18 July 2017

Instructional Download: Alto in G minor

Written by Mark Holdaway, Posted in News and Announcements

This minor retuning can breathe new life and emotion into your Alto Kalimba

Instructional Download: Alto in G minor

The Hugh Tracey Alto in standard G major tuning has become the standard kalimba in many ways. For 12 years, it has been the best selling kalimba at Kalimba Magic. I have written more instructional books and downloads for this kalimba than for any other kalimba. I know more songs on my Alto than on any other kalimba. And the Alto kalimba was the blueprint for other models such as the Bb Treble and D Treble kalimbas.

But what if the world of G major sounds isn't your world? What if you need something darker, moody, a bit mysterious, rather than that happy-go-lucky Alto kalimba with a smiley face on it?

You might be interested in the G minor tuning for the Alto kalimba - and you might be interested in this new instructional download for the G minor tuned Alto.

18 July 2017

Instructional Download: 8-Note Kalimba in Sansula Tuning

Written by Mark Holdaway, Posted in News and Announcements

An exotic tuning on this otherwise vanilla kalimba makes for new and interestng music

Instructional Download: 8-Note Kalimba in Sansula Tuning

The 8-Note kalimba is a great instrument on which to learn, and is usually tuned to one octave of the C major scale. As such, it is a pretty modest kalimba, playing songs such as "London Bridge is Falling Down" and "Joy to the World" (and NOT the "Jeremiah was a bullfrog" version).

If you are willing to retune your 8-Note kalimba, you can greatly increase the amount of music accessible to the 8-Note kalimba.  The standard A minor Sansula tuning is one of the least ordinary tunings you can put onto the 8-Note kalimba - if you do, you won't be playing "Twinkle, Twinkle" anymore! AND if you don't want to retune your kalimba, you can send your old 8-Note to the Kalimba Doctor and we will do the job for you, or you can order a new 8-Note in the Sansula tuning. (I am partial to the Goshen 8-Note kalimba.)

15 July 2017

A Novel Stereo Kalimba Recording Technique

Written by Mark Holdaway, Posted in News and Announcements

Two electric kalimbas, plugged in, hard panned L and R

A Novel Stereo Kalimba Recording Technique

This unique recording technique results in lots of separation between the L and R notes in your recording, and you can be very creative when processing their individual sound.

I invite you to hear what it sounds like - headphones would make the separation effect complete, but I think it actually sounds better through stereo speakers. To listen, just continue reading.

13 July 2017

What I Feel When I Play Kalimba

Written by Mark Holdaway, Posted in News and Announcements

How do you feel when you pick up a kalimba?

What I Feel When I Play Kalimba

Playing kalimba can effect each person in a unique way.  The interaction asks us to commit both to our instrument, and to the song that we are trying to help emerge into the world.  We have listened as players describe what the playing of a kalimba does for them physically, emotionally and spiritually.  The act of making music develops the relationship between a kalimba player and his or her instrument.  And it leaves something behind as well. Just listen to some of our customers.

 

18 June 2017

"Edelweiss" for G, B flat, and D Trebles

Written by Mark Holdaway, Posted in News and Announcements

We provide free tablature, for all three Treble Kalimba setups, of both simple and advanced versions of the famous song

The song Edelweiss from "The Sound of Music" is a perfect little melody for the Treble kalimba. The first three notes of the song soar up beyond the root note to the 9th. You could play this song on an Alto, and you would have to do it in the lower octave of the instrument. You shouldn't, though, because it sounds so beautiful when played higher up, on the Treble. The standard G Treble and the Bb Treble both have a few notes above the top root note - in other words, these kalimbas were built for melodies like Edelweiss that go "over the top."

22 June 2017

Spotify Playlists with Cool Songs in G, B flat, and D

Written by Mark Holdaway, Posted in News and Announcements

Chill, Listen to the playlist that matches your kalimba key, and jam along!

Spotify Playlists with Cool Songs in G, B flat, and D

My life changed when I lost my record turntable 20 years ago - I basically stopped listening to music. For me, this turned out to be a good thing, because the music-generating radio station "KMRK" started broadcasting 24 hours a day inside my head. I am always creating new music, or recycling and recomposing Katy Perry.

But that isn't the point of this post. Rather, I have discovered Spotify (maybe late to the party, but better late than never!) And I have rediscovered my love of listening to recorded music (as opposed to the stuff that grows like weeds in my cerebral cortex).

I love to hit a big juicy playlist with a kalimba in my hands. The only trouble is, most of the songs in the playlist will not be in the same key as my kalimba. And so I am very familiar with the NEXT SONG button.

