TIP: Straight Left-Right Playing and Syncopation

You can syncopate by leaving out notes

The easiest thing to do when you play kalimba is to set up a regular rhythmic pattern, alternating right-left-right-left (or the opposite), but this will not result in syncopation.  Here is a quick changeup you can make to this regular pattern to create some great syncopation.

This tablature shows a sample pattern on the Hugh Tracey Alto Kalimba, but you can do this sort of pattern on any kalimba at all. Feel free to change the exact notes.

In Measures 1-3, we establish the alternating right-left pattern, and Measure 4 changes the pattern to make a “bookend”, indicating both that the pattern is over, and that the whole thing repeats. Except for the “bookend” part, the right thumb plays on the beat while the left thumb plays off the beat.

Syncopation is the opposite of this simple, rigid pattern – in a syncopated pattern, the notes will sometimes come on the beat and sometimes off the beat in a complex pattern.

See the notes with the purple marks next to them? Start by playing those notes very softly, so you are still doing the alternating right-left pattern, but you are now accenting the first right note in each measure and every left note (that is, the off beats).

In Measures 5-8, we play the same pattern, except every note that was marked with purple in the first section is now gone. You can actually maintain the same right-left pattern, and just touch the tines with your right thumb without playing them. This makes a great syncopated pattern.

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