News and Announcements

16 February 2019

Limba Trip - Master of the Treble Chromatic Kalimba

Posted in News and Announcements

It is wonderful to see someone who really understands this challenging instrument!

Limba Trip - Master of the Treble Chromatic Kalimba

Limba Trip is the stage name and YouTube channel for Yohei Kisanuki, an eclectic and amazing player of electric bass and Chromatic Treble Kalimba in Kyoto, Japan. While a number of people have developed competence on the chromatic kalimba, Limba Trip is the most accomplished and most natural player of the Chromatic kalimba that I have seen.

Yohei has approached the Chromatic kalimba as a fully chromatic instrument, capable of playing in any and all keys. As opposed to chromatic instruments, a diatonic kalimba is very forgiving and lets you make nice music even if you don't really know what you are doing, and on the front of the Chromatic is a simple diatonic kalimba. However, to play at Yohei's level, you need to know exactly what you are doing, and you need to have all of the Chromatic's notes at your fingertips. Learn about Yohei's "limba trip" and get free tablature for the 12 diatonic scales on the Chromatic kalimba.

14 February 2019

Resources For the Treble Chromatic Kalimba's Front Side

Posted in News and Announcements

The 17-Note Kalimba in C is exactly the same as the front of the Treble Chromatic

Resources For the Treble Chromatic Kalimba's Front Side

One of the beautiful things about a typical kalimba is that it only has the "right notes." Most kalimbas spell out a particular scale, and every note is a good note for expressing a certain range of music. The downside of that typical kalimba is that it cannot play music that requires chromatic notes (sharps and flats) outside of its particular key or scale.

Enter the chromatic kalimba with its many tines and wide capabilities. In order to maintain the general simplicity of playing most kalimbas, the "naturals" are on the front side and the "flats" are on the back side of this kalimba. Becoming skilled on the chromatic can take a lot of work and time, but meanwhile, there are thousands of songs you can play with just the front notes, and we do have three fantastic downloads that happen to nicely suit the front side of your Treble Chromatic Kalimba.

07 February 2019

33 Intermediate Songs: A Download for 17-Note Kalimba in C

Written by Mark Holdaway, Posted in News and Announcements

Classical - African - Americana - Spirituals - And more!

33 Intermediate Songs: A Download for 17-Note Kalimba in C

Learn to play kalimba like a pro, by learning from a pro - that's me, Mark Holdaway!

If you have been working your way through the "44 Beginner Songs" download, then "33 Intermediate Songs" is the next purchase to continue your progress.

This 82-page single PDF download contains the kalimba tablature for all of the songs, and live links to enable you to download the sound recordings I have made to demonstrate each song.

Says one recent happy customer: "I am very impressed with the quality of the ebook I just purchased. With every encounter I am amazed at the amount of work - and care - you put into every single step. The amount charged is beginning to look like a mere pittance in relation to the time and effort you must have expended. Thank you for everything. You are an extraordinary teacher!"

07 February 2019

My Personal Experience Using Alaska Piks

Written by Mark Holdaway, Posted in News and Announcements

I learned so much from dealing with a recently broken thumb nail

My Personal Experience Using Alaska Piks

Don't you hate it when people write about an experience as if they have had it, when they haven't? OK, that was me last month, but I got religion in recent weeks.

Last month I wrote a blog post on how to fine tune your Alaska Piks to your thumb. This month I broke a thumb nail, but I was obliged to play kalimba anyway... Let's just say I now have a whole lot more useful information on using Alaska Piks with the kalimba. And lots of illustrations!

So, if you want the skinny on how to REALLY use Alaska Piks on your kalimba, karimba, or mbira, proceed!

06 February 2019

Going Low: Chords with the 5th in the Bass

Written by Mark Holdaway, Posted in News and Announcements

This technique can get you a lower bass note to better support the music

Going Low: Chords with the 5th in the Bass

Making a chord is simple on a diatonic kalimba: Pick the note you want the chord to be based on - let's say C - and then play that note and the next two shorter tines on the same side of the kalimba. Those three tines will make a triad with the notes 1 - 3 - 5. Will it be major or minor, or even diminished? It depends on which key you are in and what note you started on - but it will always be a beautiful chord.

("Diatonic" means your kalimba plays only the notes Do Re Mi Fa So La Ti Do in some key [with no notes outside of the key], for at least an octave, likely more. Diatonic kalimbas include the Hugh Tracey Alto and Treble kalimbas, or the 10-Note and 17-Note Heart kalimbas.)

This post is about an important strategy to get you to low notes on your kalimba without fundamentally changing the harmony.

