News and Announcements

08 April 2016

Retuning the Pentatonic Kalimba

Written by Mark Holdaway, Posted in News and Announcements

A Guide to Changing from G Major Tuning to Other Exotic Tunings

Retuning the Pentatonic Kalimba

Why would anyone retune their kalimba? Well, I hope you DO tune up your kalimba every few weeks or so, at least to maintain its correct original tuning. However, once you learn the skills required to brush up the kalimba's tuning, you also possess the skills required to explore alternative tunings - you just need to push or pull the tines a bit farther than the very delicate moves required to fine-tune the kalimba.

But again, why would someone retune their kalimba to a different tuning? Because different musics are available to different tunings, and because different tunings help produce different emotional expression. If you ever start to get bored with your particular kalimba and what you can do with it, you should consider changing to another tuning to see what new music might speak to you.

This article walks you through four different possible retunings for the 11-note pentatonic kalimba. So, if fear or uncertainty were preventing you from taking the plunge and retuning your kalimba, you now have the tools and guidance to jump into the river and baptise yourself in the flow of ever-changing musical possibilities. Really - once you begin to explore new tunings, it's a whole new world!

26 June 2016

Kalimba Magic.Com - A Primer

Written by Mark Holdaway, Posted in News and Announcements

A guide to the Kalimba Magic website

Kalimba Magic.Com - A Primer

Kalimba Magic is the premier website for information about playing, tuning, and taking care of a wide variety of kalimbas. We also have the largest variety of kalimbas available for purchase anywhere. What follows is an overview of KalimbaMagic.com which describes its major categories, gives some description of each one, and has links so you can get there instantly. Kalimba fundamentals, FAQs, history, how-to-play, the buyer's guide, and a great deal more await you!

26 December 2016

Songs for the Treble Kalimba - "Silent Night"

Written by Mark Holdaway, Posted in News and Announcements

Free Tablature for "Silent Night" for the Treble Kalimba

Songs for the Treble Kalimba -

In my mind, most songs that you can play on the Treble kalimba are also possible to play on the Alto kalimba, and this offers great flexibility.  But there are some songs that are written for Alto that require its low notes and are just not possible on the Treble which by nature is in a higher range.  You could retune the Treble into a Bb Treble, and then it would behave just like an Alto with two extra notes.

But there is one (very famous) song that I don't think can be done properly on either the Alto kalimba or the Bb Treble kalimba - it requires the high notes of the Treble kalimba in standard G tuning, and that song is "Silent Night."

03 October 2017

Understanding Chords - on Alto Kalimba

Written by Mark Holdaway, Posted in News and Announcements

How to play them, what they mean, and what is I, V, and all that

Understanding Chords - on Alto Kalimba

The kalimba, with its unique bi-directional note layout, makes playing scales a bit difficult because you have to zigzag your way up and down the tines, plucking first one on the right side, then one on the left, then the right, and working your way up or down the scale. It is easy zigzagging at the bottom of the scale, where the tines are close together in the center. The higher you go, the higher the chance of misplacing a finger, and zagging where you meant to zig. Fortunately, the painted tines will help guide you (a painted right tine is one note higher than the corresponding painted left tine), but this is still the most common type of error.

The flip side of the difficult scales is the easy chords. What makes it hard to play scales makes it simple to play chords. Chords on kalimba are really easy. Compared with the guitar, every one of whose chords has a different geometrical shape, the kalimba is painless - all the chords have basically the same shape.

Learning to drive the chords on your kalimba can tap into the most wonderful music this little instrument has to offer...

14 November 2017

Avatar: the Last Airbender

Written by Mark Holdaway, Posted in News and Announcements

you Can Play This Music on Two Different Kalimbas

Avatar: the Last Airbender

Many people born in the last couple of decades were first turned on to the sound of the kalimba by the animated TV series Avatar: The Last Airbender. The kalimba was regularly featured in the sound track.  The kalimba can really pull on your heartstrings in a sweet, simple way... a perfect accompaniment for animation!

In this post we feature two different Youtube videos by people who acquired their kalimbas in order to learn how to play some of the kalimba music from Avatar: the Last Airbender:  one on the Hugh Tracey D Treble Kalimba, the other on the Goshen 11-note Kalimba.

In addition, we're providing free tablature for these little songs, for a visual map of how to play them.

22 March 2018

You too can play "I Can't Help Falling in Love With You"!

Posted in News and Announcements

The Mbira-style Treble Kalimba makes it simple

You too can play

When I get 10 requests for something, I know it's time to sit up and listen. Total strangers to Kalimba Magic were finding their way to my eShop and sending requests for some strange new kalimba setup that was suddenly insanely popular on YouTube.

