Kalimba of the Month
The Middle Eastern Tuned Treble Hugh Tracey Kalimba

Deb's Treble

Listen to the Treble
in Middle Eastern tuning.

Again, the Kalimba of the Month comes to us from my wife Deb's collection. Take a regular old Treble kalimba and sharpen the two lower D tines, but leave the top D as D natural, and you've got the Middle Eastern tuning. I used this tuning in the song "Morocco" on my CD Between the Dark and the Light. (The complete tuning is listed at the end of this article.) This tuning is mystical and enchanting and evokes dramatic music. You'll have a great time with it!

But this kalimba has another twist - it has aluminum buzzers attached to the tines (see photo above). In Africa, all kalimba-like instruments have some sort of buzzer on them. B. Michael Williams explains why mbiras have buzzers - the rattling is the voice of the ancesters. Andrew Tracey's idea about buzzers is that they clothe the otherwise pure sound of the tines vibrating - the sound isn't right unless it has some sort of buzz to it.

Most Hugh Tracey kalimbas come without buzzers, and the Western ear seems to prefer the sound of a kalimba without buzzers. The African-tuned karimba comes with metal beads slipped onto the longer tines. These buzzers might sound a bit harsh to some ears, but they can easily be removed, or taped down to reduce the impact of the buzz. Recently, I cut up an aluminum can into strips about 1 cm by 2-3 cm. I found a wood cylinder that was the same diameter as the width of the treble kalimba tines (it was a barbeque skewer, but dowels will also work). I then wrapped the aluminum strip tightly around the wood to form an aluminum ring - my new buzzer! I slipped it off of the wood and onto a kalimba tine. I had to lift the tine off of the bridge to allow the buzzer to slip past the bridge and into the space in between the bridge and the "z-bracket" pressure bar. Repeat for each tine, and you've got yourself a set of buzzers. This project took me about 20 minutes.

The buzzing sound is interesting with the Middle Eastern tuning. To me, it definitely sounds non-traditional, but the same can be said about the Middle Eastern tuned Treble kalimba without buzzers!

Kalimba Magic is now offering the service of installing aluminum buzzers. You can do it yourself for free, or you can pay us to do it for $10 (or $20 with domestic return shipping included).

If you would like a Treble in Middle Eastern Tuning, there are three ways to do it: retune your own Treble yourself (you can do this!), or send me your Treble and I'll tune it for you for $20, including return shipping within the U.S. or Canada (that sounds like a lot for just retuning, but I also make sure your kalimba is playing well once it's been retuned), or you can just purchase a new Hugh Tracey Treble kalimba and I'll retune it for you for free - just make sure that I know that you want it in Middle Eastern tuning.

Middle Eastern Tuning for Treble
The Middle Eastern Tuning for Treble is the same as the
standard tuning, but with two D#'s instead of D natural.

Next month we'll introduce you to the Hugh Tracey 11-Note Diatonic kalimba - the very same kalimba that John Roff started on!