13 April 2016

TIP: Exploring Exotic Pentatonic Tunings - p6

Written by Mark Holdaway, Posted in Tips

More about using the 5th

TIP: Exploring Exotic Pentatonic Tunings - p6

The 5th interval is so important that an entire book could be written on it alone. The attention and time you devote to learning and practicing with it is much more than valuable. Let me hear from you about how you are absorbing and growing with this essential knowledge, which will underscore most of your kalimba endeavors

The 5th is such a significant interval that it tends to show up all through the scale, not just between the "1" and the "5".   If you can learn the other pairs of notes on your kalimba that also make 5th intervals, you can bring all of the power of the 5th interval in to other sounds and chords, adding depth and breadth to your playing.

13 April 2016

TIP: Exploring Exotic Pentatonic Tunings - p7

Written by Mark Holdaway, Posted in Tips

The distinctive relationship between the "5" and the "1" on your kalimba

TIP: Exploring Exotic Pentatonic Tunings - p7

Here is a classic characterization about the "5 - 1" interval. Think, for a moment, about "5" as "Heave!", and the "1" as the "Ho!" It's kind of like call and response: the "5" is the call, and the "1" is the response. Once you play the "5" (or say "Heave!"), you are priming the ear for the "1" (or "Ho!").  You can play the "5" and NOT go to the "1", but doing that can leave the listener seriously up in the air. To prevent their feeling toyed with, replace that resolution with something that's worth the surprise - make it good and satisfying!

 

 

 

13 April 2016

TIP: Exploring Exotic Pentatonic Tunings - p8

Written by Mark Holdaway, Posted in Tips

Looking at the other notes on the F7 Bebey Tuning

TIP: Exploring Exotic Pentatonic Tunings - p8

In the previous tip, we stated that the "5" and the "1" form the backbone of the music, and the other notes of the scale provide different spices.  Let's look at what those spices are.

I should note that the way people understand harmonies changes over time and culture.  Early European music listeners in the 13th and 14th centuries perceived the minor 3rd as being happy, and the major 3rd being sad.  Most western listeners today - and I would assert at this point, most global listeners - now hear the minor 3rd as being mysterious or melancholy, while the major 3rd intervals imply more positive expressions.

13 April 2016

TIP: Exploring Exotic Pentatonic Tunings - p9

Written by Mark Holdaway, Posted in Tips

Looking at the other notes on the G Ake Bono Tuning

TIP: Exploring Exotic Pentatonic Tunings - p9

The F7 Bebey and the G minor Pentatonic scales are made up of intervals of two or three half steps (two half steps is a whole step, and three half steps is also known as a minor 3rd).  The Ake Bono tuning is very strange in that it has two intervals that are only a half step, and also one interval between adjacent notes in the scale that is two whole steps. The intervals in this scale are both closer and farther apart than the intervals on the other scales.

The Ake Bono scale starts as 1 2 3-, or one, two, minor third.  It falls short of the major - it is minor, mysterious and moody.  But often totally beautiful.

13 April 2016

TIP: Exploring Exotic Pentatonic Tunings - p10

Written by Mark Holdaway, Posted in Tips

Looking at the other notes on the G minor Pentatonic

TIP: Exploring Exotic Pentatonic Tunings - p10

Here is an interesting constellation of facts: when you make a given interval minor, that means you flatten it by a half step.  However, because of the details of where some notes have been removed from the pentatonic scale, when you go from the major pentatonic scale to the minor pentatonic scale, you need to raise the pitch of three notes. Which three notes have to be raised to make the minor pentatonic scale? The three notes that are not the "1" and the "5"!

Remember, the "1" and the "5" notes usually define the key.  They are the ones that are (almost) always present in the scale.  If you want to make some music that is really odd, try a scale that doesn't include the 5th and see what you can do with it!

13 April 2016

TIP: Exploring Exotic Pentatonic Tunings - p11

Written by Mark Holdaway, Posted in Tips

Is this the end, or the beginning?

TIP: Exploring Exotic Pentatonic Tunings - p11

This series of tips is a bit different from what I have done in the past. I suppose there are many ways to think about the notes on a kalimba. I am usually very focused on the details of exactly which notes to play and when to play them. The series of tips that is just ending represents a higher level view, yet is still technical in nature. While this way of looking at music will not instruct you to play any one song, it could transform your entire understanding of music and strengthen every song you play from now on.

I hope that you experience some of this transformation in your kalimba playing and all your music playing.

Did you gain some understanding of how to approach a new kalimba and how to understand its notes?

