New Tunings for the Catania 12-Note Kalimba

Catania 12 Note Kalimbas

These alternative tunings will breath new life and creativity into your 12 note Catania kalimba, making it a whole new instrument!

In this article, we present the notes for several different tunings and provide sound samples of the Catania 12 Note Gourd kalimba playing each tuning. Basically each tuning carries a different feeling or range of emotions. By shifting to other tunings, you increase the expressive potential of your kalimba. OR if you want the different sound without having to retune yourself, we can tune your kalimba to the tuning you want.

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Cat 12Standard  Tuning

The Standard C Catania 12 Note Tuning

Listen to standard C tuning

This is the way the Catania 12 Note kalimba comes from Steve' Catania's place. Why is the low note on the left? Well, the 8-note kalimbas have the low note (C, the root) on the right side - the Hugh Tracey convention. Hey, Hugh knew a LOT about African music - Christian Carver says there are reasons for everything in African music, so I don't second guess Hugh's convention. BUT for the 12 note kalimba (and also for the Goshen 11 notes, which have the same sort of deal) they add three notes lower than the C: B on the left, A on the right, and G ... on the LEFT! SO, putting the low note on the left side is a natural result of putting the root C on the right.

An important concept to grasp - the low note G is NOT the root note - OR, if you make that low note become the root note, you are now playing in the G mixolydian mode - the Grateful Dead Dark Star mode, which is beautiful and mysterious just for having a flat 7th (F). It is almost the major scale, with only the first hints of funkiness and melancholy.

By the way, some people get so confused by this setup that they retune their Catania 12's and Goshen 11's to put the low note on the right instead of the left. There is enough "slack" in the tines so you don't have to take them apart and trade tines left to right, you can just retune the tines in place if you want.

On the other hand, on the Alto kalimba the low root note is on the right, and then in the next octave every note is switched around to the other side, so it doesn't really matter if the kalimba is "right handed" or "left handed."

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Cat 12 G Major Tuning

The G Major Tuning

Listen to G major tuning

Having the root note in the bass is very suggestive and powerful. The easiest thing you can do to retune the Catania 12 Note kalimba is to actually put it in the key of G by raising the F to F#, which makes G be the root note.

This is now like the lower 12 notes of the Alto kalimba, except it is a mirror image. Most people won't care one way or the other. If you play the Alto and know songs on it, you could choose to retune it so it is exactly like the Alto (i.e., so you will know songs on this one too), or you could take it as a challenge to help symmetrize your brain - i.e., in order to play songs you know on the Alto, your left hemisphere will have to learn your right hemisphere's part, and vice versa.

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Cat 12 G minor Tuning

The G minor Tuning

Listen to G minor tuning

Have you ever played a Native American flute? While there are some exotic tunings, probably 90% of the NAFs are tuned to a minor scale. In fact, there are just a whole lot of people who love the minor scales. People who sort of thought they couldn't play music, and then they discover the minor scale and realize that this is a whole new world waiting for them to discover. Some of them play kalimbas too. Maybe this is you?

Well, you'll never know until you try! You can go straight to G minor without ever passing through G major if you want to. The minor scale has a flattened (or minor) 7th (F natural, i.e., the flat 7th of the G mixolydian, which is in the standard C tuning), 3rd (Bb), and 6th (Eb). While you are changing the tuning, stop and pick up the instrument before you tune the 6ths down to Eb. With minor 7th and 3rd but major 6th (E natural) you have the G dorian scale - a cool and jazzy form of the minor scale. You may love it. But if you are after melancholy, tune the 6th to Eb.

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Cat 12 MidEastern Tuning

The G Mideastern Tuning

Listen to G mideastern tuning

This is a wonderful tuning that has ambiguous features of both the major and the minor scale. I was listening to a world music program on the radio around 2005, and Matt Moon was saying "When most people think of Iraq, they think of chaos, instability, blood shed, war. But when I think of Iraq, I think of all the beautiful music they have there." Music can always give us a different way of looking at any problem, and playing in this scale is actually a good way to develop and exercise respect and love for the people of the Middle East.

There are actually several different Middle Eastern tunings, but the two variations suggested here will get you started.

