20 August 2016

Practice TIP: Structure vs Play - 1

Written by Mark Holdaway, Posted in Tips

Structure grounds and binds you to a song or tradition. Play sets you free.

Practice TIP: Structure vs Play - 1

Most people who pick up a kalimba will have an experience rich in play.

There is always a little tug of war going on between structured playing - learning what other people have done on the kalimba between the present and 1000 years before now, or figuring out your own song in a detailed manner, and free play - just playing what comes into your head, or more likely, what your thumbs decide to do.

My best playing and my best experiences occur when I am able to balance structure and freedom.

20 August 2016

Practice TIP: Make it Fun!

Written by Mark Holdaway, Posted in News and Announcements, Tips

If playing kalimba is fun, you will want to do it more

Practice TIP: Make it Fun!

There are many different ways to practice kalimba, and you should find the way that makes you happy.  Don't worry about the "right" way, but do search for the way that is right for you.

Everybody plays a bit differently, and everyone learns in different ways.  You do want a challenge so that you feel you are getting better, but you don't often want something that is so challenging that it is not fun.

I share some of the ways that I practice kalimba, and rate them by how fun I find them to be.

17 August 2016

Practice TIP: Explore The Notes That Aren't There

Written by Mark Holdaway, Posted in Tips

... you can hear them in your head even though they were not played

Practice TIP: Explore The Notes That Aren't There

Your ear is the best tool you have for progressing in music. While most people I know could not tell you why something in music is wrong, almost everyone will have a clue that something is wrong, because they hear it as sounding odd or incorrect. Rely upon your ear to guide you, and always ask: "Does this sound right?"

When I play, the "ear" in my head is also at work in a different direction - I actually hear notes that I did not play. It is like my soul or my mind is reaching out for a more perfect music, reaching out beyond the notes I played. This is how new music comes into being - it's creation happening - and there are lots of considerations in getting to the place where it happens for you too.

16 August 2016

Practice TIP: Explore Your Kalimba

Written by Mark Holdaway, Posted in News and Announcements, Tips

...but you need to do more than just explore

Practice TIP: Explore Your Kalimba

Welcome to your kalimba.  Based on the tuning and the note layout of your instrument, your kalimba represents a whole continent of sounds and musical possibilities, and it is well worth exploring it in depth.

When I started playing kalimba in 1986, there was no map to this continent.  There was no internet, and seemingly no information about the kalimba.  What did I do?  I explored my kalimba on my own, gradually learning more and more each day I played.

03 August 2016

New Music Tabs for 2B/14 kalimba in "E1 Tuning"

Written by Mark Holdaway, Posted in News and Announcements, Tips

Half the 2B/14 kalimbas we shipped last month were in E1 Tuning - Now there is music for the E1 Tuning

Thomas Bothe is famous for his delightful kalimbas as well as for his unique, individual kalimba tunings.  However, there was one day last month when I was fulfilling orders, and I tuned three 2B/14 kalimbas to the E1 tuning - which is perhaps the classic 2B tuning that most represents Thomas Bothe's soul.  Simple, delicate, easy, and beautiful.

Two of the three customers requested the E1 tuning after they had learned about it from the various 2B tunings I have documented online.  The third 2B/14 customer just asked for "a special tuning" - and I thought "I'm gonna make this E1 tuning an extra special tuning by writing some extra special music for it!"

03 August 2016

2B/9 Kalimbas Available in Sansula Tunings

Written by Mark Holdaway, Posted in News and Announcements, Tips

Instructional books and downloads are available for: Standard A minor, Heavenly A, Beautiful E, and C Major tunings

While the Thomas Bothe "2B" kalimbas are charming and delightful, they have one major drawback - there is a dearth of instructional materials for them.  This is mainly because each kalimba Thomas makes is an individual, tuned to its own unique tuning, and so it's not really possible to write a book for each one.

I had a great idea about making it possible for people to be taught how to play 2/B kalimbas. The idea came about this way: Over the last 10 years I produced several instructional books/downloads for four different Hokema sansula tunings (a sansula is a special kind of kalimba). While pondering how to make 2/B's teachable, it hit me: why not offer the 2B/9 kalimbas tuned to these four sansula tunings so people could use the sansula books to learn their 2B instruments? So that is what we have done, and below I describe each of the books which can be used with our new "alt" 2B kalimbas.

