treble 150 How to Play the Treble Kalimba

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. 

 

The 17-Note Treble Kalimba - the Original Hugh Tracey Kalimba

The 17-Note Treble Kalimba - the Original Hugh Tracey Kalimba

The 17-Note Treble Kalimba in G was the first kalimba produced by Hugh Tracey and African Musical Instruments (AMI), beginning in 1954, and in the early 1960s, when AMI sold 10,000 kalimbas to Creative Playthings in Princeton, NJ, every one was a Treble. When Maurice White of Earth, Wind and Fire hit the scene in 1973, he was playing a Hugh Tracey Treble Kalimba.

For the skilled player, the Treble's smaller, closer tines permit faster playing; its extra tines allow different and more complex music. This kalimba is the platform for our two Treble modifications, the Bb Treble (tunable to the keys of A, Bb, B, and C), and the D Treble (tunable to the keys of C, Db, D, Eb, and E).

Treble Kalimba Videos

  • Demo of the Hugh Tracey Treble Kalimba


    Exploring the Treble Kalimba in the standard G Major tuning. The lowest note is B, the 3rd of the scale.

  • Lesson on the Treble Kalimba, Standard G Tuning


    Playing Silent Night on the Treble Kalimba using the "Windshield Wiper Method", which is applicable to all diatonic kalimbas.

  • Treble Kalimba in B flat Tuning: "Nowhere Man"


    This retuning shifts seven tines down a half step from the standard G tuning, and the result is that the lowest note, now a Bb, is also the key note.

  • Maurice White on the Treble Kalimba in Pentatonic Tuning


    Maurice White played a Hugh Tracey Treble Kalimba tuned to an A minor pentatonic scale with redundant notes - which I call "Evil Tuning", after the song he famously performed in this tuning.

  • D Style Treble Tuned Up to F, with F Alto (Matched Pair)


    The "D Treble" has the root note on the top right tine - with 17 notes, this puts B in the bass note. This D Treble has been tuned up to F so it can play with the F Alto as a "Matched Pair" - that is, the Treble kalimba is an octave above the Alto kalimba (neglecting those bottom two notes on the Treble).

    Treble Kalimba Photos

    • Standard Treble Kalimba

      Standard Treble Kalimba

      Five of the 17 tines on the Treble kalimba are painted. Why are they painted this way? Hugh Tracey started painting every third tine to help you keep your place on the instrument. Any tine was either colored, or one above a colored one, or two above a colored one (which also turns out to be one below the next colored one). All diatonic and pentatonic Hugh Tracey kalimbas (that is, all kalimbas where the tines are in a single row and make a nearly perfect "V" shape with their tips) come with painted tines, and you can choose red, blue, green, black, white, and unpainted. If you don't choose, we'll send you what we have most of (probably blue).

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    • Unpainted Treble Kalimba

      Unpainted Treble Kalimba

      Since we paint the kalimbas ourselves, we can also send you a kalimba with unpainted tines. I actually like this look better, but I also appreciate the functional boost I get from being able to see the painted tines. One should strive to be able to play without looking at the tines. I suppose I should take on an unpainted kalimba into my stable to facilitate being able to play well without looking. It's a worthy goal.

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    • The B flat Treble

      The B flat Treble

      One main reason why the Alto kalimba is so good is the note layout. Exactly two octaves, with the root note the same as the bass note, which are both huge psychological advantages to understanding the instrument. The Hugh Tracey Bb Treble Kalimba is my invention, and it makes the Treble a lot more like the Alto by putting the root note (Bb) as the central, lowest note, as does painting the instrument just like the Alto.

      The BbTreble: smaller, faster, higher pitched, more piercing, more charming, and I could play every song I ever wrote for, or learned, on the Alto, and much more! The Bb Treble has competed with my Alto for "my favorite kalimba" status ever since its creation.

