbira in southeastern Africa. Many of the songs that are played on those mbiras can in part be played on this simpler instrument. Kalimba Magic calls this instrument the Student Karimba mainly because of its simplicity and that it is a great instrument on which to learn how to play. As an interesting aside, the Hugh Tracey 17-note African Tuned Karimba is a modern version of one of the traditional mbiras that descended from that venerable 9 note layout.
Wild and great fun, the pentatonic scale lets you cut loose and jam with an air of authenticity: the pentatonic scale is used by many indigenous peoples across the globe, and about 40% of the traditional African kalimbas Hugh Tracey studied used the pentatonic scale...not to mention Maurice White of Earth, Wind and Fire.
The Catania 6-Note Kalimba is a rugged instrument, great for children or for music therapy. It is economical, can be tuned in many ways, and can play a surprisingly large repertoire of songs for a kalimba with so few notes.
Are you a beginner who wants to play western music? This kalimba is a great place to start, and works well for kids as young as 6 years old, but is also a reasonable place for an adult to start. There are also alternative tunings from around the world available for the 8-Note.
The Catania 12-Note Kalimba is a great instrument for teens and adults, is very flexible and capable, and is a great value.
These are some of the most charming of kalimbas. Maker Thomas Bothe tunes each one to a different tuning - amazing.
This page presents some miscellaneous information about a few other kalimbas that we sell. We also give you some information about how you can proceed if your kalimba doesn't exactly match any of those for which we have already written books.