07 February 2019

Learn to play "The Wizard" Theme Song

Written by Mark Holdaway, Posted in News and Announcements

This is one magical tuning

Learn to play

The Hokema B11 Kalimba - also called the "Melody Kalimba" - has a lot of untapped potential. In its standard G major tuning, it does a lot of nice music. But so many other exotic tunings are also possible, and those exotic tunings have not really been explored at all - until now. Today we are taking another look at the exotic B11 tuning that I call "The Wizard."

Last summer when I created an instructional download for the B11 Wizard tuning, I did things in the wrong order. After the download came out, I wrote an enchanting little piece of music and made a YouTube video of the song to popularize the download… it should have been IN the download, and so I never wrote down the tablature for what I call "The Wizard Theme Song."

Well – apologies for that blunder, and here is the tablature for the song now, for you, for free. Enjoy!

05 February 2019

For Sale: Imitation Karimbas With Bogus Tuning

Written by Mark Holdaway, Posted in News and Announcements

They copy the form, but what is within? buyer beware!

For Sale: Imitation Karimbas With Bogus Tuning

Half the intelligence of playing kalimba resides within your thumbs, and half the intelligence is collected from the ancestors and embedded in the instrument design and its tuning.

What happens when you copy the form of an instrument, but cut it off from its tradition and replace that with something that you made up?

The 17-note instrument with two levels of tines pictured here looks a lot like a Hugh Tracey African-tuned karimba. It looks like it should play traditonal African music. But it is not the same at all, and does not play traditional African music in this made-up, partially chromatic tuning.

07 February 2019

ABNA BON - Ambient Recording Artists Focusing on Karimba

Written by Mark Holdaway, Posted in News and Announcements

The kalimba shapes their compositions. They shape the kalimba's sound in their recording process.

ABNA BON - Ambient Recording Artists Focusing on Karimba

Anna Donahoo and Bob Guido are ABNA BON. This husband-wife duo produces cool ambient music for various soundtrack projects, and their music includes live drums, guitar, bass, keyboard, violins, voice... and of course, kalimba. They have an ethereal sound all their own. Part of that sound comes from their philosophy, part of the sound comes from their recording techniques, and part just comes from the inherent nature of the kalimba.

"With the kalimba, melody and rhythm are kind of the same. You can't think of melody on the kalimba without thinking about the rhythm. The kalimba makes you think of the two in a different way than you would with a guitar or a piano." - Anna Donahoo.

11 January 2019

New Easy-to-use Download for 17-Note Kalimba in C

Written by Mark Holdaway, Posted in News and Announcements

44 Beginner Songs Replaces Clunky 66-Song Download

New Easy-to-use Download for 17-Note Kalimba in C

At the end of last summer, Amazon sales of inexpensive Chinese-made 17-Note kalimbas tuned to the key of C started to spike. These kalimbas were delivered to people with either a short instructional manual in Chinese, or no instructions at all. Peeved customers who bought from Amazon found me, vented their frustrations, and begged me for an English version of the short Chinese manual.

Of course, I saw a great opportunity. I shot from the hip and made a "primitive" Zip file download for the 17-Note in C from an earlier version of "66 Songs" for a different kalimba. But a significant fraction of those who have purchased this Zip download have trouble a) finding the download button, and b) dealing with ZIP files.

With this new single PDF download, "44 Beginner Songs for the 17-Note Kalimba in C," I have eliminated the customer's need to deal with a ZIP file. You will, however, still need enough tech savvy to be able to find the download link in your Kalimba Magic email invoice. If not, there is always email.

14 January 2019

Tablature for "Karimba Walk"

Written by Mark Holdaway, Posted in News and Announcements

You can totally learn how to play this song!

Tablature for

One of my good habits is to walk about 2 miles every morning while I play kalimba. This is time by myself, with the sky above me and the earth below me. It is time with a kalimba in my hands and a song in my heart. It is an essential element of my mental, physical, and spiritual wellness.

Most mornings, I stick with one song for most or all of the walk. I find the song deepens as my walk proceeds. On good mornings, I get an entire new song. And sometimes, I record them.

"Karimba Walk" is a syncopated walking-tempo song that I play here on the Hugh Tracey African-tuned Karimba, in the style of traditional African two-phrase karimba music. And now you can totally learn to play it too!

There are so many juicy details about karimba music here - if you play African karimba, this is a "must read."