 

09 August 2016

TIP: Kalimba Playing Techniques - Glissando

Written by Mark Holdaway, Posted in Tips

The glissando permits you to play a chord of three or four notes

TIP: Kalimba Playing Techniques - Glissando

Not all kalimbas are laid out in the same way, but a lot of kalimba makers follow the lead of Hugh Tracey in laying out the notes to require an alternating left-right pattern to go up or down the scale.  If you have an alternating note layout, two or three adjacent notes on one side of the kalimba will sound great together.

This is a chord - at least three adjacent notes.  Easy!

But how should one play three or more notes simultaneously on a kalimba?

07 August 2016

Kalimba Spirituality

Written by Mark Holdaway, Posted in News and Announcements, Tips

The kalimba journey can reflect your inner spiritual journey

Kalimba Spirituality

 

Kalimba music tends, like the concept of Karma, to be cyclic. With Karma, what goes around, comes around, basically. Our job is to improve on what we put into the world, and what we get back will similarly improve. We can study and practice this our whole lives, and hopefully get better and better in all ways. When we are learning to play some new musical piece, our playing is plagued with stumbles and errors. And since kalimba music is generally cyclic, we will have repeating opportunities to improve on what we are studying. We go around and around the cycle, working to learn how each part goes. The work and effort we put into it will eventually result in a smooth familiarity with the music, with our hands and minds working together flawlessly. During the process, we may think we have it, but, like learning to ride a bicycle, we may make some mistakes on the way to having balance and flow.

11 August 2016

TIP: Playing the Alto Kalimba - Easy Alto

Written by Mark Holdaway, Posted in Tips

A download and some free tablature

TIP: Playing the Alto Kalimba - Easy Alto

I admit it - I got carried away with my tip on the traditional mbira song "Kuzanga" arranged for the Alto kalimba.  That is a challenging piece, but I know at least one person who will rise to that challenge - hopefully many more.

Now, let's do something that might be of interest to just about everyone - easy music for the alto kalimba.

07 August 2016

TIP: Playing the Bb Treble Kalimba - "Kuzanga"

Written by Mark Holdaway, Posted in Tips

Here is tablature for "Kuzanga" on Bb Treble Kalimba

TIP: Playing the Bb Treble Kalimba -

"Kuzanga" is a song for the mbira dzavadzimu, which is the instrument that accompanied the original, traditional African song.  I've been working on "Kuzanga" now for about six weeks on my mbira, and even though I have a long way to go, I can still feel myself getting better each day - it's a wonderful feeling.

While it is possible to play most of the "Kuzanga" variations on the Alto kalimba and the African karimba, the Bb Treble is much better for this song - the two extra high notes permit you to play the variations 1 and 2 (that I love so much!).

Below is an arrangement for the Bb Treble kalimba (it is laid out just like the Alto kalimba, but is shifted up to the key of Bb and also has an extra note on the far left and the far right):

 

 

 

 

07 August 2016

TIP: Playing the African Karimba - "Kuzanga"!

Written by Mark Holdaway, Posted in Tips

Here is the mbira song "Kuzanga," translated onto the karimba - get the tablature for free!

TIP: Playing the African Karimba -

I have been learning to play "Kuzanga" on the mbira, a 24-note traditional African lamellaphone that in my mind represents one of the pinnacles of ancient African ingenuity and art. 

I realized earlier today: it should be possible to play "Kuzanga" on the African karimba - and it is!  Included here, for your benefit, is tablature of "Kuzanga" for the karimba, for free!  Enjoy.

06 August 2016

TIP: Playing the Alto Kalimba - "Kuzanga"!

Written by Mark Holdaway, Posted in Tips

Free tablature for the mbira song "Kuzanga," translated to Alto kalimba!

TIP: Playing the Alto Kalimba -

"Kuzanga" is a song for the mbira dzavadzimu, or mbira.  I've been working on this song for about an hour a day on the mbira now for about six weeks, and even though I have a long way to go, I can still feel myself getting better each day - what a wonderful feeling.

I have not yet started to learn this song on the Alto kalimba, but I realized that several of the variations could be played on the Alto. So, I translated the song to Alto kalimba.