The kalimba on the Youtube video was not in its factory setting; it was a 17-note kalimba that had been modified by the player.  I could put the Hugh Tracey 17-note Treble Kalimba in that tuning. So indeed, I could fulfill those new requests, and I set about doing just that. And thus was born the Mbira Style Treble Kalimba.

23 May 2018

Over the Rainbow

Written by Mark Holdaway, Posted in News and Announcements

Free Tablature for Alto, Treble, and Chromatic Kalimbas - and learn about the Secondary Dominant

Over the Rainbow

I never really understood the big deal about "The Wizard of Oz" when I was growing up. We had a black and white TV, and I remember in high school, a friend asked me "Hey, you know how when Dorothy lands in Oz, everything is suddenly in color?" I answered "No..." and suddenly realized part of why I had never gotten the movie! The music from this movie did not become a favorite part of my life as it did for so many.

But when you are a performing musician, it is not always about what pleases you most. In music, you also are playing for the audience. And I can tell you, no song succeeds in touching listeners' hearts quite like "Over the Rainbow" played on a tiny little music box (the kalimba).

08 October 2018

Learn to Play "I Can't Help Falling in Love With You" on Kalimba

Written by Mark Holdaway, Posted in News and Announcements

Get Free Tablature for 17-Note Kalimba in C

Learn to Play

You may very well know that right now, the most popular kalimba video in the world is by Acoustic Trench, playing "I Can't Help Falling in Love With You" (made most famous by Elvis Presley in 1961) on an alternatively-tuned 17-Note kalimba. Trench's tuning made a bass scale, going from the center to the far left - and a treble scale, going from the center to the far right. He played melody on the right and accompaniment on the left.

Well now - let's just say that right now you are sitting in the catbird seat, because you have choices. You can learn to play the song in this alternative tuning; or you could learn to play it in the generic tuning for the 17-note kalimba, where both thumbs are involved in playing the melody.

27 July 2019

Middle Eastern Tuned 17-Note Kalimba

Written by Mark Holdaway, Posted in News and Announcements

It plays Moody, complex, mysterious music. And here's a new eBook just for the Middle Eastern-Tuned 17-Note Kalimba

Middle Eastern Tuned 17-Note Kalimba

This Middle Eastern tuning makes amazingly beautiful, powerful, exotic music. It is really a journey I can recommend to most anyone. The music you can play in this kalimba tuning takes you around the world in its musical expressions. I find this music to be so beautiful,  I recommend you purchase the download just to listen to the recordings that come with, even if you don't play kalimba.

If your 17-Note kalimba is in the key of C, you will need to slightly modify the tuning. You should find that it is not too difficult to change the tuning of your kalimba to this Middle Eastern tuning.

14 August 2019

Dots, Ties, and Triplets in Kalimba Tablature

Written by Mark Holdaway, Posted in News and Announcements

The notes of a song don't always stick to standard lengths. Here's how we indicate the unusual notes in tablature.

Dots, Ties, and Triplets in Kalimba Tablature

The standard types of notes last 1 beat, or 2 beats, or 4 beats... or going the other way, 1/2 beat, or 1/4 beat, or 1/8 beat. What if you want to play a note that lasts some other length, like three beats, or 3/4 of a beat?

There are two symbols in the standard notation system - dots and ties - that are used to modify the length of the basic note types to give you a note that lasts other lengths. In this post we elaborate on how longer composite notes are built with dots and ties, and how to play them.

25 August 2019

Sage advice for performing on Kalimba

Written by Mark Holdaway, Posted in News and Announcements

30 Years of Kalimba Performance Experience Might Assist You on Your Kalimba Path

Sage advice for performing on Kalimba

Everyone has their own learning style, from totally alone wandering in the wilderness, to working with a book, to a full teacher-student relationship. And no matter what our personal style is, good tips from a veteran along the way can be of monumental importance. Being a great kalimba performer stems directly from being a great kalimba player.

We may be deep into our own learning journey, and a few good words of advice could be very very welcome. And if we are starting out then how great of a gift is it to get a brief guide to the best habits to develop so we have the best shot at growing into a good musician and competent performer?

This post comes directly from the heart of someone who has been there, knows all the ropes, the pains and pitfalls and pleasures to becoming a master at kalimba, and he provides invaluable insight and memorable pointers for all kalimba players, gently encouraging self knowledge, hard work, and joy. 

                                                                                    - Sara Edelman, editor at Kalimba Magic

26 August 2019

Playing Guitar with the Sansula

Written by Mark Holdaway, Posted in News and Announcements

Exploring Chords for Accompanying the Sansula in Standard Tuning

Playing Guitar with the Sansula

A main part of the philosophy of western musical instruments is to provide as many sonic possibilities as possible - hence the piano keyboard, with seven octaves of fully chromatic notes.

