Catania8Note 150 How to Play the 8-Note Kalimba

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 8-Note Kalimba

The 8-Note Kalimba

The main reason the 8-Note Kalimba is great to learn on is that it shares all of the layout features with the bigger Alto and Treble Kalimbas, but it only has a few notes - just enough for you to get the principles without being overwhelmed. Everything you learn here can be fully transferred to the bigger Alto or Treble kalimbas. With fewer tines, this kalimba tilts the odds in favor of success. It is sized for young hands, but I actually have a few in my arsenal of instruments. I also have 20 of these set aside for working with children and adults when I give a large kalimba presentation. So, while they are basic instruments that are easy to learn on, they are still good instruments and anyone can play one.

8-Note Kalimba Videos

These videos show some of the various 8-Note Kalimba models available. As I watched these videos, I was struck by this simple fact - the more you relax and the lighter the touch you are able to play with, the better your music will sound.


  • Demo of the Catania 8-Note kalimba.

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  • Demo of Catania 8-Note gourd piano.

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  • Demo of Hugh Tracey 8-Note Kalimba.

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  • Feelin Groovy on a One-Handed Kalimba.

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  • Michelle Erfurt: Somewhere Over the Rainbow on the 8-Note Kalimba

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  • Michelle Erfurt: Up On The Roof on the 8-Note Kalimba.

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    Books and Downloads for the 8-Note Kalimba

    • Best Ever Book of 8-Note Kalimba Music

      Best Ever Book of 8-Note Kalimba Music

      This tablature-based book is a great introduction to the 8-Note Kalimba for kids.The book contains a number of well-known children's songs, but it also has popular songs such as Over the Rainbow, as well as classical, Latin, and African tunes. Good for kids 6 and up.

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    • Numbers-based 8-Note Kalimba Song Book

      Numbers-based 8-Note Kalimba Song Book

      This numbers-based book for the 8-Note Kalimba, written by Steve Catania, is a good introduction to the kalimba for kids age 6-12. The numbers-based method is an alternative to kalimba tablature.

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    • 32 Songs for the 8-Note Kalimba

      32 Songs for the 8-Note Kalimba

      Tablature for 32 Songs for the 8-Note Kalimba in F tuning, in PDF and KTabS formats. MP3s for 10 of the 32 songs are also included. African, classical, folk, peace, patriotic, Christmas, African-American Spirituals, reggae, ETC! This is the next step for people who want more than the other books have to offer.

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    8-Note Kalimba Articles and Tips

    These articles and tips on playing the 8-note kalimba are taken from the archives and are not yet part of the new web site. As such, many of the links you will find in these pages do not work, yet their value will still be self-evident.

    • Next Steps for 8-Note Kalimba Players - What kalimba do you want to learn next? (2009)

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    • Percussive Arts Society reviews The Best Ever Book of 8-Note Kalimba Music (2006)

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    • Sharon Eaton writes for the 8-Note in F tuning (2007)

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    • Sharon writes more music for the 8-Note in F tuning (2007)

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    • New! 32 Song Download for the 8-Note Kalimba in F tuning (2015)

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    • The first series of nine Tips of the Day for the 8-note kalimba.

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    • Tip of the Day: the backing riff from El Manisero, a song in the Best Ever 8-Note Kalimba Book.

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    • Tip of the Day: 2 against 3 riffs for an 8-Note kalimba in African Karimba tuning.

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    • Tip of the Day: a fancier riff for an 8-Note kalimba in African Karimba tuning.

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    • Tip of the Day: music for the Hitzaskiar-tuned 8-Note kalimba.

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    • Tip of the Day: the Ake Bono tuned 8-Note Kalimba.

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    • Tip of the Day: the 8-Note and the 12-Note

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    • Tip of the Day: the 8-Note and the Alto Kalimba

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      8-Note Kalimba Models

      Goshen 8-Note Kalimba in D

      Goshen 8-Note Kalimba in D

      These 8-Note Kalimbas are tuned to the key of D by default, rather than the key of C. Yet as the note arrangement is the same as the other 8-Note Kalimbas, just shifted up higher, all of the books will work fine for this kalimba.

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      Hugh Tracey 8-Note Kalimba

      Hugh Tracey 8-Note Kalimba

      The elegant design by Hugh Tracey echoes the shape of the traditional 8-Note instruments from the heart of Africa, The painted tines assist you in interfacing left and right side, transferring music from the tablature to the kalimba, and connecting this instrument with the lower eight notes of the Alto or Bb Treble Kalimbas when it is time to advance to a more capable kalimba.