17 June 2017

Octaves on Kalimba, Karimba, and Mbira

Written by Mark Holdaway, Posted in News and Announcements

Becoming conversant with octave pairs is an important part of learning your instrument

Octaves on Kalimba, Karimba, and Mbira

Do you know where the octave pairs are on your kalimba?

The octave is the most fundamental interval in essentially any music. Octave harmonies are not rich, but they are powerful. If your kalimba has eight notes or more, you likely have one or maybe even several octave pairs. Learning which note pairs are an octave apart, as well as how to use the octaves in playing, are essential to becoming a good kalimba player.

20 June 2017

More on Marek Bolf Kalimbas, made in Slovakia

Written by Mark Holdaway, Posted in News and Announcements

Words from a happy customer, and from Marek Bolf

More on Marek Bolf Kalimbas, made in Slovakia

Says one happy customer about her Marek Bolf kalimbas: "From the moment I lifted it out of the box and began to play, I immediately ordered the other two instruments. The reason? The design of the karimba is gorgeous!"

Says Marek Bolf himself: "I found an exciting potential in the kalimba, since it is played as easily as sending a text message on your phone. And so, I began to produce and explore the possibilities and limits of the instrument which I love."

 

19 June 2017

Understanding G, B flat and D Treble Kalimbas

Written by Mark Holdaway, Posted in News and Announcements

Have you ever wanted to get clear on the differences between the various treble kalimbas?

Understanding G, B flat and D Treble Kalimbas

One of my best contributions to the kalimba world (in my humble opinion) is the concept of the Bb and D Treble kalimbas. These are alternative ways of structuring the standard G Treble to make it more like the Alto kalimba, but pitched higher. Making a Treble kalimba more like an Alto makes the Treble easier to play and simpler to understand. The Alto's note layout is more logical, and any song that you can play on the Alto can be played on the Bb or D Trebles, so any instructional resource for Alto can be used for these two Treble tunings, and there are more resources for Alto than for any other kalimba.     

 

24 June 2017

How the B flat Treble Kalimba Got Its Stripes

Written by Mark Holdaway, Posted in News and Announcements

A "Just So" Story, with thanks to Rudyard Kipling

How the B flat Treble Kalimba Got Its Stripes

My very first kalimba was a Treble. I had actually just come from a friend's house who had an Alto, and we'd all played the Alto and loved it - but when I went to the drum shop in Cambridge, Massachusetts back in 1986, they only had the Treble, with the 3rd note of the scale in the lowest tine (and not the root note, as in Altos). I bought it, but somehow I never really bonded with the instrument. A few years later, I got an Alto kalimba, and it was like day and night! I understood the Alto, with the root note as the lowest tine, and its range of exactly two octaves. (That is, the lowest note was "Do" of "Do Re Mi", and the highest note was also "Do", two octaves up.) With the Alto kalimba now in hand, my Treble was set aside. It eventually went to live with a friend, while I developed my long love affair with the Alto kalimba.

19 June 2017

Repetitive Patterns: Creating Music with Kalimbas in Different Keys

Written by Mark Holdaway, Posted in News and Announcements

Playing unmatched kalimbas in succession can make beautiful and unusual music

Repetitive Patterns: Creating Music with Kalimbas in Different Keys

Why do people acquire kalimbas in different keys? To be able to support specific songs they or others sing, or to be able to play with other musicians with flexibility. Sometimes people buy a kalimba in some particular key just because they really love its sound.

But can you use kalimbas in different keys together? By creating a simple song that uses different-keyed kalimbas, not played together but in succession, yes you can! 

 

31 May 2017

What you get when you buy an Alto Kalimba from Kalimba Magic

Written by Mark Holdaway, Posted in News and Announcements

A great kalimba, 30 years of my kalimba playing experience, and considerable love

What you get when you buy an Alto Kalimba from Kalimba Magic

Every time I ship a kalimba, I play it to make sure it is all just right.  And as I play it, I make a little prayer, that the person who gets this kalimba will come to love and understand their little instrument.  But I do much more than just pray.  I send out as many keys to the doors of understanding as I can.  We stack the odds in favor of success.

16 May 2017

New Kalimbas from Marek Bolf

Written by Mark Holdaway, Posted in News and Announcements

The "Kalimba Musical Instrument" company Hits a Home run with 9-, 11-, 13-, and 15-note kalimbas

New Kalimbas from Marek Bolf

 Marek Bolf makes very clean, precise and beautiful board-mounted kalimbas. His company in Slovakia is called "Kalimba Musical Instrument."  (Yes, that's correct, there's no "s.") These flawless kalimbas have a sweet, uniquely spacious sound, are available in a variety of woods, and hold their tuning better than most kalimbas.