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    • The D Treble

      The D Treble

      The D Treble also has the "look and feel" of the 15-note Alto kalimba, but with the two extra notes at the bottom. If you neglect those lowest two (central) notes, you have exactly two octaves on this new Treble layout. If the lowest note is B (the note the Treble kalimba was designed to play), then the root note is D, significantly higher than the Alto's G or the Bb Treble's Bb. You can tell that this is a D Treble by which tines are painted, and if you use that as a guide, you can see a little Alto kalimba buried in the top 15 tines, plus the two extra unpainted central tines.

      The D Treble will play everything that the Alto plays, and it will read Alto tablature if you skip those lowest two tines. If you do play those two tines, this instrument lends itself to playing in the key of B minor.

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    • The Celeste Treble

      The Celeste Treble

      Kalimba Magic can now supply any of the Hugh Tracey kalimbas with Celeste bodies, which are a solid piece of wood. Compared with box kalimbas, the sound quality of the Celeste is more like that of an old-fashioned music box. You cannot create the wet "wah-wah" effect that is possible with box kalimbas. Celestes are especially good for playing inside gourds, which vastly increases volume and resonance.

      A Celeste body has the same footprint as the Treble box, but is much shallower, and therefore is even better for smaller hands.

      All Hugh Tracey kalimbas are available with an optional built-in pickup.

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      Books and Downloads for the Treble Kalimba

      Kalimba Magic has a series of books that use our unique kalimba tablature. Learning songs and exercises through tablature is fun and easy, and many of the exercises in the books are also available in KTabS format for your computer.

      • Treble Fundamentals

        Treble Fundamentals

        The foundational book for the classic Treble kalimba in G. This comprehensive introduction to the Treble covers technique, chords, scales, left-right exercises, and songs. This book is 32 pages, and comes with with a CD that contains all the songs and exercises.

        Purchase Book/Download

      • Christmas Carols for Alto and Treble

        Christmas Carols for Alto and Treble

        25 favorite Christmas Carols, ranging from simple single note melody lines to two note harmonies, full harmonies, and counterpoint. Note that 3/4 of this book is arranged for the Alto Kalimba and only about 1/4 is arranged for the Treble. 32 pages with CD.

        Purchase Book/Download

      • Treble Hymnal

        Treble Hymnal

        Arranged by Sharon Eaton, this book has 50 hymns, ranging from simple to difficult. Amazing Grace, How Can I Keep From Singing, Jesus Loves Me, There is a Balm in Gilead, What a Friend We Have in Jesus, and 45 others.

        Purchase Book/Download

      • Classical Treble

        Classical Treble

        Arranged by Mark Holdaway and Sharon Eaton, is available both in book form and in KTabS download. This book has 20 favorite classical melodies, ranging from simple to very challenging. Bach, Handel, Holst, Pachelbel, and many others, this collection will keep you busy for months, if not years. Available in KTabS format only, sorry no books yet! INSERT LINK(s)

        Purchase Book/Download

      • Advanced Christmas Carols

        Advanced Christmas Carols

        This book has the same 20 Christmas Carols as the advanced Alto book, but arranged for the Hugh Tracey Treble. Some songs, such as Silent Night and O Holy Night come across much better on the Treble as they require those higher notes that just aren't there on the Alto or the Bb Treble kalimbas.

        Purchase Book/Download

      • Advanced Christmas Download for B Flat Treble

        Advanced Christmas Download for B Flat Treble

        This download represents the original arrangements for the advanced Christmas Carols, which I made and wrote out first for the Bb Treble kalimba. I like the Bb Treble kalimba best for these Christmas Carols, and there are two more notes available than the Alto kalimba.

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      • 66 Song Download

        66 Song Download

        Download of 66 songs taken from the Trad. African, Spirituals, Folk Songs, Peace Songs, Americana, Classical, and Christmas carol repertoire.

        Purchase Book/Download

      • 66 Song Download for B Flat Treble

        66 Song Download for B Flat Treble

        Download of 66 songs taken from the Trad. African, Spirituals, Folk Songs, Peace Songs, Americana, Classical, and Christmas carol repertoire.