05 August 2016

TIP: Playing the 8-Note Kalimba

Written by Mark Holdaway, Posted in Tips

The 8-Note is a great place to start your kalimba journey

TIP: Playing the 8-Note Kalimba

When Hugh Tracey recorded and studied every kalimba he could find in southern Africa, he discovered roughly 40% of the kalimbas had the pentatonic scale (5 notes per octave), 40% were hexatonic (6 note), and 20% were like our modern scales, heptatonic (7 note).  The 8-note kalimba, in its standard tuning, actually has only 7 unique notes per octave, and the top note is the same as the bottom note, but is an octave higher.

Can you say "Do Re Mi Fa So La Ti Do"? 

It turns out that there is a lot of music you can play on an 8-note kalimba in such a tuning.

05 August 2016

TIP: Playing the Student Karimba

Written by Mark Holdaway, Posted in Tips

This is the instrument Andrew Tracey calls "The Original Mbira"

TIP: Playing the Student Karimba

If you are a beginning kalimba player who wants to play western music, the 8-Note kalimba is a great place to start. But if you want to play African music, I would recommend you get the Student karimba.

The Student karimba is an 8-note or 9-note instrument that attempts to reconstruct what Andrew Tracey believes was a common instrument over 1000 years ago.  He argues that this instrument gave rise to several other well known traditional instruments, such as the mbira dzavadzimu and the karimba.  As such, there are lots of traditional African songs you can play on this instrument.  Kalimba Magic has two books that work with it.  The Student karimba is a great introduction to the full-sized African karimba.

03 August 2016

Practice TIP: Progressive Sound Recordings of "Kuzanga" - an mbira song

Written by Mark Holdaway, Posted in Tips

This electronic recording breaks the song into small pieces and starts slow

Practice TIP: Progressive Sound Recordings of

One of the best ways to learn to play is by playing with someone else. If you don't actually have someone else to who knows the song to play along with, another way is to play along with a recording of the song you are trying to learn.

Here we present something new in terms of Kalimba Magic instructional materials - the mbira song "Kuzanga" played progressively - meaning at first very slowly and speeding up gradually to help in learning to play. Also, the song is broken up into sections, which are later combined.

The way I learned this song initially was by listening to KTabS performing the segments at progressively faster speeds, and I thought I would share this with the world to see if it was useful to anyone else. By the way, the recording is in the key of E (Erica Azim's preferred key for her mbiras - which have a low note of B - but this piece is in the key of E).

02 August 2016

Practice TIP: Marking your Mbira

Written by Mark Holdaway, Posted in Tips

I mark key root notes with different colors - and this works on other instruments too!

Practice TIP: Marking your Mbira

The mbira dzavadzimu is one of the pinnacles of the traditional African lamellaphones (thumb pianos), and its music is rich and sweet.  I consider the mbira and its music to be the highest intellectual wonder of ancient Africa.  And we can learn to play this venerable music today in our modern world.

I have a confession to make: while I easily picked up the kalimba and taught myself to play, I have had a very difficult time with the mbira.  I bought my first mbira more than 15 years ago, and while I tried many times, I could not even get started on this difficult instrument.

But something has changed, and I am suddenly progressing quickly on this instrument that eluded me for so long.

 

27 July 2016

Practice TIP: Play Every Day

Written by Mark Holdaway, Posted in Tips

20 Minutes a Day - You can make this a spiritual practice

Practice TIP: Play Every Day

You can spend 20 minutes a day doing any one particular activity, and you will get better at it.  If you did yoga for 20 minutes a day, your strength, flexibility, and balance would improve.  If you ran for 20 minutes a day, your cardiovascular function and physical stamina would improve.  If you meditated for 20 minutes a day, your level of insight and your outlook would probably improve.

What if you played kalimba for 20 minutes a day, every day?

I myself sometimes have difficulty finding the time to play kalimba every day, but when I do play every day, my life is better.  I am challenging myself, and I am challenging you: can we play kalimba for 20 minutes each day?

26 April 2016

TIP: Exploring Sansula Tunings - p1 - What is a Sansula?

Written by Mark Holdaway, Posted in Tips

All sansulas have nine tines, four of them bent upward

TIP: Exploring Sansula Tunings - p1 - What is a Sansula?

Kalimba Magic started making the first alternative sansula tunings many years ago, and we are the only people to have made instructional materials for the sansula and its alternative tunings. This series of tips is an overview of Kalimba Magic's sansula tunings and related instructional materials. 

