“How do I hold the tablature to read it?”

An unnamed customer asks:  “Am I right that I have to turn all of your books sideways to read the tablature?”

Well… if I had intended you to read it that way, I probably would have printed the books that way!

No, no no… the tablature runs UP the page, not left to right across the page as standard staff notation.

OK… why does the tablature run up the page? I suppose the answer is that I had the courage to buck the trend of western civilization and western music notation. I struggled with this for months. In 2004 when I invented kalimba tablature, I resisted making this decision.

Playing Video Games With the Kids

And then one day, while visiting a video arcade, I watched my two sons playing DDR = “Dance Dance Revolution”. In this video game, you only have four different choices for where to put your feet, and symbols indicating where your feet are to go fall down from the sky on the screen, and you are rated on how accurately you touch the foot pads as instructed.

I imagined the notes falling down from the sky, getting closer and closer to the kalimba bridge, until you play them. And I decided right then and there that this is how to do the kalimba tablature… notes falling down from the sky, which means you read UP the page.

In the tablature here, there are two note symbols on two blue tines just above the bridge. Those are the next tines to play. What notes are they? You don’t really need to know to play them – you just need to know that those two blue tines are to be played.

What next? Go to the next notes above the ones you just played. To play them, move your left thumb to the left by one, and the right thumb to the right by one, and pluck them together.

Next up: we are back to the blue tines. And then the fourth pair of notes we play we need to move left and right inward by a tine.

Fifth up is a single note that is played. And so on.

Reader’s Challenge

This is a new graphic I made for the new book and instructional download “Intro to the 10-Note Kalimba in C”. It turns out there are eight other books and ebooks for the 10-Note, but this is the book that ties it all together.

Anyway – this music looks like the original tablature/kalimba graphic my son Tim made for me with the Alto Kalimba back in 2005… except that it plays a particular song. What song? Well, that is for you to figure out.

Kalimba Tablature shows you which tines you need to play, in which order, but it doesn’t really tell you what the music sounds like, unless you are very familiar with that kalimba. So, go get your 10-Note Kalimba in C and play along with this tablature, and listen… what song is it?

Well, it looks like two Star Wars Imperial Cruiser ships flying away from the kalimba, one centered a bit to the left and the other shifted a bit to the right. But this song is not otherwise related to Star Wars.

If you don’t have a 10-Note kalimba… you can also play this on the lower (inner) 10 tines of the Alto Kalimba, or on the 17-Note Kalimba in C.

At first, you will probably stumble a bit as your thumbs find their way. But then, if you stick with it for a few minutes (or seconds, if you are fast), out will pop the song… but Which Song Is IT?

And if you don’t have a 10-Note Kalimba? As implied above, this booklet will still work with the inner, lower 10 tines of the 17-Note/C Kalimba and the Alto Kalimba as well.


How to Read and Write Kalimba Tablature


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