        Purchase Book/Download

      Tips for the Treble Kalimba

      The Archival Tuesday Tips of the Day and Wednesday Tips of the Day are filled with great insights for developing skills on the Treble kalimba.

      Newsletter Articles on the Treble Kalimba

      These are archival newsletter articles from 2005-2015, and offer a lot of information on the Treble kalimba, as well as a lot of free tablature. Be aware that some links within these archived articles may not work, but in the near future we will correct this, and all the material will be available in another format. Click on the grey circles below for 20 great articles.

      • The Original c. 1968 16-Page Manual for the Hugh Tracey Treble (and Alto), scanned and bundled as a PDF.

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      • Kalimba of the Month: The Hugh Tracey Treble Kalimba (2009).

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      • Kalimba of the Month: The Hugh Tracey Bb Treble Kalimba (2009).

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      • Which Book is Right for the Hugh Tracey Bb Treble Kalimba? (2009)

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      • Kalimba of the Month: Middle Eastern Tuned Treble (2009)

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      • How to transpose Alto tablature into Treble tablature in the KTabS program (2009)

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      • Ask Mark: Sizes and Weights of the Alto & Treble Kalimbas (2010)

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      • Maurice White's Kalimba Prelude to "Evil" Now Available in Tablature! (2010)

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      • "Nowhere Man", arranged by Mark Holdaway. Tablature for Alto, Treble, and Bb Treble Kalimbas (2010)

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      • "Carol of the Bells" Tablature - Alto, Treble, Bb Treble & Chromatic Kalimbas (2010)

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      • Hava Nagila & the Middle Eastern Tuning - Tablature for Alto and Treble (2010)

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      • Tablature for Danny Boy - Alto, Treble and Bb Treble Kalimbas (2011)

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      • Aks Mark - What's the significance of the painted tines? (2011)

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      • 8th Street Music Unearths Vintage 1968 HT Treble Kalimba - What does it mean? (2011)

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      • A Fifties Christmas Medley on the Bb Treble Kalimba - Rudolph, Frosty and Santa are all coming to town! (2011)

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      • Playing the Alto and Treble Together - Tuned in Octaves, This Pair Sounds Awesome! (2012)

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      • New Music for the Treble and the Bb Treble Kalimbas - 66 Song Downloads Now Available (2012)

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      • Kalimba College: Painted Tine Insights - Relationships Between Alto and Treble Kalimbas (2015)

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      • Free Tablature, KTabS, and MP3 Files! "In the Night" and "Sunday Morning" for Alto, Treble and Bb Treble Kalimbas (2015)

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      • Matched Octave Alto and Treble Kalimbas - Get Sonic Diversity without Relearning (2015)

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        Treble Models Available from Kalimba Magic

        Hugh Tracey Treble Kalimba

        Hugh Tracey Treble Kalimba

        The Hugh Tracey Treble Kalimba, 17-notes, box mounted. The Treble has its own series of books and downloads.

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        Hugh Tracey Treble Kalimba with Pickup

        Hugh Tracey Treble Kalimba with Pickup

        The Hugh Tracey Treble Kalimba, 17-notes, box mounted, with an electronic pickup added so you can plug into a guitar amp, an effects processor, a DI box, or a PA system.

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        Hugh Tracey B flat Treble Kalimba

        Hugh Tracey B flat Treble Kalimba

        The Bb Treble is tuned and painted differently than the standard Treble Kalimba such that it is in the key of Bb and has the root note (Bb) in the bass. Can be tuned to A, Bb, B, or C. This kalimba is very similar in note layout to the Alto Kalimba - it can read Alto tablature.

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        Hugh Tracey B flat Treble Kalimba with Pickup

        Hugh Tracey B flat Treble Kalimba with Pickup

        The Bb Treble is tuned and painted differently than the standard Treble Kalimba such that it is in the key of Bb and has the root note (Bb) in the bass. Can be tuned to A, Bb, B, or C. This kalimba is very similar in note layout to the Alto Kalimba - it can read Alto tablature. With electronic pickup added.

