March 20, 2011

Vol. 6, Num. 3

Kalimba Magic NEWS

Ask Mark
Resources for Orphaned Kalimbas

Ask Mark

There are several books available for the Alto and Treble Kalimba. There are a couple of instructional resources for the 11-note Pentatonic Kalimba and the Karimba. But some kalimbas are orphans. Every week I get emails asking if there are any books for this kalimba or that kalimba. Well, this month I got clever and figured out how to make the educational resources that exist work for some of these orphaned kalimbas. —Mark Holdaway

7-Note Kalimba
A 7-note kalimba

Is There Any Music for the 7-Note Kalimbas?

There are so many kalimbas being made and sold all around the world, and the 7-Note kalimba accounts for a great many of them. They are very inexpensive, they are not great, but I have heard people make music on them. I think there must be some company that sells the component parts, and then people all over the world - Indonesia, Africa, South America - put them together on a board, a gourd, or a coconut and then resell them. They almost never come in any particular tuning, and every year shortly after Christmas I get a slew of emails from people asking me how to tune the 7-note kalimba.


I don't sell these 7-note kalimbas. Well, actually one of the Hokema kalimbas I sell has seven notes, but half of them are bent upwards like a Sansula, so it is a completely different instrument. Anyway, I haven't written anything about learning to play the 7-note kalimba.

However, in 2010, Elly in BC asked Steve Catania to make a 6-Note pentatonically-tuned kalimba for her and, as I have students who play on 6-note pentatonic kalimbas, I quickly put together a 12-page instructional guide for this kalimba (which you can download for free.) You can actually tune the six lower notes of the 7-note kalimba to one of the two 6-note pentatonic tunings presented in the instructional download, and tune the top note to one of the lower notes, but an octave higher.

It may very well be that your 7-note kalimba doesn't want to be in the C major pentatonic tuning. If it wants to be lower, try an A pentatonic (A B C# E F# A) or a G pentatonic (G A B D E G) or an E pentatonic (E F# G# B C# E) tuning.

If you haven't a clue about retuning, Kalimba Magic will show you how to tune your kalimba. By the way, on kalimbas that have bolts holding the pressure bar down, I usually loosen the bolts by half a turn before a large retuning, and then retighten by half a turn and recheck the tuning.

Best of luck! AND when you are ready for another kalimba, come back and talk with me!

Hokema pentatonic
Hokema 9-Note Pentatonic

Is There Any Music for the 9-Note Hokema Pentatonic Kalimba?

There is no music written explicitly for the 9-Note Pentatonic Kalimba. However, there are instructional materials for two other kalimbas that will work for the 9-Note Pentatonic.

The free 6-Note Pentatonic download is numbers-based (rather than tablature based) so it doesn't matter where the notes are, as long as you have them. The Hokema Pentatonic has, from bottom to top: A C D E G A' C' D' E'. (The primes, or the symbol ' represent the notes an octave higher.) The first half of the book will work for C=1, D=2, E=3, G=5, A=6, C'=8. You can write those numbers on the appropriate tines with a Sharpie marker. The second half of the book requires that you retune E to F (and you might as well retune E' to F').

There is another book that will mostly work with this kalimba - the Playing the Pentatonic Kalimba book is written for the 11-note pentatonic kalimba, but many of the patterns will work for this kalimba. Specifically, the second half of the book is written for a G minor tuning, while the Hokema is in an A minor tuning. Thats OK - I would suggest you paint the A, A', and C' tines (use fingernail polish or Sharpie marker) so that the kalimba matches the tablature. You will be missing the outer tine on the left and the right, and any pattern that doesn't have those two notes will work perfectly on the Hokema. The fact that the book is in G minor while the kalimba is in A minor is not relavant - it is just like putting a capo on a guitar. You won't be able to play along with the CD - but you can listen to a track on the CD, stop it, and then play the same thing, but a whole step up.

What about the first half of the book in G major? You will have to retune. You could retune to A major (easier: A B C# E F# A' B' C#' E'), or you could actually retune down to G major (more work: G A B D E G A B D). Again, any tunes that don't use the outer tine on each side will totally work with this kalimba.

What if a tune uses one or both of the outer notes? You may be able to fake it - look for an alternative note that doesn't sound bad.

Hotshot-11 Kalimba

Is There Any Music for the Hugh Tracey 11-Note Diatonic (aka HotShot-11)?

Early on in my Kalimba Envangelist career, I realized that I should carry every single kalimba that African Musical Instruments (AMI - the Hugh Tracey kalimba makers) make. A little while later, I realized that I also needed to provide instructional resources for each and every AMI kalimba.

