Playing Notes on the Kalimba

Kalimba Playing Tips

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Playing Notes on the Kalimba

Lynn 2020-04-19 3841 0

1. Hold the kalimba in both hands. Place the kalimba in the palms of your hands with the tines facing you. Place your thumbs on the top of the kalimba and wrap the rest of your fingers behind the kalimba. You can also place the kalimba on a flat surface rather than holding it.
  • Do not cover the 2 holes on the back of the kalimba when holding it, or it won’t sound right.

2. Hit a tine with your thumbnail to play a note. To get a good sound, flick the tine with your thumbnail. The tine should vibrate after you flick it. Practice hitting the tine with your nail until the note resonates.
  • When you’re first starting off, this may get painful if you play the kalimba for a long period of time but eventually our fingernails will get used to playing the kalimba if you practice.

  • You can also purchase and use a finger pick instead of using your fingernails.

3. Alternate between both thumbs to hit tines for a progression. Unlike a piano, kalimba notes alternate, fanning out from the center of the instrument. Playing the corresponding tine on the opposite end of the kalimba will play a whole-step, or one full note upward or downward. Experiment with hitting different tines on the left and right of the instrument to play a progression of notes.
  • For example, on an 8-note kalimba in standard tuning, the tine left of the center is a D and the tine right of the center tine is an E.

4. Hit 2 adjacent tines to play a chord. Hitting 2 tines that are right next to each other plays a chord. Use your thumb to play both tines at the same time to play the chord. Experiment with different tines on the kalimba to create a series of chords, known as a chord progression.
5. Combine single notes and chords to create your own song. For instance, you can play the center tine 3 times, then play a chord 4 times, then play the center tine 3 more times for a full progression. Experiment with other progressions and chords for your own unique song.

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