We start our series of tips with the nuanced question: "What is a sansula?"

01 April 2016

TIP: A Karimba Improvisational Strategy Part 1

Written by Mark Holdaway, Posted in Tips

An Overview of a 13 Part Series of Tips for the African-Tuned Karimba

TIP: A Karimba Improvisational Strategy Part 1

Most karimba music gets two or more different musical lines going at once. Keeping these two different musical lines going is a bit like juggling. Sometimes each thumb takes on a separate musical line, and sometimes the thumbs take on both themes, with one or two musical lines bouncing back and forth between the two thumbs.

In this series of tips, I show you a very simple way of thinking about the karimba that will give you access to some basic improvisational skills. For this purpose, we are going to approach playing the karimba with an artificial limitation. To the right hand we are going to assign the role of harmonic and rhythmic support. To the left hand we are going to assign the role of melodic flash.

01 April 2016

TIP: Exploring Exotic Pentatonic Tunings - p1

Written by Mark Holdaway, Posted in Tips

The method you will learn in this series of tips will help you understand any kalimba's tuning

TIP: Exploring Exotic Pentatonic Tunings - p1

All of the specially tuned kalimbas we sell come with a card indicating the note names and note numbers of each tine. The letters are of obvious use - they tell you what note to tune each tine to if any ever go out of tune.

But if you have been mystified by the meaning of those numbers, this series of tips will help you learn how to use them. We present to you a laboratory of three different pentatonic kalimba tunings. The numbers guide us on our journey of understanding these kalimbas and how to drive them - but this information is not limited; it will help you to understand any kalimba.

Even if you don't have a pentatonic kalimba in your house or in your future, I invite you to jump in and work on understanding how the notes of any kalimba's tuning work with each other.

26 April 2016

TIP: Exploring Sansula Tunings - p2 - The Sansula in Standard Tuning

Written by Mark Holdaway, Posted in Tips

The standard A minor tuning requires almost no effort and sounds great

TIP: Exploring Sansula Tunings - p2 - The Sansula in Standard Tuning

Kalimba Magic started making the first alternative sansula tunings many years ago, and we are the only people to have made instructional materials for the sansula and its alternative tunings. This series of tips is an overview of Kalimba Magic's sansula tunings and related instructional materials. 

To gain some perspective, we take a close look at where the Sansula started - the standard A minor tuning.

26 April 2016

TIP: Exploring Sansula Tunings - p3 - The Sansula Book

Written by Mark Holdaway, Posted in Tips

This ground-breaking book inspired thousands

TIP: Exploring Sansula Tunings - p3 - The Sansula Book

Kalimba Magic started making the first alternative sansula tunings many years ago, and we are the only people to have made instructional materials for the sansula and its alternative tunings. This series of tips is an overview of Kalimba Magic's sansula tunings and related instructional materials.

This is a good example of the music played easily on the sansula in standard A minor tuning - it is one of the lessons from the book "Playing the Sansula", which mostly covers the standard tuning.

The media player at the bottom of the article will play a sound recording of this music, when you click on it.

26 April 2016

TIP: Exploring Sansula Tunings - p4 - Why Alternative Tunings?

Written by Mark Holdaway, Posted in Tips

Changing the tuning can transform the music the sansula plays

TIP: Exploring Sansula Tunings - p4 - Why Alternative Tunings?

Kalimba Magic started making the first alternative sansula tunings many years ago, and we are the only people to have made instructional materials for the sansula and its alternative tunings. This series of tips is an overview of Kalimba Magic's sansula tunings and related instructional materials.

Before we launch into several alternative tunings, it only seems fair that I explain why anyone would even want to try an alternative tuning on their sansula.

26 April 2016

TIP: Exploring Sansula Tunings - p5 - Characteristics of Tunings

Written by Mark Holdaway, Posted in Tips

Here are some of the tunings - many of them complete with sound recordings!

TIP: Exploring Sansula Tunings - p5 - Characteristics of Tunings

Are you still wondering why the big fuss over all those different sansula tunings? This tip clarifies that very question.  The differences among the tunings are made clear, with rich descriptions of how I perceive the music they make. And in addition, you can listen to and watch different tunings in action in the video below, which is a YouTube Playlist containing 7 separate short demonstrations.

 

 

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