One of the kalimbas that has lagged behind the rest is the 11-Note Daitonic Jr Kalimba, which I have redubbed the HT HotShot-11. It is really a darling kalimba. It has the upper 11 notes of the 15-note Alto Kalimba, our best seller. However, those 11 notes are spread out with more space in between than the Alto's 15 notes have, so you can really fly on this instrument. Also, it is really just an 8-note kalimba (but reversed from the way most 8-Notes are set up) with three extra low notes, so it is so easy to wrap your brain around it. In many ways, it is a perfect instrument to give a young wipper snapper, age 10-15, who is just not quite ready for the Alto kalimba. Hence, the HT HotShot-11 moniker. However, it seems I sell about one of these a month, so that HT HotShot-11 book has been a long time in coming.

That said, Sharon Eaton of KTabS didn't have any problem creating some great music for the HotShot-11 - she quickly translated the Alto Hymns to this near neighbor, and offers the 11-Note Diatonic Hymnal in KTabS format for free. You can get the KTabS reader for free - which basically means the hymnal music is totally free. (If you want to print it out to PDF, I think you will need to purchase the full $30 KTabS program.)

And while I haven't written the book, I did do the groudwork for a book. I wrote 52 exercises and songs for the HotShot-11 which are available as a download. By the way, this download works just fine for the Alto as well - you just put a piece of yellow sticky pad paper on the lowest four notes of the kalimba to cover them up, and pretend they aren't there while you learn the lessons of the upper 11-notes.

Goshen 11-Note
Goshen 11-Note

Is There Any Music for the Goshen 11-Note Kalimba?

The Goshen-11 Note Kalimba is an absolutely beautiful instrument. Beautiful to behold, beautiful to hold in your hands, and beautiful to listen to. However, it has been orphaned, i.e., Goshen doesn't provide any instructional material for this instrument. And while Kalimba Magic does provide an instructional download for the Hugh Tracey Hotshot-11 - another 11-note kalimba - the Hugh Tracey is a "right handed" instrument, while the Goshen is "left handed".

There are two options: first, you could retune the Goshen to be "right handed". The Goshen-11 is in the key of D, and often the Goshen-11 will sound tinny if you try to tune it all the way up to the key of G (same as the Hotshot-11). HOWEVER, it can be set to a right handed layout in D, E, or F, in the same relative tuning as the HotShot-11, so the tablature in the HotShot-11 52 Exercises download will work just fine for any of these tunings.

Another option, which I only realized yesterday, is to use the Catania 12-Note number's based book. The Catania 12-Note Kalimba is in C, and is a "left-handed" kalimba, while the Goshen 11-Note kalimba is in D, also "left-handed". The Goshen-11 Note is missing the very highest of the Catania-12's notes but, apart from that, they have the same tuning. The Goshen's tuning is shifted up by a whole step, but these instruments share the the same relative tuning.

Looking through the Catania 12-Note Book, there are only a few songs that use that highest note. In order to use this book, I suggest you paint a 1 cm long spot on each tine white and use a fine point Sharpie to write the numbers, 1 through 11, on the tine. That said, I have a pedantic arguement with the 12-Note numbers-based book - Number "1", the bass note, is actually the 5th of the scale. "2" is the 6th. "3" is the 7th. "4" is the root, or what I would like to call 1. In other words, this book thinks differently than I do. Which may not be a problem for you at all!

Hugh Tracey Chromatic
Hugh Tracey Chromatic Kalimba, front and back.

Is There Any Music for the Hugh Tracey Chromatic Kalimba?

The Chromatic Kalimba is quite a challenge. There are those who have stepped up to that challenge and have done well. In my mind, the diatonic kalimbas like the Alto, the Treble, or the Bb Treble, are so free and easy and natural that I can't stand to be fumbling around for the right notes on the Chromatic. That said, I do need to step up to the challenge and create (or co-create with one of those bright shining stars of the Chromatic Kalimba) some materials for playing the Chromatic.

But in the meantime, the Chromatic Kalimba can actually use any of the educational resources available for the Alto kalimba. The Chromatic can come tuned to the key of G on the front or tuned to the key of C on the front. If it is in G, then the front is exactly like the Alto, and you just read the Alto tablature. Any Alto book works, unmodified. Of course, that won't help you play the back side, the flats. But there are some songs that are written out for the Alto that could be improved with some chromatic harmonies, and you may find them. On the other hand, if you have the C chromatic, every note on the front of the kalimba is the same as the Alto except the F# has been replaced by an F. So, to play songs written out in Alto tablature, play everything just the same as the Alto, but you need to make the F# on the back side behind the G.

Then again, there has been quite a bit of Chromatic Kalimba tablature scattered around the Kalimba Magic website. For example, I make available to you tablature for The Entertainer on the G Chromatic:

If you haven't looked at the tablature for the chromatic kalimba yet, the shaded tines have two meanings - for one, they represent the six painted tines on the front side of the kalimba. But also on the left and right there are a total of 11 shaded tines which represent the flats on the back side of the kalimba (think "black notes" on the piano). It is a bit cumbersome to read, but it works.

By the way, I will give a special gift to the first person who learns to play this song on the Hugh Tracey Chromatic Kalimba!

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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