is an African instrument with metal tines fashioned onto a wood or gourd
body for resonation. The tines are played with your fingers and create
what Zimbabwe musician Stella Chiweshe describes as the sound of "tuned
here for a
video demonstration or
video slideshow of the kalimba.
(Requires Quicktime plug-in).
Africa, the Kalimba has played a part in African culture for 800 years.
Many Africans use the Kalimba to tell beautiful stories, celebrate life
events, or to just pass the time on long journeys. The music of the Kalimba
is said to help the sick mind, heart and soul.
called by many names. In Zambia they are called Luvale; in Cameroon, Sansa;
in Zimbabwe, Karimba, Mbira & Matapee; and in South Africa, Kalimba
or Thumb Piano, also known as Marimbula in a very large version.
is it played?
the Kalimba is enjoyable and easy. Simply pluck the metal tines with your
thumbs or fingers. Rich melodies and chords roll out without endless practice
play by placing the tips of my thumbs on the tines and sliding my thumb
nails gently down the tines until it slips off and plucks the note."
By sliding a
finger lightly off of the end of the metal tine a clean bell tone will
ring. Beware of plucking the tine too hard, this will produce a distorted
sound and can change the pitch of the note played.
chords can be played by plucking three tines at the same time. One thumb
plucks two tines while the other thumb plucks one.
Each Kalimba has two
holes on either side to produce a wonderful vibrato sound. Cover the holes
with your pointer fingers and pluck a tine. Opening and closing the holes
will create a fun "wa-wa" effect. This effect will happen with up to 3 notes
that are tuned close to the resonant point of the Kalimba. To add this effect
to all the notes simply play a tine that produces vibrato in unison with
others that don't.
Vibrato or "Wa-Wa" sound
comes with an instructional tape.
Our Kalimbas are created
in a unique way. Matt fashions wood, gourd and metal together to create
his own version of this traditional instrument. Matt has spent time learning
how to make guitars and has incorporated some of guitar construction methods
into designing these Kalimbas.
preparing to create gourd Kalimbas I comb through literally thousands
of gourds at a special gourd farm here in California. I search for acoustically
sound, visually pleasing, and easy to hold shapes. The gourd or wood body
will create a resonating chamber that a sound board will be attached to.
I sand the sound board and the chamber very flat and attach the two together.
I then sand the completed body and oil its surface. Once I have a complete
acoustic chamber I mount on it the spring steel tines and stainless steel
bridge. The stainless steel bridge puts pressure on the tines allowing
them to ring on the desired pitches."
A Kalimba's scale is determined by the size of the body.
For example a small gourd body will produce high notes more efficiently
than a large gourd body.
Each Kalimba is re-tunable.
The metal tines can be moved in or out to change their pitches. To change
the scale or pitch of any note simply tap the tine in or out with a mallet.
Tapping at the back of the tine will lower the pitch, tapping the front
will raise the pitch. Both pentatonic and diatonic scales are possible.
The pentatonic scale
is used often in world music. This scale is easy to play. You can make
up songs right away and play with other musicians without any fear of
hitting a "wrong" note because the tones in a penatonic scale all ring
in harmony. Most of our Kalimbas are sold with the pentatonic scale.
The diatonic scale
is a complete seven-tone scale. More complex songs and chords can be created
on a Kalimba with a diatonic scale. The most common scales we tune to
are A and A minor, C, F, G and G minor.
We can install internal
pickups to amplify the Kalimbas sound. The quality of our German made pickups
is great. It is very helpful to have a way of playing loud enough to be
heard over other amplified instruments. The world of electronic effects
is opened to the Kalimba with a pickup. Try playing with some reverb, echo
or delay for a fun experimental sound. We charge $75 for the pickup and
We accept custom orders
always entertain new design looks and even outlandish dreams. Call and
talk to me about what you have in mind."
number: (949) 293-4749
Our Kalimbas are hand
rubbed with Tung Oil. This oil is derived from the Tung nut of Asia. It
penetrates the wood well and dries to a protective coating. A hard wax is
then buffed onto the Kalimba to add a slight shine and increase the moisture
protection. Simply apply good furniture wax with a soft cloth once a year
or whenever you wish to bring out extra shine. The metal tines are covered
in nickel and are easily polished with a cotton rag. Do not subject your
Kalimba to harsh weather changes like leaving out in the sun or closed in
a hot car. At home position your Kalimba out of prolonged direct sunlight.
This CD has step by step instructions on playing your Kalimba. It lays out a good approach to the instrument and is very encouraging.
The CD also contains music to play with your Kalimba.
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