Aaron Chavez is a recent graduate from the prestigous California Institute for the Arts (Cal Arts) in world percussion, and the chromatic kalimba is his main instrument. He is probably the best chromatic kalimba player in the world at this moment. He is working on bringing the kalimba into the classical repertoire, which really requires the chromatic kalimba. As this is a relatively new instrument, he is blazing his own path - there are no books on how to play the chromatic kalimba, so he is basically writing it himself.
As Aaron says in this video, he is looking to the future, pushing for an improved chromatic kalimba that spans four octaves - very inspirational!
If you own a chromatic kalimba, or if you are thinking about getting one, you really need to watch this video.
The Hugh Tracey Chromatic Kalimba has been evolving gradually. The initial key insight was from Sharon Eaton, who suggested placing the flats right behind the unflatted notes on the front. This first design utilized an Alto body, 15 notes on the front, and the pentatonic hardware for 11 notes on the back.
In order to implement what I now call the "Eaton Setup", we had to shift the chromatic tines to the left or the right so that those 11 notes really were right behind their unflattened counterparts on the front. This gave rise to a second generation instrument which has been sold for the past year, with 15 notes in G on the front (like the Alto), the 15-slot hardware on the back, but only populating 11 of those slots with the flats (F natural counts as the flat of the F# on the front). The notes G and C on the front have no flats - or rather, Gb = F# and Cb = B are on the front, so behind the G and C were empty spaces - the 4 slots out of 15 on the back that were empty. Since you cannot see the chromatic notes on the back, these gaps had the advantage of helping the player feel their way around the instrument.
However, more than a few people have requested a chromatic instrument without those gaps on the back. In other words, a full 15 notes on the front and a full 15 notes on the back, with some notes being redundant, occuring on both front and back. Furthermore, Aaron Chavez has requested an instrument in C to work with the classical repertoire. Out of these desires, the C Treble Chromatic was born.
The standard Treble Hugh Tracey Kalimba has a low note of B, so going up to C was not a stretch. With 17 instead of 15 notes, this is a modest improvement - quite short of Aaron's desired four octave instrument. The notes on the front form two octaves and two notes of the C major scale. The notes on the back form two octaves and two notes of the B major scale.
This is the second round of these Treble Chromatics that I've gotten. Believe it or not, the first order of five instruments disappeared in about week in spite of no advertising - I sent one to Aaron, I kept one, someone called asking if there was such a thing as a Treble Chromatic kalimba only a day after they arrived from South Africa, and I can't remember where the other two went.
This time, I've got six Treble Chromatic Kalimbas with 17 notes front and 17 notes back, with pickups, and they are going for $150. These are not instruments for the casual kalimba player. Many people who are not up to the challenge will just get frustrated by these instruments. But if you are up for the challenge, they are here for you.