15 December 2018

Exotic Sansula Tunings - C Major

Written by Mark Holdaway, Posted in News and Announcements

Learn how to play guitar chords with any sansula - and get a taste of the rules of chorded improvisation

Exotic Sansula Tunings - C Major

My friend Andrea Eckardt and I are back with another exotic Sansula tuning, showing the world just how easy it is for a Sansula and a guitar to make great music together.

The Sansula is made by Hokema in Germany. The tines of this exotic kalimba make a crystal-clear sound, amplified by the Sansula's oval-frame drum body.

Today we are going take a very close look at how the guitar accompanies the Sansula; I dissect our improvisation "blow by blow," and share six rules that can help any chording instrument (guitar, piano) successfully and gracefully accompany a Sansula.

11 January 2019

Two Diametrically Different Kalimba Playing Approaches

Written by Mark Holdaway, Posted in News and Announcements

Careful, precise, and planned - or Wild, Free, In-the-moment - both are important

Two Diametrically Different Kalimba Playing Approaches

When I'm asked how I learned kalimba, I tell this story: while I had known what a kalimba was since the age of two, I only discovered how wonderful kalimba music could be when I was 24 and I witnessed an amazing player close up. I immediately went out and bought a kalimba, and then I wandered alone in the wilderness for 10 years, finding my own way.

In that wandering, I found that my path branched in two opposing directions. On one, I tried to learn songs exactly, with precision and repeatability. On the other, I aimed for pure delight in the spontaneous flow that come only from improvisation. And over time I learned that these two approaches enhance each other.

Today we'll talk a little more about improvisation versus learning specific riffs and songs, and see two recently-made videos that illustrate these two starkly different ways of approaching kalimba playing.

06 January 2019

Using Alaska Piks on Kalimba

Written by Mark Holdaway, Posted in News and Announcements

If you don't have much thumb nail, these inexpensive piks can help

Using Alaska Piks on Kalimba

When I would teach large kalimba classes in the past, one of the supplies I had to bring with me was the Alaska Pik. If you have no thumb nails, plucking the kalimba's metal tines can be painful. Eventually, novice players will either grow their thumb nails or develop calluses on the playing surface of their thumbs. Until then, or in emergencies, the Alaska pik can be a life saver!

Ken Purcell, the inventor of Alaska piks, was vacationing in Alaska when he got the idea for his PVC guitar piks. While they were initially designed for guitar finger pickers, the piks also work great on kalimba players' thumbs. I always carry a set of three piks with me in case I break a nail or two before a gig. I carry three piks in case I step on one!

09 December 2018

Exotic Sansula Tunings - G Major

Written by Mark Holdaway, Posted in News and Announcements

This is so different from the Sansula's melancholy standard A minor tuning

Exotic Sansula Tunings - G Major

"Oh - it's so small... it only has nine notes - that's not much."

I must admit, hearing comments like that always leave me a bit disconcerted. Yes, she was a piano player who was accustomed to having scores of notes at her fingertips. I could have explained to her: "This is a magical instrument that just creates its own music, just the way it is. These 9 notes have a special story to tell."

But the words did not come out. Instead, I started playing that small nine-note Sansula... and then picked up another Sansula in a different tuning... and then another. After listening, she nodded with understanding, and said "Oh, what a charming little instrument! And it seems there is not a single wrong note on it." Of course not! With only nine notes, you have to make them all count!

08 December 2018

Three Inexpensive Soft-Shell Kalimba Cases

Written by Mark Holdaway, Posted in News and Announcements

The Small case fits the 10-Note Kalimba, Medium fits the 17-Note or Treble, Large fits the Alto and Chromatic

Three Inexpensive Soft-Shell Kalimba Cases

How do you safely travel with your kalimba, keeping it from potential accidental trauma? For an unfortunately long period of time, my answer has been "I pack it between my underwear and socks." The fragile Sansula has a nice soft bag and a very nice wood case. But if you play one of the more standard kalimbas, once its box wears out, you might be packing yours between a few T-shirts too.

To those who would persist about this glaring deficiency, I would say: "Go to Target's back-to-school section in August, and pick out a nice padded/insulated, soft-sided lunch sack."

Today, I am happy to recommend a new solution: tough, attractive, black, zipping, form-fitting, well-padded soft-shell kalimba cases, at $10, $11.50, and $13. Most kalimba pages in the Kalimba Magic Shop now have the option to add one of these kalimba cases.

10 December 2018

Playing well Together: 10-Note and 17-Note Heart Kalimbas

Written by Mark Holdaway, Posted in News and Announcements

A great pair of kalimbas for a beginner and an experienced player. Sweet video, too!

