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.

This series of tips is based on videos showing closeups of the three pentatonic kalimba tunings, and the work is focused on how the different notes are used in the music.

The first truth to understand is this: Not every note is created equal - some notes are far more important than the other notes, and not only get used more, but they are also used in particular situations. This is very useful information to hold and use as you are playing.  You might even be already utilizing this information in your playing without even knowing it!

If you'd like to prepare for the next tip, do this: watch part or all of each of the three videos below, without concerning  yourself with note names or numbers. Which note or notes seem to be the most important? Save your answers to compare with the next few tips.


"Floaty Kalimba" on the F7 Bebey tuned pentatonic kalimba.


"Peaceful Mystery" on the G Ake Bono tuned pentatonic kalimba.


"Malian Blues" on the G minor pentatonic kalimba.

About the Author

Mark Holdaway

Mark Holdaway

Mark Holdaway has been playing kalimba for over 30 years.  He invented his kalimba tablature in 2004, and has been writing books and instructional materials for kalimba ever since.  His business, Kalimba Magic, is based on the simple proposition that the kalimba is a real musical instrument capable of greatness.  Mark's kalimba books are a down payment on this proposition.

Leave a comment

You are commenting as guest.