Ask Mark
Two Most Common Questions about the Sansula

Ask Mark

I get one or two dozen emails each day asking me all sorts of questions, and I answer almost every one. In this newsletter, we draw on the brand new Sansula book to answer these questions that people have been asking me about the Sansula. —Mark Holdaway

Hokema Sansula
The Hokema Sansula can be retuned in many ways.

What are the Differences between Sansula Tunings?

Hello, I want to buy a Hokema Sansula, and I don't quite understand the difference between Standard Am, Heavenly A and Beautiful E. Could you explain that please? —Nina


I've just finished a book on the Sansula, and have attached some pages from the "New Tunings" section that explains a bit about each of the tunings, including the notes of each tuning and how to retune.

I also invite you to listen to short bits of music in each tuning:

Each tuning prescribes its own little universe of sound. Pick the tuning that sounds like a universe you will want to explore for a while. I think the standard tuning is the easiest to make beautiful music in right away, but it is somewhat limiting.

Hopefully, this provides you with the info that you need to answer your question.


click for enlargement
Upper left: Pocket Sansula. Upper right: Standard Sansula
Lower left: Sansula Renaissance. Lower right: Deluxe Sansula

What are the Differences between the Four Types of Sansula?

Listen to the four different types of Sansula.

The most basic type of Sansula is the Pocket Sansula, which shares the same note layout and tuning with the other types of Sansulas, but it lacks the frame drum.

The Standard Sansula is basically the same kalimba as the Pocket Sansula, but it is mounted on a paper-thin drum head on an oval frame drum. By the way, do not beat on this drum head, as the paper is very fragile and can rip or shatter from rough treatment.

More robust and more expensive is the Sansula Renaissance, mounted on a synthetic drum head material manufactured by the Remo drum company. This instrument is more appropriate for working with children and can better withstand minor mishandling, such as being dropped. I find that it is slightly quieter than the Standard Sansula.

The Deluxe Sansula, mounted on a goat skin drum head, is also more robust than the Standard and it costs the most. I find it to be similar in sound to the Standard Sansula, with darker tone in the lower register and brighter tone in the upper notes.

Most people cannot discern very much difference in the sounds of the three drum-mounted Sansulas. Any of these Sansulas can be used with the new Sansula book, Playing the Sansula. By default, the Sansulas come in standard tuning, but any of these instruments can be retuned to any of the tunings mentioned above.

Send me your questions! I certainly don't know everything about the kalimba, but I know a lot, I'm learning more each day—and I am happy to share this information.

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