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        Hugh Tracey D Treble Kalimba

        Hugh Tracey D Treble Kalimba

        The D Treble is tuned and painted differently than the standard Treble Kalimba such that it is in the key of D and has the root note (D) at the very top. The lowest note, B, is the relative minor to D, and the low D is the adjacent tine to the low B. Can be tuned to C, Db, D, Eb, E, or F. This kalimba is very similar in note layout to the Alto Kalimba, but with two extra notes at the bottom, and it can read Alto tablature.

        Purchase Kalimba

        Hugh Tracey D Treble Kalimba with Pickup

        Hugh Tracey D Treble Kalimba with Pickup

        Same as the previous D Treble instrument, except this one comes with a pickup and a 1/4" jack.

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        Hugh Tracey Celeste Treble Kalimba

        Hugh Tracey Celeste Treble Kalimba

        The Hugh Tracey Celeste Treble Kalimba, 17-notes, board mounted (the name Celeste is given to any kalimba mounted on a board rather than a resonating box). It uses the same tablature, books and downloads as the standard Treble.

        Purchase Kalimba

        Hugh Tracey Celeste Treble Kalimba with Pickup

        Hugh Tracey Celeste Treble Kalimba with Pickup

        This is the same instrument as the Celeste Treble Kalimba, but with a pickup.

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        Treble Kalimba Tunings

        If you are undecided about the tuning, your best bet is to go with the standard G major tuning and setup. Most of the tips, tablature, and books were written for the standard tuning, so a good path to follow is to keep your kalimba in the key of G for a year or two or three as you learn, and then branch out into other tunings as you progress. Of course, the Kalimba Doctor at Kalimba Magic can retune your current treble kalimba any way you like!
        • Standard G Major

          Standard G Major

          The letters are the names of the notes each tine is tuned to. The numbers are the degree of the scale - that is, 1, the root note, is "Do" as in "Do, Re Mi, Fa, So". The number 5? Count up, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, which would be "Do, Re, Mi, Fa, So". The major scale is the standard reference for all other scales, and scales that have different intervals will indicate their departure from the major scale intervals with a + or - sign, as in 3- for a minor or flattened or lowered third degree of the scale.

        • B Flat Treble

          B Flat Treble

          The Bb Treble kalimba reads Alto Tablature - compare the numbers, that is the degrees of the scale, and the painted tines, to the Alto's standard tuning - they are identical, except for the high 2 and 3 which are missing from the Alto Kalimba's standard tuning. The notes are all raised a minor 3rd from the Alto standard tuning. All the tines can be pulled out or pushed in a bit and this basic tuning can be extended to the keys of A, Bb, B, or C.
        • D Treble

          D Treble

          The D Treble kalimba reads Alto Tablature - compare the numbers, that is the degrees of the scale, and the painted tines, to the Alto's standard tuning - they are identical, except for the two lowest tines B and C# (unnumbered here) which are missing from the Alto Kalimba's standard tuning. The notes are all raised a 5th above the Alto standard tuning. This basic tuning can be extended to the keys of C, Db, D, Eb, E, and F.
        • Maurice White's Evil Tuning

          Maurice White's Evil Tuning

          This is similar to the tuning that Maurice White of Earth, Wind, and Fire used on essentially all of the kalimba songs they did. I "reverse engineered" it from a YouTube video of Maurice White playing.
        • Middle Eastern

          Middle Eastern

          This was my very first alternative tuning, which I made in 2001, and it uses the B as the root for a Middle-Eastern feeling scale. This is a tuning that you can easily do yourself, as all you need to do is push the lower two D tines up to D#. I liked leaving the upper D natural, which can lead to dissonance if you play the octaves - so watch out for that one. This also plays in E harmonic minor. It is actually very fun to switch back and forth between playing in B Middle Eastern and E harmonic minor.

        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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