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!
There's Tuning and Then There's Tuning
Kalimba tuning can be considered a noun and a verb at the same time. A kalimba's tuning refers to what notes are where and how they sound together. To tune a kalimba is to actually adjust tines so they have the exact sound they are supposed to, according to which note a tine is designated to play. The act of tuning could be to nudge a slightly detuned kalimba back into its previous tuning - that is, the notes will usually just be a wee bit out, and it is usually obvious what note each tine is supposed to be tuned to. On the other hand, the act of tuning (or retuning) could be to transform the kalimba at hand into a totally new and different tuning. The mechanics of these two tuning acts - restoring an old tuning or transforming to a new tuning - are the same. Every time you refine your tuning - a conservative act - you are gaining the skills you will need when you decide to transform your tuning - a radical act.
There are two issues: First, which tuning do you want? Second, how do you achieve that tuning? You can check out the specific "How to Play" page for your particular kind of kalimba to learn what tunings are available for that kalimba. But as to actually doing the tuning? Watch the following videos! Please keep in mind these two important things: One, an electronic tuner is important for accuracy. Two, I find that using my fingers gives me the best control when tuning, but others might use a pliers or other tool to help.
A video showing the principles of tuning a kalimba, and the difference an alternate tuning can make in the kalimba sound.
Video showing me touch up the tuning of an Alto kalimba.
When changing to a different tuning, make sure you know how to get back to the original tuning. Also, make sure that you can actually achieve that tuning. Making tines longer (from the point where they are held down on the bridge) will lower their pitch, and making them shorter will make their pitch higher. So it is good to consider, for example, whether a desired note is so low that a tine would not be long enough to actually make that note.
If you have difficulty tuning your kalimba, see the Kalimba Doctor, and he will do the deed for you:
Tine Spacing and Exciting a Buzz
Once you have had some practice adjusting the tuning of your kalimba to put it back in tune, you might want to consider exploring some of the alternative tunings. Many tunings we offer at Kalimba Magic can be found on the Alto. Tunings page:Learn Alternative Tunings
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