A main part of the philosophy of the kalimba is that it has exactly the notes it needs to create a particular scale or a particular song. Every note on a kalimba is important and useful. A particular kalimba's scale, or tuning, will span a particular "music space" which contains the musical possibilities of that scale. And there are "way many" music spaces and there are also "way many" kalimba tunings. 

One of my most favorite activities is to explore new kalimba tunings and their music spaces - ie, the different possibilities these tunings create.

However, as much as I love to explore and map all of these exotic music spaces, sometimes I forget to cover the most basic tuning of an instrument. In this post, I go back and analyze the Sansula's standard mystical and enchanting tuning, and then I relate the Sansula's tuning to exactly how I accompany the Sansula on my guitar. 

26 July 2019

Instructional Resources for the Celtic D Karimba

Written by Mark Holdaway, Posted in News and Announcements

get your first lesson on the Celtic D as well as three songs - hear them and get free tablature for all four

Instructional Resources for the Celtic D Karimba

The Celtic D Karimba is designed to play Celtic music in the key of D major, or B minor, or E dorian mode. Not all Celtic music is in D, but it is a common key for Celtic music.

With two rows of interspersed tines, the spacing between adjacent tines on the same row is significantly increased. This makes fast melody playing easier (because the tines are spread out more), but it makes glissandos and chords a bit more difficult (also because the tines are spread out more).

We gather all of the instructional resources for the Celtic D Karimba in this one spot.

30 July 2019

Learn to Play Along to these Easy Backing Tracks - C Major

Written by Mark Holdaway, Posted in News and Announcements

This is a great way to develop your playing and improvisation skills

Learn to Play Along to these Easy Backing Tracks - C Major

Hey, get out your 17-Note kalimba in C and jam along with these simple chord progressions.

We show you the chord progression and the notes in each chord, and we give you a sound file that embodies that chord progression. This is a fun way to learn how to jam on your kalimba.

30 July 2019

How Do You Get the High Notes to Sound Good?

Written by Mark Holdaway, Posted in News and Announcements

Most kalimbas struggle to play their high notes clearly. Learn various ways of adjusting tines to improve their sound.

How Do You Get the High Notes to Sound Good?

We all want all of our kalimba’s notes to sound strong and hearty and resonant. But on most kalimbas, the highest notes can have a serious lack of resonance.

There are physical limitations to the range of notes a kalimba can play. If you try to lengthen your lowest, longest tine, it will play a lower note - but as you go lower, the note will not sound as good, because you are trying to play a note below the lowest resonant frequency of the kalimba's body.

Similarly, if you look at your shortest, highest tine and push it in to make the vibrating length shorter, the note will go higher, and it will stop resonating all together.

The problem is, the highest note on your kalimba is already well on the way to losing its resonance, just the way it is tuned. What can be done to get a better sound from it?

23 July 2019

Using the Kalimba for Meditation

Written by Mark Holdaway, Posted in News and Announcements

Some meditative thoughts on the relationship you have with the instrument in your hands

Using the Kalimba for Meditation

Abisha writes:

"How do I meditate using the kalimba?"

I answer:

"How can I play kalimba and NOT meditate?"

Actually, I have a bit more to say about it than that.

26 June 2019

Hugh Tracey Box Alto Chromatic Kalimba is Back in Stock

Written by Mark Holdaway, Posted in News and Announcements

We'll have 72 of our most popular chromatic kalimba model available again very soon!

Hugh Tracey Box Alto Chromatic Kalimba is Back in Stock

It's time to celebrate! On July 4 we Americans celebrate Independence Day. (Although I would actually rather be celebrating Interdependence Day - because the one truth that I have learned about the world economy is that we are all in this together.) I celebrate in this article with a short video of the patriotic American song "Stars and Stripes Forever" played on the Alto Chromatic Kalimba.

And there is another reason to celebrate: the Box Alto Chromatic Kalimba will be back in stock by July 12, 2019, available for shipment by July 15!

21 June 2019

Mark's Rule of Thumb

Written by Mark Holdaway, Posted in News and Announcements

OK - at the same time, play one note with your left thumb, and one with your right - and I'll show you how to make that sound great every time

Mark's Rule of Thumb

The kalimba is fundamentally a polyphonic instrument - meaning it plays multiple notes at the same time. It does have more limitations in its ability to play multiple notes than, say, piano or guitar. But those limitations on the kalimba also make it very easy to make some very pretty music  - for example, any two adjacent notes on one side will always harmonize. Three adjacent notes will always make some sort of triad, a sweet three-note chord.

But what about two notes on opposite sides of the kalimba? Will they sound good or bad when played simultaneously? It could go either way, but I have a very simple rule of thumb that will help you make sweet harmonies when playing notes or chords with both left and right thumbs.