Says Marek: "We take an individual approach to every kalimba, we guarantee an original and unique nature to each and every instrument."

27 May 2017

The New Hokema Sansula Elektro

Written by Mark Holdaway, Posted in News and Announcements

The kalimba community has been asking for an electric sansula for a decade. It's finally here!

The New Hokema Sansula Elektro

The new (2017) Sansula Elektra is a quality, amplifiable version of the Hokema Sansula Renaissance.  The amplification system of the Elektra is rather sophisticated: a piezo-electric pickup gets the wood vibrations while an internal microphone catches the air vibrations of the sansula. These signals are mixed together optimally and sent out through a 3-prong XLR cable to your phantom-power-capable PA system, mixing console, or recording console. The Elektra does require phantom power; you can't simply plug this one into your guitar amp without going through a direct box with phantom power. But the sound?  Totally worth it!  And with your amplified sansula, you can compete volume-wise with loud instruments in a band situation and you're quite mobile and not stuck next to a microphone when performing. 

27 May 2017

Handpan Tunings and Sound on the Roots Production Mini-9 Kalimba

Written by Mark Holdaway, Posted in News and Announcements

These are so sweet, so cool...

Handpan Tunings and Sound on the Roots Production Mini-9 Kalimba

People have always had a soft spot for Andrew Masters' Roots Production kalimbas. You are taken by surprise by the clear, mellifluous sound.  Part of that is the "underdog effect" - how could something made from a sardine tin sound this good?

People have often compared the soft metallic sound of Roots Production kalimbas to that of the handpans such as the Hang. A handpan is a modern steel drum shaped a bit like a wok with a lid on it. It is not played with mallets (like steel drums), but rather, a handpan must be played softly with the hands.

Now, Kalimba Magic (with the help of one creative customer) has put the exotic handpan tunings of the Hang-9 Kalimba onto the Roots Production Mini-9. The result? Simply delightful! 

15 May 2017

Simple Mbira Music for Alto Kalimba

Written by Mark Holdaway, Posted in News and Announcements

Stylizing this archetypical mbira music makes it simple to play on Alto Kalimba

Simple Mbira Music for Alto Kalimba

For the first 15 years I played kalimba, something about it confused me.  Even though my Hugh Tracey Alto kalimba came in a box that said it was an African instrument, when I played the kalimba, the music that naturally came out was more like folk and rock and classical music.  My kalimba played the music that I knew and loved and understood.

Americans get very little exposure to African music. For the last ten years, I have been slowly moving toward getting to know, and understanding, African music, with the goal of being able to (someday) play African music on my kalimba. 

In this post, I show you step-by-step how to play a cool yet simple traditional African progression on the Alto kalimba. 

28 May 2017

Different scale, different feel - new realms on the Alto Kalimba

Written by Mark Holdaway, Posted in News and Announcements

Shifting the emphasis by one note gives your music a new emotional color

Different scale, different feel - new realms on the Alto Kalimba

Can you play the major scale on your kalimba?  "Do Re Mi Fa So La Ti Do?" Your tuning might not permit this scale - the pentatonic scales and the Lotus tuning are both missing some notes.  Many kalimbas can play the major scale.  Find that scale on your kalimba now if you can.

Just by shifting the starting point of the scale by one note, we are going to show you how to create a totally different scale on your kalimba.  Instead of G major on the Alto, we will play a type of A minor scale.  Whatever kalimba you do have, this post can open doors for you too, so read on.

09 April 2017

Introduction to Karimba

Written by Mark Holdaway, Posted in News and Announcements

This article explains this rich but confusing instrument

Introduction to Karimba

The first thing that is confusing about the karimba is that people assume its name is a misspelling of "kalimba."  When I say "karimba," I am referring to the traditional instrument that Andrew Tracey described as the "original mbira" from 1300 years ago. The name "karimba" can also refer to one of the new tunings we have derived from this ancient instrument.

It certainly can be confusing:  does this instrument have 8 notes, 9 notes, 13, 15, or 17 notes?  Yes to all!  What key is it tuned to?  Great question!  Let's not view these issues as problems, rather let us see them as opportunities.

