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.

 

 

28 April 2016

TIP: Exploring Sansula Tunings - p6 - How to Retune?

Written by Mark Holdaway, Posted in Tips

Exactly how does one go about retuning a sansula?

TIP: Exploring Sansula Tunings - p6 - How to Retune?

When you think of retuning, you may envision tuning hammers, tuning prongs, and pliers, and people pushing and grunting, but if you are serious about retuning your sansula, I have one little piece of information that will save you a lot of time and frustration. And we also hook you up with a lot of kalimba tuning resources!

28 April 2016

TIP: Exploring Sansula Tunings - p7 - The Easiest Retuning

Written by Mark Holdaway, Posted in Tips

Just retuning one of the A tines down to G increases the reach of the Sansula's standard tuning

TIP: Exploring Sansula Tunings - p7 - The Easiest Retuning

Modifying one note won't totally transform the sansula, but it will alter, and in this case, extend the musical palette available to the instrument. And if you are going to take the plunge and experiment with alternative tunings for the first time, you should start with something easy. This tuning only requires retuning one tine by a whole step.  It is also easy to get back to the original tuning, though I don't think you'd want to - I myself prefer to have that G than to have the double A's in the standard tuning.

28 April 2016

TIP: Exploring Sansula Tunings - p8 - The Beautiful E Tuning

Written by Mark Holdaway, Posted in Tips

From the Beautiful E Sansula Music Book

TIP: Exploring Sansula Tunings - p8 - The Beautiful E Tuning

While the standard-tuned sansula is lovely, many of the things it plays sound similar.  The Beautiful E Tuning for the Sansula not only has a totally different palette of colors and emotions, it can also play a much wider swathe of music than the standard tuning can.

This tip shares the tablature and sound recording of one of the songs from the Beautiful E Sansula book to give you an idea of what the Beautiful E can do.

28 April 2016

TIP: Exploring Sansula Tunings - p9 - The Heavenly A Tuning

Written by Mark Holdaway, Posted in Tips

From the Heavenly A Sansula Song Book

TIP: Exploring Sansula Tunings - p9 - The Heavenly A Tuning

The Heavenly A Sansula tuning is Rick Tarquinio's answer to my Beautiful E Tuning.  True to its name, the Heavenly A Sansula is quite lovely.  Not only is this a good tuning in which to improvise, but this tuning actually supports a great many songs.

The song in this lesson is "Sadza Madya Here", a traditional African piece for the karimba, but it sounds great on the sansula as well.

28 April 2016

TIP: Exploring Sansula Tunings - p10 - Morocco E Tuning

Written by Mark Holdaway, Posted in Tips

This is an enchanting middle-eastern style tuning

TIP: Exploring Sansula Tunings - p10 - Morocco E Tuning

Even though the  Morocco E sansula tuning is one that I haven't explored very much,  I actually have two instruments set up in this tuning!  I play around with this tuning because it is fun.  Morocco E tuning sounds quite serious, which is why I love it so much.

28 April 2016

TIP: Exploring Sansula Tunings - p11 - Bluesy E Tuning

Written by Mark Holdaway, Posted in Tips

This funky-bluesy tuning has a free instructional download

TIP: Exploring Sansula Tunings - p11 - Bluesy E Tuning

I was playing kalimba at an independent living facility here in Tucson, and the family of one of the residents was there enjoying the music.  After about five or six songs that were happy, light and beautiful, one of the visitors said "Play something ugly!"  Well, I could not. I suspect that what he was asking for was something less of a sweet delight and more gritty, bluesy, down and dirty.

The Bluesy E sansula tuning was created with that idea in mind. 

28 April 2016

TIP: Exploring Sansula Tunings - p12 - C Major Tuning

Written by Mark Holdaway, Posted in Tips

From the C Major Sansula Download

TIP: Exploring Sansula Tunings - p12 - C Major Tuning

The C Major Sansula Tuning is one of my favorites.  It is happy and uplifting and powerful.

28 April 2016

TIP: Exploring Sansula Tunings - p13 - C Minor Tuning

Written by Mark Holdaway, Posted in Tips

TIP: Exploring Sansula Tunings - p13 - C Minor Tuning

The C minor tuning is a straight minor pentatonic scale.  It has a little more force and a little less mystery than the standard A minor Ake Bono tuning.

28 April 2016

TIP: Exploring Sansula Tunings - p14 - Other Tunings

Written by Mark Holdaway, Posted in Tips

Following Kalimba Magic's lead in the Sansula Tuning Movement, other tuning innovation is happening

TIP: Exploring Sansula Tunings - p14 - Other Tunings

The people at Hokema have also been bringing forth sansula tuning alternatives. They have an app for the iphone that will help you experiment with your own sansula tunings, permitting you to retune, within realistic limits - that is, any tuning you create on the iphone will be possible to create on your sansula.

