Tuning Your Kalimba

Kalimba Playing Tips

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Tuning Your Kalimba

Lynn 2020-04-19 10783 0


A kalimba is an awesome and easy-to-play instrument that originates from Africa. Commonly made of wood, kalimbas have long metal rods that are capable of playing high-pitched notes when plucked. If you want to play the kalimba, you need to make sure that the instrument is tuned first. Then, you can create your own melodies by playing single notes and chords. Once you get used to playing the instrument, you can learn how to play songs by reading tablature.

Tuning Your Kalimba

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1. Download or purchase a tuner. Before you play the kalimba, you must make sure it’s in tune or it won’t sound right. You can download a simple tuning app on your phone or you can purchase a digital guitar tuner. Once you have the tuner, turn it on and place it next to your kalimba.
  • Popular tuning apps include VITALtuner, Cleartune, and iStrobosoft.

  • You can purchase a guitar tuner online or at a music store.

  • Digital guitar tuners will cost anywhere from $10-$40.

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2. Refer to a kalimba key chart to determine the proper notes. The tines are the long metal pieces that run from the top to the bottom of the kalimba. Most kalimbas will come with a key chart that outlines which notes correspond with which tine and some kalimbas even have the notes engraved on the tines themselves. If you don't have a key chart, look online to find one that matches your kalimba.
  • For example, if your kalimba has 8 tines, look for tunings for kalimbas with 8 tines.

  • Starter kalimbas usually come with 8 notes or 8 tines.

  • More advanced kalimbas come with 12 notes or 12 tines.

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3. Hit the center tine and look at the note on the tuner. Find the center tine and pluck it with your fingernail while looking at the tuner. The tine should vibrate and a note should ring out.
  • Tines are like the keys on a piano.

  • On most 8-tine kalimbas, the center tine will be a C note.

  • The center note is usually a G or C on a 12-note kalimba.

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4. Tap the tine upward with a tuning hammer if the note is flat. A kalimba tuning hammer is a small metal hammer that can be purchased online. Lightly tap the bottom end of the tine upward to raise the note. Pluck it again and see what note it is. Keep tapping and readjusting it until it is the correct note.
  • For example, f you’re using an 8-tine kalimba and the tuner reads C♭ or B, that means the note is flat and the tine needs to be repositioned.

  • You don’t have to use a lot of force when tapping the tine. Do it very lightly to make slight adjustments.

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5. Tap the tine downward with a tuning hammer if the note is sharp. If the tuner reads ♯, that means the tine is sharp and needs to be lowered. Lightly tap the top of the tine to move it downward. Play the tine again by plucking it to see whether it is in tune.[6]
  • For example, if you're using an 8-tine kalimba and the center tine reads C♯ or D, it means that the note is sharp and the tine must be lowered.

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6. Tune the rest of the kalimba. Repeat the process on the rest of the kalimba, following the key chart to ensure that each tine is in tune. Once you’ve positioned all the tines in the proper position, your kalimba should be in tune and ready to play.



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