14 April 2017

Meet our Karimbas - your comparison shopping Go-To page

Written by Mark Holdaway, Posted in News and Announcements

Sound recordings for eight different types of karimbas in a wide variety of tunings

Meet our Karimbas - your comparison shopping Go-To page

This is a companion article to the post "Introduction to Karimba" where I explain the history and kinds of karimbas in the world. This information will help you learn more about the karimbas that Kalimba Magic offers.  In this post, I provide sound files for many of our karimba models so you can hear them side-by-side.  I also provide links to the product pages in the Kalimba Magic Shop.  If you are in the market for a karimba this is the go-to place for comparing the different models by sound and also through the detailed information given about them in the Shop pages, where you will find descriptions along with discussion and video of some of the instruments being played.

24 March 2017

Three Modes in Traditional Karimba Music

Written by Mark Holdaway, Posted in News and Announcements

Africans and Europeans Both Used This Cool Trick

Three Modes in Traditional Karimba Music

Generally, when you encounter a kalimba, it is usually in a particular key.  The Alto usually comes in G major.  The Bb Treble comes in Bb.  The 17-Note African-tuned karimba comes in A (unless we retune it), and the 15-note karimba (aka mbira nyunga nyunga) comes in F.

One usually plays a G major kalimba in G; but there are other ways.  You can actually pick a different note on the kalimba and make that one be the root note.  You establish a particular note as the root note by emphasizing it as "home base."  You can emphasize a note as "home base" by starting or ending a song on that note, or by playing it more often that the other notes.

If you use an alternative note (not the key note of the kalimba) as the root note, then you are playing in a different "mode" than the one suggested by its original key.  The different modes have different scales, each with its unique melodic flavor.

In a noteworthy twist, traditional karimba music uses different modes in the same manner that western music does.  What makes this remarkable?

01 April 2017

Chiwoniso Maraire

Written by Klara Wojtkowska, Posted in News and Announcements

The Songbird and Spirit Medium of Modern Zimbabwe

Chiwoniso Maraire

Klara Wojtkowska writes about the spiritual mythology of one of her mbira heroes.

Chiwoniso Maraire was in love with her homeland, Zimbabwe, as only one who walks the narrow path between those who belong and those who are foreigners, can be. Born in Olympia, WA, young Chiwoniso and her siblings performed in the Maraire family ensemble. Her father, Dumisani Maraire, was a famous mbira player who trained at the Kwanangoma School. Her mother, as Chiwoniso described, was a marvelous singer. As a teenager she and her family moved back to Zimbabwe where Chiwoniso became involved in the local music scene.

31 March 2017

F-sharp Karimba Instead of a Karimba in F?

Written by Mark Holdaway, Posted in News and Announcements

Chiwoniso found just where her voice fit, and it was on an F# karimba

F-sharp Karimba Instead of a Karimba in F?

Chiwoniso, the late, gifted Zimbabwean-American musician, played a 15-note karimba. This instrument was originally taught at the historic Kwanangoma School of African Music in Zimbabwe, popularized by her father Dumisani Maraire as the "mbira nyunga nyunga." It was usually tuned to the key of F. But Chiwoniso played her own 15-note in F#, in a not-uncommon musical strategy. 

31 March 2017

My Mbira Journey Started With Karimba

Written by B. Michael Williams, Posted in News and Announcements

My experience with karimba and mbira

My Mbira Journey Started With Karimba

Percussionist, composer, author and educator B. Michael Williams specializes in mbira, frame drums, djembe, and contemporary percussion. His mbira books are a great resource for any student of kalimba. Here are a few selections from Mr. Williams that give us a glimpse at a compelling and unique taste of his thoughts and experience with karimba and mbira.

05 April 2017

The "Clocks" riff from Coldplay, on Karimba and Alto

Written by Mark Holdaway, Posted in News and Announcements

Learn to play a kalimba version of the piano ostinato in Coldplay's "Clocks"

The

An ostinato is a motif or phrase that persistently repeats in the same musical voice.  Almost everybody knows the piano ostinato that provides the foundation for Coldplay's compelling song "Clocks," written a decade ago.  Evocative and haunting, this song seemingly brings to life a dream world.  (Click on the link below this post to hear it.)  While I've enjoyed this song since it came out, it never occurred to me to play it on kalimba until recently at a music therapy conference.  One of the attendees started playing "Clocks" on ukelele, and I realized she was playing it in D mixolydian mode, which has the same notes as the key of G major. This is also the same key in which a lot of Hugh Tracey kalimbas are tuned.  I ran and got my Alto kalimba and immediately jumped in. 

Would you like to learn how to play the riff to "Clocks" on the kalimba?  We have tablature for both African karimba and Alto kalimba.

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