28 April 2016

TIP: Exploring Sansula Tunings - p15 - We'll Work With You

Written by Mark Holdaway, Posted in Tips

Do you really need some totally different tuning? We can probably invent it

TIP: Exploring Sansula Tunings - p15 - We'll Work With You

Many people are not looking for anything in specific - they will go for a particular kalimba or tuning because it makes cool music that resonates with them.   I think chances are good that these people will find something that tickles them among the tunings I have presented.

Some people have very specific needs.  They might require a sansula in a particular key so that it will work with other instruments playing a song in that key, or to accompany singing a particular song in that key.  Inventing a tuning for a particular key is as much an art as a science.  

In many cases, we can come up with a kalimba that fits your needs. This service is part of what we do at Kalimba Magic. Let us know if you have the need for a special tuning.

13 April 2016

TIP: Exploring Exotic Pentatonic Tunings - p2

Written by Mark Holdaway, Posted in Tips

What is the most important note on the kalimba? Understanding the use of the root note

TIP: Exploring Exotic Pentatonic Tunings - p2

The most important thing you need to figure out when you pick up a new kalimba is:  "where is the One?"  By the "1", I mean the root of the scale, the key of the kalimba, the note that you consider "home base", and probably the most important note on the kalimba.

(To complicate matters, there are usually multiple correct choices for which note you want to be the root - for example, you choose one note to be the root, and you are in G minor - you choose a different root note, and even though all the notes are exactly the same, you are in Bb major.  We will ignore all of those alternative understandings for now.)

What you learn about the root note is probably applicable to every kalimba you will ever pick up, so it is worth understanding - or if you know about this already, it is worth learning more.

13 April 2016

TIP: Exploring Exotic Pentatonic Tunings - p3

Written by Mark Holdaway, Posted in Tips

The next most important thing: find the kalimba's scale

TIP: Exploring Exotic Pentatonic Tunings - p3

When you pick up a new unknown kalimba, the first thing is to find the root notes.  The root, or "1", is the starting place for the scale. Once you know where the "1" note is, you need to map out the entire scale. You won't have the entire "Do Re Mi Fa So La Ti Do" scale, as some notes will be missing and other notes will be "tweaked" - that is, flattened or minorized. (Yeah, I made that word up.) You can actually learn to do this entirely by ear, but for now we'll rely upon the tuning charts, which basically tell us the answers, and we just have to be able to translate that information onto the kalimba.

Imagine you have an Ake Bono-tuned kalimba in your hand. Locate the lowest "1" note (it's right in the center).  Go up the scale - pay attention, you need to find the tine that is the next longest.  It could be be one on the left, or it could be the one on the right.

13 April 2016

TIP: Exploring Exotic Pentatonic Tunings - p4

Written by Mark Holdaway, Posted in Tips

Now, find the octave pairs on your kalimba

TIP: Exploring Exotic Pentatonic Tunings - p4

When you picked up a new unknown kalimba, the first thing was to find the root notes.  The second thing - look for and play the scale, from the low root note to the root note an octave higher.

This tip informs the third thing to do with your new unknown kalimba: find the octaves.

This is generally true, but not universally true:  most kalimba tunings follow a pattern, or scale, and continue with notes from that same scale in an upper octave.  Some instruments don't have octave intervals, but almost every tuned kalimba I have ever seen does have clear octave intervals. You don't have to have octaves in your tuning, but it helps the listener and it definitely helps you play if your tuning does have perfect octave intervals.

13 April 2016

TIP: Exploring Exotic Pentatonic Tunings - p5

Written by Mark Holdaway, Posted in Tips

Learn about how to use the second-most important note, the 5th

TIP: Exploring Exotic Pentatonic Tunings - p5

If the most important note on the kalimba is the root, or "one", the second most important note on the kalimba is the "5".  There is really no reason why a kalimba tuning has to have a "5", but almost every tuning does have a "1" and a "5".  This is because a "fifth" - the pitch interval between the "1" and the "5" - or also the actual sound made by playing the "1" and "5" together - is a fundamental interval. To get technical for a minute, when two notes are playing a perfect 5th apart from each other, the sound waves line up every 2 cycles of the lower note's wave, or every 3 cycles of the upper note's wave. It is just like the "2 against 3 rhythm", only it is happening 100 times or more per second.  We do not perceive it as a rhythm, we perceive it as a strong harmony.

By investigating this tiny collection of three pentatonic kalimba tunings, I am going to demonstrate the importance of the "1" and "5" notes in music in general. Compare the note numbers that are present in each of the three tunings. Only one tuning has a 2.  One has a major 3, the other two have a minor 3.  Only one tuning has the 4.  One tuning has a minor 6.  And two tunings have a minor 7.  No tunings have a minor 2, an augmented (raised) 4, a major 6, or a major 7. But every one of those tunings has a "1" and a "5". In fact, "1" and "5" are the only two notes that are shared in all three of these tunings.

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