Playing well Together: 10-Note and 17-Note Heart Kalimbas

Yes, I have been making the point about the 10-Note and the 17-Note kalimbas for months: the lower notes (the 10 inner tines) on the 17-Note kalimba in C are an exact match to the notes of the 10-Note kalimba in C. One consequence: if playing on 17 notes is too hard, hide 7 of those tines and just play it as if it were a 10-Note, using the 10-Note downloads. Another consequence: if you get the 10-Note and do well with it, you can then buy the 17-Note kalimba and everything you learned on the 10-Note is immediately transferable to the 17-Note.

But today I am making a different point: if you are a mother, father, grandmother or grandfather, and you want to get a bigger kalimba for yourself and a simpler kalimba (which could be played together with yours) for your child or grandchild, I think the 10-Note and 17-Note kalimbas will make a great team for you and your special kalimba partner.

09 December 2018

Learn to Play the 10-Note Kalimba

Written by Mark Holdaway, Posted in News and Announcements

Learn the 10-Note and prepare for the 17-Note - You can sample one lesson from each of our four 10-Note downloads

Learn to Play the 10-Note Kalimba

I am really taken with the 10-Note kalimba. I think it is one of the best choices you can make for most kids ages 8-14. But I also think there are a lot of adults who get a 17-Note kalimba and then get frustrated with it, because it is more complicated than they are ready for.

To try to woo you toward the 10-Note kalimba, I am sharing a lesson from each of my four instructional downloads: "Fun and Games on the 10-Note Kalimba," "Everything You Need to Know to Play the 10-Note Kalimba," "African Music on the 10-Note Kalimba," and "Easy Christmas Carols on the 10-Note Kalimba."

10 December 2018

In defense of the Treble, the original Hugh Tracey Kalimba

Written by Mark Holdaway, Posted in News and Announcements

The subtle brilliance of Hugh Tracey's Treble Kalimba Tuning

In defense of the Treble, the original Hugh Tracey Kalimba

When Hugh Tracey started making the Treble kalimba with five painted tines and 17 notes  in 1954, it was the very first commercial kalimba. The Treble has a rich history, though the instrument's setup is somewhat problematic. On most modern kalimbas, the "key note" or "root note" is the lowest note on the instrument and this has great advantages. The Treble kalimba, however, is in the key of G but is missing that low G and A. It actually starts on B, the 3rd of the scale. It can take some work to play a Treble well.

So we see that the Treble setup is confusing all on its own. And what is making things trickier for the Treble is the new Chinese-made 17-Note kalimbas, which look just like the Treble kalimba, right down to those five painted tines. The new kalimbas are in the key of C, and also have C as the low note which makes this new tuning an obvious choice, and lots of people are going to this instrument in lieu of the Treble.

Even though the 17-Note looks like a Treble, it is not at all a Treble, and its tine-painting scheme makes it impossible to learn from any instructional materials that Kalimba Magic offers. But this is easily remedied and you can learn all about it in the recent post _________________________.

So is the venerable progenitor of the new 17-Note kalimbas going to way of the dodo?

23 November 2018

How Should I Paint the Tines on My 17-Note Kalimba?

Written by Mark Holdaway, Posted in News and Announcements

And what books should I get for my 17-Note Kalimba?

How Should I Paint the Tines on My 17-Note Kalimba?

When Hugh Tracey started making his 17-Note Treble kalimbas in South Africa in 1954, the instruments had one out of every three tines painted, on each side of the kalimba. These Treble kalimbas ended up with five painted tines, in the key of G, with the low note being B.

Now, a new crop of 17-note kalimbas from China has surfaced under names such as Gecko, Donner, and Walter kalimbas. They are all in the key of C. So while looking exactly like the Treble Hugh Tracey kalimba, they are in a different key, which changes everything. These kalimbas come unpainted with decals for marking the tines, and the manufacturers recommend marking five tines - which is the exact Treble painting scheme. But this can be a problem and here is why:

Tine painting defines how a person learns to play a kalimba and tremendously eases the process of learning songs from kalimba tablature.  Hugh Tracey's Treble kalimba is in the key of G and has its own unique tine-painting layout. But you cannot use Treble instructional materials with your 17-note in C. In order for you to take advantage of the vast offering of Kalimba Magic books, instructional downloads and hundreds of songs that are applicable to the 17-note in C (including all downloads for the 10-note kalimba, 66 Songs for the 17-Note, plus the entire body of Alto kalimba literature) - the Treble's five-tine painting scheme will simply not work. 

By using the six-tine painting scheme outlined in this post, your 17-note becomes part of a world of song instruction, help, and community at your fingertips.

