11 August 2019

Take Your 8-Note (or 10-Note) Kalimba Playing to the Next Level

Written by Mark Holdaway, Posted in News and Announcements

How? By slightly retuning one tine, and by getting our new eBook

If you have an 8-Note kalimba, you may have learned "Joy to the World," "Ba Ba Black Sheep," and "Doe, a Deer." But what do you do next?

Typically, when someone masters a kalimba, they search for another kalimba challenge to put before them - usually a bigger or more exotic kalimba. However, I offer you another path. A very simple modification of your 8-Note (or 10-Note) kalimba will transform it into a new tuning, with a new reportoire - essentially turning it into a new kalimba challenge without having to buy another kalimba.

Just how do you go about doing this? I'll show you!


(Note: the songs in this collection were derived from a less-organized ZIP file download. If you purchased that download in the last year (since Aug 2018), write to me and upon confirming the purchase, I will give you a free upgrade to this well-organized and easy-to-use ebook.)

Here are the tuning charts for the most common 8-Note tuning, and the one note that must be retuned - pulling out the B tine a few millimeters to tune it to B flat (or Bb), throwing the kalimba into the key of F.

8Note FTuning

This is musical judo at its best! One simple little retuning will flip the simple 8-Note kalimba into a whole new key, turning this into a whole new instrument.

The typical tuning for the 8-Note kalimba is for the low note and the high note to both be C, the root note.

However, there are many, many songs that won't fit on this instrument in this tuning. There are many songs that would like to go down below the "1" note, down to the "5" of the lower octave (that is, G). Clearly, tuning all those tines way down so that the low note is G would be a huge hassle (don't try it).

But when you tune your "7" note, B, down a half step to Bb, this changes the root note to F. If F id the "1" note, the C, or "5" note, will be on the longest tine. Playing the four longest tines from low to high gives you C, D, E, F - do it snappy and you get the theme song to "The Adams Family". Going up from F, we have "1 2 3 4 5" - that is, we have half of the F scale above, and half of the F scale below.

Just to summarize: the simple retuning of Bb to B does not change any other notes, but it changes the way we think about the notes. The low note, C, is no longer a "home base". F is that "home base", and the C note pushes us to that home.

We do not have the situation we had before, where we have two of the root notes and a full octave in between. As such, different songs will be available to this tuning.

Do you remember the ebook, Easy Christmas Carols for the 10-Note Kalimba? In that book, we had 8 Christmas songs that you can do in the standard C tuning... but when we retune the B to Bb, that gives us 20 more Christmas carols. This indicates that our F tuning here probably has more songs than you can do in the standard C tuning. Which songs can you do on the 8-Note tuned to F?

8Note TOC

Now - for an example, I'll show you where this book starts, on "Amazing Grace", a simple "Level 1" song. This is a special example, though - even though it is in the key of F in the tablature below, this song is in the major pentatonic scale, meaning it has no 4th notes and no 7th notes. The 4th of F is Bb - meaning a) you don't actually have to retune your B tine to Bb to play "Amazing Grace" on your 8-Note kalimba, and b) go ahead and pick up your 8-Note kalimba, and don't even worry about retuning it - you can follow THIS song in your native tuning, and it will show you what it is like to play in the key of F:

8Note SongExample

Even though the first note of the song is C, that note springs us into the F. That is the V -> I classic chord progression, or it is the tendancy for the "5" note to lead us home to the "1" note.

This page also shows us an important feature of this ebook - when you click on the sound icon in the upper left corner (of the full PDF eBook, not this image in this block post) your web browser will be driven to download and play the MP3 sound file for the song on this page. At the very least, as you listen to the songk, follow along with the notes of the tablature. As you get more experienced, you will be able to play your kalimba along with the sound file, with the help of the tablature.

And there is a little added bonus in this new ebook: each of the songs in this collection can also be played on your 10-Note kalimba, again, with retuning your single B tine down to Bb.

And the music in this ebook? Spectacular and top notch arrangements. As I am fond of saying, if is worthwhile to get this book just to hear the melodies and harmonies I have recorded on my own 8-Note kalimba. Sweet and beautiful. And even more so when you learn to play these songs yourself!

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.

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