Wild Blue Pixel
LEARN HOW TO PLAY THE KALIMBA
I have written hundreds of songs on the kalimba, but most of them are gone by the time I wake up the next day. To make it easy to save my kalimba ideas for another day, I invented a kalimba tablature, a visually intuitive diagram or map of the kalimba that shows you which tines to play to produce a song or exercise. I use this kalimba tablature to help me remember new songs I write, as a compositional tool, as an instructional tool to convey detailed musical ideas to students, and as a tool to help me learn difficult passages that my mind can create but my body doesn't yet understand. I have written seven kalimba books based on this tablature.
Some other kalimba enthusiasts have created a software program called KTabS that can produce the tablature for any kalimba. People around the world have begun using KTabS and the kalimba tablature to notate kalimba music.
The advantage of a standard musical notation is that anybody who knows all the rules can read any piece of music and know how it goes, no matter what instrument it was written for. Most conventional music tablature is written on a five-line staff, e.g., the treble cleff or bass cleff, or both.
An example of the conventional five-line musical staff notation.
But I will introduce you to another way of notating music for the kalimba. When I play, I think of geometrical patterns dancing on the kalimba tines. So I invented a tablature that represents these geometrical patterns as if they were notes dancing on the kalimba tines. This kalimba tablature is much more connected to what your thumbs need to do to make music. And you won't waste any time figuring out where a given note is supposed to be played on your kalimba, left or right side—the tablature shows you exactly which tine to play.
The kalimba tablature reads from bottom up. The tablature uses the same note symbols as staff notation (quarter notes, eighth notes, etc.), but the note symbols are placed on an elongated map of the kalimba. If your kalimba has fewer tines, that kalimba's tablature will also have fewer tines. The painted tines on your kalimba will correspond to the colored (or shaded) tines on the tablature.
If there are two or more notes on the same horizontal line, that means there is a chord and you must play them at the same time. The different kinds of note symbols - open, filled, with dots or flags - indicate how long a note lasts before you play the next note. If you don't understand the rules for these symbols, you are in LUCK! There is a series of Tips of the Day on notation which starts at the beginning and works up to more difficult and complex examples.
To illustrate the tablature (tab) with a song you know, please look at the tab for Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star for the Alto kalimba, for the Treble kalimba, or for the 8-Note kalimba. Read from bottom to the top, like you would read a traffic warning written on the road ("STOP AHEAD").
Graphic concept by Tim & Mark Holdaway
OK, so far so good, but isn't this overkill for a simple little instrument like the thumb piano?
Well, the kalimba is a very capable instrument, and if we are going to be able to capture its beauty and magic, we DO need something like this. For example, check out the tablature for Hark the Herald Angels Sing.
Listen to this music while you follow the tablature. Start from the bottom left and go up the page.
This tablature is expressive enough to permit
the kalimba's complexity to be transmitted to YOU, yet is simple
to read and very intuitive.
Now, you don't have to read tablature
to play kalimba - I played for 18 years before I invented the
tablature. But tablature will open up a whole new world of
understanding, knowledge, and music to you. The Tips of the Day, the books,
and some of the newsleter articles use this tablature. You can
send tablature easily by email. You can write it on paper or
on your computer. It is fast, easy, and fun to read and write.
So, what are
you waiting for?
Last updated Nov 2011