Do you have a kalimba in one of these exotic tunings that you would like more instructional information on? 

01 April 2016

TIP: A Karimba Improvisational Strategy Part 2

Written by Mark Holdaway, Posted in Tips

Giving the left thumb some good ideas - an arpeggio

TIP: A Karimba Improvisational Strategy Part 2

This exercise reduces the notes further and only plays the notes in the A major arpeggio. These will often be the most important notes for the left thumb, as they trace out the A major chord.

01 April 2016

TIP: A Karimba Improvisational Strategy Part 3

Written by Mark Holdaway, Posted in Tips

Scale fragment on the left thumb

TIP: A Karimba Improvisational Strategy Part 3

I find that there is a lot of African music that can be played in small scale fragments with just three notes. There are a lot of permutations you can make with these three notes. Let symmetry be your first guide, and let your ear be the second guide. A visually symmetric pattern often sounds great, but your ear is the final judge.

01 April 2016

TIP: A Karimba Improvisational Strategy Part 4

Written by Mark Holdaway, Posted in Tips

Mixing it up on the left side

TIP: A Karimba Improvisational Strategy Part 4

While the three lower right notes sound great together (the C#, B, and A from the previous tip), the best is when you can create melodies using both the lower row notes and the upper row notes.

01 April 2016

TIP: A Karimba Improvisational Strategy Part 5

Written by Mark Holdaway, Posted in Tips

The third intervals

TIP: A Karimba Improvisational Strategy Part 5

This is an exercise which uses every "third" interval (some are major thirds, some are minor thirds, but that is not our focus right now) in the lower row tines. They sound great and there are a lot of them. At measure 4, make sure that you start on the correct two notes, as you can start out incorrectly but it still sounds right.

01 April 2016

TIP: A Karimba Improvisational Strategy Part 6

Written by Mark Holdaway, Posted in Tips

The fourth intervals

TIP: A Karimba Improvisational Strategy Part 6

This is an exercise which uses the "fourth" intervals (ie, they span 4 notes) on the lower row of karimba tines. Again, be sure that you are starting on the right two notes. You may want to go back to the previous tip and see how the "thirds" sound compared to the "fourths". My take on it: the third intervals sound more European, and the fourth intervals sound more African. Of course, it really isn't that simple - both European and African music use both 4ths and 3rds, but I think the way the 4th sounds is itself more African, and the way the 3rd sounds is more European.

01 April 2016

TIP: A Karimba Improvisational Strategy Part 7

Written by Mark Holdaway, Posted in Tips

Right thumb backup for Left Thumb improvisation

TIP: A Karimba Improvisational Strategy Part 7

These two-note chords can be played by the right hand. The main reason to play entirely with the right hand is that this frees up the left hand to dance on that pentatonic scale.

In order to play these two notes with the right hand, play the left note with your right thumb and the right note with your right index finger. The thumb will pluck down, and the right index finger will actually come from under the tine and it will pluck upward.

01 April 2016

TIP: A Karimba Improvisational Strategy Part 8

Written by Mark Holdaway, Posted in Tips

We have arrived at the right thumb part

TIP: A Karimba Improvisational Strategy Part 8

Each of these two-note chords is played with the right thumb and right index finger. In going from one chord to the next, you only move the thumb or the index finger, not both. You only ever move by one tine. See the pattern? The right finger usually stays on A, but shifts to G# on the last measure. The right thumb (ie, the left note) usually stays on E, but shifts to F# on the second measure.

01 April 2016

TIP: A Karimba Improvisational Strategy Part 9

Written by Mark Holdaway, Posted in Tips

A left thumb suggestion

TIP: A Karimba Improvisational Strategy Part 9

The goal here is for you to play the right thumb's two-note chord part more or less as written, and to invent your own left thumb part. You may have already been successful with this, or you might feel you have no clue of what to do. If the latter is true, here is a left thumb suggestion for you.

01 April 2016

TIP: A Karimba Improvisational Strategy Part 10

Written by Mark Holdaway, Posted in Tips

Another left thumb suggestion, same right thumb pattern

TIP: A Karimba Improvisational Strategy Part 10

Our objective with these lessons is to give you the tools, understanding, and confidence to improvise with your left thumb while the right thumb "holds down the fort". Here is another suggestion for the type of thing your left thumb could do. The first three measures are almost the same for the left thumb - measure 1 goes up the scale fragment, measure 2 goes down the scale fragment, and measure 3 goes back up. Measure 4 on the left is different, emphasizing B as the first and last note of the little phrase. Again, B is a good note to play here as the right hand is playing a partial E chord.