02 December 2018

The Big Four Kalimba Playoff: Silent Night

Written by Mark Holdaway, Posted in News and Announcements

Compare: 10-Note Heart, 17-Note Heart, Hugh Tracey Alto, and Hugh Tracey Treble Kalimbas

The Big Four Kalimba Playoff: Silent Night

Kalimba Magic has "Easy Christmas" ebooks for each of four of our best selling kalimbas. A big part of every ebook is the sound recordings for each song. This provides us with a great data set for comparing these four popular kalimbas, side by side.

28 November 2018

Easy Christmas Music for Treble Kalimba

Written by Mark Holdaway, Posted in News and Announcements

All your holiday favorites, arranged for the Hugh Tracey Treble in G

Easy Christmas Music for Treble Kalimba

This collection of Christmas favorites has been arranged specifically for the Hugh Tracey Treble Kalimba in G. We started with a set of generic arrangements, but refined several of them so all the songs are comfortable and easy to play on the 17-Note Hugh Tracey Treble kalimba.

I have been playing Christmas Carols on the kalimba for 20 years. Not only is it a fine way to learn your kalimba, working on songs you already know. It is also a fantastic way to cultivate feelings of joy and gratitude during the lead-up to the holiday season. It is also a great way to share joy with other people in your life.

This 59-page PDF download with clickable links to MP3 files has tablature for 32 different versions of 28 different carols. This book has enough easy songs to have you playing carols right away, and it has enough complex songs to keep you learning and playing carols each holiday season for years!

27 November 2018

Greensleeves and the Flexibility of Kalimba Tablature

Written by Mark Holdaway, Posted in News and Announcements

Using the universal language of tine painting, Your 15-Note Alto or 17-Note Kalimba in C can read 8-Note Tablature!

Greensleeves and the Flexibility of Kalimba Tablature

Two years ago, I made a video demonstration of my kalimba tablature (which I originally created in 2004 to facilitate learning and sharing music on kalimba), playing Greensleeves on the 8-Note kalimba. The illustration at the top of this article is from that video. Three of the kalimba's tines were painted red, and the three corresponding columns in the tablature were also colored red - the tablature is a replica of the kalimba, and each column represents a different tine.

What if you loved "Greensleeves" and wanted to play it on your 17-Note kalimba? Is it even possible to transfer music for one kalimba to a different one? Generally, you cannot play 17-Note kalimba music on an 8-Note kalimba; it just doesn't have all the notes you likely need. But you can generally do the opposite, which is to play 8-Note kalimba music on your 17-Note kalimba... if one crucial thing is true: that the 17-Note has tines painted in the same logical scheme. And this is possible even though the 17-Note is in C and the 8-Note is in D. Tine painting can make all things possible!

26 November 2018

What Colors Are Available for Painting Kalimba Tines?

Written by Mark Holdaway, Posted in News and Announcements

a profusion of possible colors!

What Colors Are Available for Painting Kalimba Tines?

Come with me for a moment, to stand behind Hugh Tracey, circa 1952. For years before he began selling his kalimbas, Dr. Tracey worked at perfecting a new kalimba invention, creating over 100 prototypes, experimenting with various design features. When he finally settled on what worked and sounded best for his Treble kalimba, he had really accomplished a tremendous feat. Hugh Tracey kalimbas still look almost exactly as they did in 1954, when he started selling them to the world, and many kalimba makers across the globe copy the Hugh Tracey Treble design. Hugh Tracey's work is the standard by which modern kalimbas are judged.

One very significant change that Dr.Tracey made to traditional African instruments was to paint every third tine on his kalimba. Why? To help you find your way on its 17 otherwise indistinguishable tines.

Hugh Tracey kalimbas generally come with just RED or BLUE painted tines. But Kalimba Magic offers you LOTS MORE CHOICES...  including BLACK and _______.

26 November 2018

Free Tablature for "Let it Snow"

Posted in News and Announcements

You can learn to play this song yourself with Free Tab for Alto and 17-Note Kalimbas

Free Tablature for

The classic holiday song "Let it Snow" has a great trick that usually doesn't work on the kalimba. Some songs, including this one, modulate to a different key temporarily. Usually, when you modulate to another key, you have "accidentals" - that is, notes that are not in the original key, or even on the kalimba! Well, "Let it Snow" can be played happily on your kalimba with a bit of musical sleight-of-hand.

You can hear the modulation in "Let it Snow" - it happens in the bridge at 0:42 in the video. At that point, another note and another chord temporarily become "home base." How do you think I will navigate this?

 

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