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      Hugh Tracey 8-Note Kalimba with Pickup

      Hugh Tracey 8-Note Kalimba with Pickup

      This is the only 8-Note Kalimba with an electronic pickup - can plug into an amplifier with a quarter inch jack.

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      Catania 8-Note Board Kalimba

      Catania 8-Note Board Kalimba

      The Catania 8-Note Board Kalimba has been discontinued.
      One Handed Catania Kalimba

      One Handed Catania Kalimba

      The One-Handed 8-Note Catania Kalimba.has been discontinued.
      Catania 8-Note Gourd Kalimba

      Catania 8-Note Gourd Kalimba

      The Catania 8-Note Gourd Kalimba has been discontinued.

      8-Note Kalimba Tunings

      The 8-Note Kalimba can be tuned to different scales from around the world.

      • Standard C Major

        Standard C Major

        Most 8-Note Kalimbas have a standard tuning of the C major scale (the Goshen Box 8-Note Kalimba has the same basic note layout but is tuned to D major instead). The books assume you have this tuning. While this tuning is totally logical, there are actually a lot of other tunings that you can do wonderful things with.
      • D Major

        D Major

        The Goshen 8-Note Box Kalimba has the same basic tuning, except every note is a whole step higher, putting it in D major. You can still use the same 8-Note books, but if you listen to the CD, you cannot play along as it is in a different key.

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      • F Major

        F Major

        If you compare this tuning chart to the C major tuning, you will notice that the letters are all the same, except that B has turned into Bb (B flat) - that is, you pull it out slightly to make it a bit longer and lower. This action will change it from being the7th of the scale and make it be the 4th... counting down, F is now the root, and the low note (and the top note) on this kalimba, C, is now the 5th.

        Why would you want to do this? It turns out that there are a whole bunch of songs you can play on an 8-note kalimba set up like this, and they are not possible in the standard setup. And the best news? This is the smallest possible retuning you can do, and you get a huge result from it! We have a 32 Song download for the 8-Note in this tuning; click the link to purchase the download.

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      • C Minor

        C Minor

        After you pull out your B tine to make it a Bb, you might also consider pulling out the A tine and E tine to Ab and Eb. Why would you do this? These changes will give you a minor 3rd, a minor 6th, and a minor 7th - all the changes you need to accomplish to form the C natural minor tuning. This tuning will be more melancholy, more moody, more mystical. In other words, it will play totally different music, and it is still a very simple retuning, and it is easy to go back to the standard C major. Try it, I think you'll like it.
      • Middle Eastern

        Middle Eastern

        By now you are getting the idea: small changes in the notes you have on your kalimba can make profound changes in the music that comes out of it. The important change in this Middle Eastern tuning is the G going to a G#. Tuning the low C down to a B, and the high C up to an E, are less important changes that serve to reinforce the E as the new root. This tuning will play very cool Middle Eastern sounding music.
      • Student Karimba

        Student Karimba

        This is perhaps the most important alternative tuning - it reproduces the African Tuned Karimba, also called the Student Karimba. It is thought to be the original tuning of the African Mbira over 1000 years ago, and is thought to be the tuning that Father Do Santos saw when he first wrote about the kalimba in 1586 in present-day Mozambique. Also, you can find a lot of instructional material on this tuning in the Student Karimba section by clicking below.

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      • Sansula Tuning

        Sansula Tuning

        The Sansula is one of the coolest kalimbas in the world, and costs a lot of money too - but the good news is that you can put the Sansula tuning on your inexpensive 8-Note Kalimba. This tuning is an A minor derived from the Ake Bono scale. Learn more about the Sansula by clicking below.

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      • C minor Ake Bono

        C minor Ake Bono

        The Sansula tuning is based on the Japanese Ake Bono scale, but it skips a note. Here we have reproduced the C minor Ake Bono scale, without skipping any notes. This is a great scale, and playing it can transport you to another continent.
      • Hitzazkiar

        Hitzazkiar

        The Hitzazkiar tuning is a Persian scale similar to the Middle Eastern tuning. Look at the right side - C E G B - these are the same notes as the standard tuning, but the notes on the left side are all one half-step above the notes on the right side.

      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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