28 August 2016

Back to School with the Catania 6-Note Kalimba

Written by Mark Holdaway, Posted in News and Announcements

A perfect instrument - while they last - for kids between the ages of 5 and 12

It is the end of an era - Steve Catania has retired, and the good quality, inexpensive Catania Kalimbas are almost gone.  Most stores that carried them are completely out.  But at Kalimba Magic, because of a very large earlier order, we still have plenty of 6-Note Catania kalimbas in stock.

Why did I order so many 6-Note kalimbas? Here is a tale: The 6-Note came about because I saw a glaring need for a simple, small kalimba, and I suggested that Steve Catania make the 6-Note. Which he did. Perfect for beginners and small children, this beautiful, diminutive instrument has lots of space between tines, so you almost never play the wrong tine by accident.  It has a 1-octave range, but uses the pentatonic (5-note) scale.  It is simple, easy, and it sounds great.

You can play a surprisingly large number of songs with the little 6-Note kalimba, which comes along with a Kalimba Magic numbers-based instructional booklet of well-known songs to play on the instrument.  Songs include "Swing Low, Sweet Chariot", "Simple Gifts", "Amazing Grace", the opening riff to "My Girl" (I've got sunshine on a cloudy day), and many others.  The numbers-based system, developed by Steve Catania and slightly altered by me, simply shows the words to a song with tine numbers placed above the words, indicating when to play a particular tine. I use the numbers 1 - 2 - 3 - 5 - 6 - 8, and skip over 4 and 7. This way, the tine numbers represent the "degree of the scale" - i.e., number 5 tine will also be the "5th of the scale", which is a useful concept for more mature musicians. So the student learns a convenient way to notate the songs and identify the tines to be played, and is also introduced to an important basic concept in musical theory. You can write the corresponding numbers on the tines with a Sharpie marker to facilitate going from the diagram on paper to the kalimba.


Cat6 song

This method is a gentle way forward that is fun and delightful. And as a parent, you will marvel at how well your child is able to play without any formal instruction in music.  It will sound wonderful as your little one gradually soaks up the stuff that underlies music.

In characterizing the 6-Note kalimba, one could say that it combines "easy, simple, and accessible" with "functional and capable".  It is simple enough for young children, but capable enough for older children (or adults) to actually do some real music on the instrument.  I myself have performed on the little 6-Note kalimba on multiple occasions.  With just the six tines, it can be much easier to let go and play and not be concerned with complexity or the wrong notes.  Freedom in playing is a wonderful feeling!

Another educational benefit to the 6-Note kalimba: it serves as a very gentle illustration of the power of retuning.  By changing the F tine only one half step higher to E (accomplished simply by pushing the tine in by a few millimeters - listen to the recording below to hear me retune in real time), you have changed the tuning of the instrument from the key of C to the key of F.  C (which is the 5th of the F scale) is still the lowest note and also the highest note on this instrument, but this simplest of retunings results in a completely "new" instrument. This new kalimba has a different note layout, a different range relative to the key note, and the ability to play entirely different songs.  This retuning serves as a very tangible introduction to the significant musical concepts behind the "Circle of Fifths".  Now, don't you want that for your kids?  A doorway to essential musical understanding!

Cat6 tunings

I describe the 6-Note as the perfect instrument for kids ages 5 to 12, but I also know many bigger kids who have gotten a lot of enjoyment from these cute little kalimbas.  After Hurricane Sandy blew through and ravaged New York City in 2012, I had one customer there who found that the 6-Note kalimba was a perfect tool to help her unwind, de-stress and deal with uncertainty and anxiety.  You just twiddle your thumbs and music comes out!  This generous soul kept on ordering 6-Notes to give to neighbors as they dealt with the stress of the long recovery.

Speaking of superstorms and etc...about 20 years ago, I thought long and hard: "What would have to happen for people to start taking human-induced climate change seriously?"  I began to realize that with gradually rising sea levels and increased frequency and severity of storms, sooner or later the subways in Manhattan would be probably be flooded by a hurricane.  Sandy came only 15 years later and indeed did flood the subway system in lower Manhattan.  Many people in the New York area were convinced, but unfortunately there are a lot of people in the USA who were not persuaded by this.  In fact, I am surprised that most climate change deniers do not know that sea level is rising - a measured and proven fact that city planners and oceanfront developers across the USA understand.  Look it up on Wikipedia - yes, sea level is rising. With the rising temperature of both the air and the water (and other factors), ice is melting faster everywhere, including Antarctica, Greenland, and on mountain glaciers around the world. The rate of change of sea level rise is now accelerating.  If you are already on board, sorry for the reminder.  If your head is in the sand, it is probably time to wake up. 

Either way, a nice new 6-Note Catania kalimba can help you deal with the added stress in your life!

You can save 15% on all remaining Catania Kalimbas with the coupon code CAT15.

About the Author

Mark Holdaway

Mark Holdaway

Mark Holdaway has been playing kalimba for over 30 years.  He invented his kalimba tablature in 2004, and has been writing books and instructional materials for kalimba ever since.  His business, Kalimba Magic, is based on the simple proposition that the kalimba is a real musical instrument capable of greatness.  Mark's kalimba books are a down payment on this proposition.