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Cat 12G pentatonic  Tuning

The G Pentatonic Tuning

Listen to G pentatonic tuning

The pentatonic tuning is a whole new thing. Pentatonic scales cover an entire octave with only 5 notes (the earlier scales used 7 notes, and the 8th note is a repeat of the root note). This means that on average there is less distance in pitch space between each note's pitch, and if you keep the lowest note the same G, the top note will be very much higher than the scales we've seen so far.

In the previous tunings, we were leaving the lowest and highest notes in the same spot, so the retuning did not affect the range at all. In general there will be a lowest good note and a highest good note on any kalimba. If you tune much lower than G on the Catania 12 Note, it will start sounding odd because the body of the kalimba and the air inside won't resonate with that low note, and you'll hear the an-harmonic (i.e., bad sounding) overtones. If you tune the high D a lot higher, eventually you will tune to a note that just goes THUD because the metal and the support mechanism can't sustain that high a frequency vibration. In addition to these two limits of the kalimba, each tine has a physical limitation - you cannot tune it lower than a certain low note, because it will fall off the kalimba!

That all said, the G pentatonic tuning works on the Catania 12 Note kalimbas. This is a whole new thing because a lot of retuning is required, unlike other tunings that require only a few notes to be retuned.

Note: We have a book for the Hugh Tracey 11-note Pentatonic kalimba. The first half of the book is in G Major, the second half is in G minor - and if you tune your Catania 12 Note kalimba to the G Major pentatonic scale, you can totally use the Hugh Tracey book. HOWEVER, you do need to do something about the mirror image issue. Idea 1: Retune to a right handed version. Idea 2: Look at the tablature in the book IN THE MIRROR and read it, and that will effectively reverse the tablature to work with this left-handed G pentatonic tuning.

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Cat 12 G minor pentatonic Tuning

The G minor Pentatonic Tuning

Listen to G minor pentatonic tuning

Once you have made the jump to the G Major pentatonic, you might as well try the other pentatonic scales - you've already done the bulk of the work, and this scale represents a minor departure from the G Major pentatonic tuning. The G minor pentatonic is a very popular scale.

Note: We have a book for the Hugh Tracey 11-note Pentatonic kalimba. The first half of the book is in G Major, the second half is in G minor - and if you tune your Catania 12 Note kalimba to the G minor pentatonic scale, you can totally use the Hugh Tracey book. HOWEVER, you do need to do something about the mirror image issue. Idea 1: Retune to a right handed version. Idea 2: Look at the tablature in the book IN THE MIRROR and read it, and that will effectively reverse the tablature to work with this left-handed G pentatonic tuning.

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Cat 12 Ake Bono Tuning

The G Ake Bono Tuning

Listen to G minor Ake Bono tuning

The Ake Bono is an ancient Japanese scale - do you know the song Sakura? The cherry blossom song - well, if you've watched cartoons, I'm sure you've heard this song many times before. Sakura is played in the Ake Bono scale - which is also the scale used by the Sansula. You can hold some serious drama with this scale.

One important feature to note about the Ake Bono scale - while it is a pentatonic scale, it is very different from the regular major and minor pentatonic scales which don't have any half-step intervals. The Ake Bono scale has two half step intervals (2 to minor 3, and 5 to minor 6). So this scale will work great with another Catania 12 Note in regular G minor, or in G minor pentatonic, even though both of those scales have notes that this exotic scale lacks. There will be no nasty clashes, I assure you!

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20% Off Catania 12 Note Kalimbas through June 19th!

Catania 12 Note Kalimbas
Catania 12 Note Kalimbas: Gourd, Plain, and Decorative.

The Catania kalimbas are beautiful, rugged in the face of use and abuse, and economical. And now they are even less expensive than before!

Through June 19 2010, you can get 20% off on the purchase of any of the three types of Catania 12 Note Kalimbas at the Kalimba Magic Shop by using the coupon code Catania20 upon checkout. If you'd like us to put one of these kalimbas into an exotic tuning, we will happily do so for $4. Standard C or G Major tunings have no extra charge.

I personally love the Catania 12 Note Gourd kalimba. The decorative 12 Note board kalimba is very popular. But don't discount the plain 12 note board kalimba, it is still a fine instrument.

But before you choose a tuning for the 12-Note Kalimba, you had better check out our new tablature-based download for the 12 Note in standard C tuning, because you just might want that Catania 12-Note kalimba in vanilla.

 

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