01 April 2016

TIP: A Karimba Improvisational Strategy Part 11

Written by Mark Holdaway, Posted in Tips

Left thumb dancing in the upper notes

TIP: A Karimba Improvisational Strategy Part 11

Our objective with these lessons is to give you the tools, understanding, and confidence to improvise with your left thumb while the right thumb "holds down the fort". Here is another suggestion for what your left thumb can do - dance in the upper row notes, and between the upper and lower row notes.

01 April 2016

TIP: A Karimba Improvisational Strategy Part 12

Written by Mark Holdaway, Posted in Tips

Starting to branch out

TIP: A Karimba Improvisational Strategy Part 12

You are by no means confined to exactly what we have written down. You can change it up in a thousand different ways to make it your own. Here is a very simple example: instead of playing the chord in each measure twice, this one plays each chord only once, on the opening beat of each measure. Furthermore, the left thumb plays with the right thumb on the opening chords. This complexity is somewhat compensated for by the fact that the right side is doing the same pattern three out of four times.

10 January 2016

TIP: Playing Patterns in DIfferent Octaves

Written by Mark Holdaway, Posted in Tips

An upper octave pattern can be shifted to the lower octave, but it's handedness is reflected

TIP: Playing Patterns in DIfferent Octaves

This is something important to understand.  Just because you can play a pattern in one octave doesn't mean that it will be easy in the other octave, because it will be a mirror image of the other octave's pattern.  Strangely, your brain may have to totally relearn the phrase in a different octave in spite of the similarities in the music.

10 January 2016

TIP: Playing the Scale - in Octaves

Written by Mark Holdaway, Posted in Tips

Because two notes separated by an octave are on opposites sides of the kalimba, you can play them at the same time!

TIP: Playing the Scale - in Octaves

The two previous tips illustrated how to play the upper octave G major scale and the lower octave G major scale on the Alto kalimba.   This tip combines the upper and lower scales and plays them at the same time.

10 January 2016

TIP: Playing the Scale - A Lower Octave

Written by Mark Holdaway, Posted in Tips

TIP: Playing the Scale - A Lower Octave

Many kalimbas - such as the Alto, the Treble, and the Pentatonic 11-Note kalimbas - have a range of two or more octaves.  In my mind, this is where the playing really gets to be interesting.  This tip relates the lower octave scale to the upper octave scale on the Alto kalimba.

12 January 2016

TIP: Playing the Scale

Written by Mark Holdaway, Posted in Tips

For many kalimbas, you play the scale by alternating L-R-L-R and moving outward

TIP: Playing the Scale

The alternative left-right pattern required to make a scale is one of the essential movements you can make on your kalimba, and you should learn this!  On the kalimba, scales are not the easiest thing to do because you need to cross over from one side of the kalimba to the other, and you need to do so without loosing your place.  However, there is a trick.

11 January 2016

TIP: Stopping the tines

Written by Mark Holdaway, Posted in Tips

Usually when you pluck a tine, it sustains for about 5 seconds - but you can put a stop to that!

TIP: Stopping the tines

One of the charms of the kalimba is how the tines ring clearly and slowly fade away.  You cannot control exactly how long the tone will last, it has its own natural decay, like plucking a strong on a harp.  Playing kalimba is a bit like playing piano with the damper open.

But it doesn't have to be that way.

06 December 2015

TIP: Using the How-to-Play Pages

Written by Mark Holdaway, Posted in Tips

Each kalimba we sell has its own How-to-Play page. What can you expect from these pages?

TIP: Using the How-to-Play Pages

Inside the "How-to-Play" category, there are 20 sub-categories.  Several of these are general subjects that are applicable to all kalimbas, such as "Fundamentals of the Kalimba", "Thumbnail Care", and "Tuning".   We also have 13 categories dedicated to information about different kalimbas.  This tip tells you what information you will find on these pages.

06 December 2015

TIP: Learn KTabS - Kalimba Tablature Software

Written by Mark Holdaway, Posted in Tips

KTabS is a powerful Windows program that takes a lot of the guesswork out of writing tablature

TIP: Learn KTabS - Kalimba Tablature Software

Writing down music for kalimba can be tricky, and for a newbie to music, overwhelming.  A fabulous alternative to writing out a song by hand on blank tablature involves simply clicking the notes into a tablature template, using Windows software program KTabS (Kalimba Tablature Software).

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