21 June 2019

Kalimba Americana for 17-Note Kalimba in C

Written by Mark Holdaway, Posted in News and Announcements

This eBook has Songs From the Soul of America... arranged for your kalimba

Kalimba Americana for 17-Note Kalimba in C

For all the good and bad things you can say about my country America right now, one thing that most people can agree on is that America is a great leader in musical innovation. This has been going on for centuries, and a lot of it has to do with the huge ethnic melting pot that the land of the free has always been.

Know that this great country's great music has always brought people together, across this land and across the world. I invite you to jump into the pot yourself, and learn some of these classics on your 17-Note Kalimba in C.

26 June 2019

A New High-End Electric Nyunga Nyunga

Written by Mark Holdaway, Posted in News and Announcements

The Dave Bellinger 15-Note Electric Karimba in F

A New High-End Electric Nyunga Nyunga

Dave Bellinger has long been known for his solid, meticulously crafted and innovative eKalimba designs (an eKalimba is a kalimba with an electric pickup). This one combines a hot pickup (that is, with a very strong output signal), "graphical buzzalizers," and generally smooth design and construction - with the 15 traditional notes of the mbira nyunga nyunga, also known as the karimba in F.

All of this makes the Bellinger F15 Nyunga a great instrument for looping (a looper is a device that instantaneously records what you're doing and plays it back in a loop, so you can layer multiple parts or instruments at the same time). The lower-row notes are the same notes as on the Student Karimba - meaning complete phrases of African songs can be played on its lower-row notes. So, imagine playing a lower-row song into the looper, and coming back and adding upper-row notes to the second pass of the music.

I do that, and much more, in the video at the end of this article.

21 June 2019

Chords on the 17-Note Kalimba in C

Written by Mark Holdaway, Posted in News and Announcements

And how to play melodies above them. This recipe works for any diatonic kalimba with alternating note layout

Chords on the 17-Note Kalimba in C


In an article I wrote earlier this month, I said that every non-traditional kalimba in the world owes its existence to Hugh Tracey. (Of course, they also owe their existence to the hundreds and thousands of people in Africa who pioneered and played the karimba, mbira and related instruments over the last 1000 years.) But most non-traditional kalimbas are copies of the Hugh Tracey kalimba's design and note arrangement.

That note arrangement makes it particularly easy to create melodies high up on the instrument, and simultaneously to produce good chords low down on the instrument that perfectly accompany that high melody. Would you like to learn more?

21 June 2019

Rests in Kalimba Tablature

Written by Mark Holdaway, Posted in News and Announcements

What? Those squiggly lines are supposed to mean something?

Rests in Kalimba Tablature

There are going to be some really great kalimba players in the next 2-10 years. A lot of kids are getting into the kalimba, and some of them will study, and go off and work on kalimba on their own, and invent their own style, and then reappear on the world stage as master kalimba players. Cool! Go for it!

One budding young kalimba player has been avidly tearing up all of the instructional material we sell for the 17-Note kalimba in C... but when she didn't understand what those squiggly lines meant, we heard from her about it. Those squiggles are called "rests." Different rests come in different shapes, based on how long of a rest they indicate. And we explain all that here.

21 June 2019

Mbira Songs Collected by B. Michael Williams

Written by Mark Holdaway, Posted in News and Announcements

Five + One Volumes of Mbira Dzavadzimu Music

Mbira Songs Collected by B. Michael Williams

I have great news about B. Michael Williams, as well as some sad news. On the plus side, he is making a strong finish to his career as an academic, a percussionist, and a proponent of the mbira and karimba: he has just published his 5th and final volume of mbira songs in his easy-to-read mbira tablature, available from Bachovich Music Publications or Steve Weiss Music.

On the sad side, Michael tells me that he has been diagnosed with both Parkinson's and Alzheimer's diseases. While he had the wherewithal to assemble his final volume of mbira songs, currently he is no longer able to play mbira.

Michael is a great teacher, and helped a lot of people to learn and play traditional mbira and karimba. And even though a lot of my work is non-traditional, he has always given it validity, and his encouragement has meant a lot to me.

So, when you pick up your mbira, your karimba, or your kalimba, please send some of your joy and good vibrations and gratitude to our dear friend B. Michael Williams. Thank you.

 

13 June 2019

Instructional Resources for the Alto Kalimba

Written by Mark Holdaway, Posted in News and Announcements

There are more books, ebooks, and instructional downloads for the Alto than any other kalimba, and they're all here in this post!

Instructional Resources for the Alto Kalimba

The Alto kalimba has been my favorite kalimba for over 30 years (though I do get infatuated with other kalimbas from time to time, I always come back to the Alto). As such, I have written more books and instructional downloads for the Alto kalimba than for any other kalimba. With so many books to help you on the way, this makes the Alto kalimba a great choice for you.

There are so many reasons why the Alto kalimba is an excellent one to play. If you have small hands, you may want a somewhat smaller kalimba. Otherwise, I think the Alto kalimba can be a great kalimba for you.

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