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What is Kalimba Instrument?

By James Pan October 28, 2019 0 comments

A kalimba instrument is something you may have seen but have never completely understood what it was, where it came from, or even what it was called. All though it is called something different depending on where it comes they all come together based on the unique shape and sound that the kalimba is known for.

Thumb paino can be classified as a sort of small piano. They are relatively easy to learn how to play and can be something fun to learn and experience. Plucking the notes is easy and learning the notes can be just as simple. The kalimba is overall a unique and entertaining instrument for a lot of people.

Below you can find even more awesome facts about that, how to tune , as well as the basics on how to play.


What is Kalimba?

A kalimba is a musical instrument that originally came from Africa. This particular musical instrument is known under many different names, such as kalimba, mbira, or even thumb piano. This certain type of musical instrument makes music when the metal tines are plucked with your thumbs. This causes vibrations that essentially turn into the musical sounds that you hear.

It is a relatively small instrument meant to fit nicely in someone's hands. The main part of the body of the instrument known as the resonance box is made out of wood and is turned into a hollowed box. This causes the distinct sound that the thumb paino gets from the vibrating of the metal tines through the hollowed box.

The unique look of this is classified into two different categories. There is a resonance box type of the flat board type. Each are still classified as a kalimba but are separated into two different categories based upon the way it resonates sound. The different designs resonates sound differently because of the appearance of a sound hole or the lack of a sound hole.


Resonant Box or Flat Board?

Like mentioned above, there are two different categories or types of it. These include the resonant box and the flat board. The difference between the two is the appearance of the sound hole and the lack of a sound hole. The resonant box has a sound hole. The sound hole creates different sound effects that can be more manually encouraged by covering or uncovering the sound hole.

One the other hand, the flat board does not have a sound hole. Historically the lack of the sound hole on the flat board was the most common one found in Africa. To amplify the sound of the flat board they would stick the kalimba or otherwise known as the mbira onto a hollowed out gourd to create the amplified sound that you can now get from the sound holes found in the resonant box.

When looking for this instrument with the ability to enable you with more control in how the sound resonates then the best option would be to go with the resonant box over the flat board.



Top 3 Kalimba Amazon Reviews:


Extremely budget Friendly for Novice---Scorina Kalimba 17&10 Two Pack

scorina kalimba

1. The first Amazon reviewes is the least expensive of the two. This one would be perfect for someone new to a thumb paino and is looking for agreat budget friendly thumb paino to practice on.

With a smaller price it means that the quality won't be as great, but the ability to play beautiful music will still be there. To go more into depth this on offers:



  • 1. Good Inexpensive Product: It offers a relatively good product for the price.
  • 2. Easy to Learn: It's easy to learn because the notes are already labelled onto the tines for you.
  • 3. Portable: It is essentially a small piano which makes it easy to transport where you need it to go.
  • 4. Two Pack: For the price they are offering two kalimbas to practice on.
  • 5. Instructor Book: They are also adding in an instructor book to help with tuning and the notes.
  • 6. Tuning Hammer: To help even more with the tuning they are adding in the much needed tuning hammer.



  • For Beginners: If you are looking for something of the best quality this isn't the one. It is definitely the best one for beginners looking to practice.



It is a great for the price. You get everything you need to start off as a beginner without breaking the bank. The only problem is that the sound quality will not be as great because it isn't made with the most quality. Once you get good one you will be wanting on that has a better sound quality because it is made with more quality parts and time.




Scorina Kalimba 17 Keys Thumb Piano

Scorina Kalimba



  • 1. Made of high-quality mahogany: alongside fine craftmanship giving it an amazing feeling in the hand
    2. If you're new to the kalimba, the large and easy-to-play keys make learning extremely simple
    3. The quality of this kalimba means that it produces high-quality music with only a little effort from its user
    4. Due to its durability and small size, you are able to take it with you anywhere making it one of the most portable kalimbas on the market
    5. It's great to use wherever you are. brightening up every situation with its clear sounding tunes



  • 1.The kalimba will need a fair bit of tuning after coming outside the box (Instructions simply accessed through a YouTube search)
    2. A few people are saying that it doesn't have ths smooth resonance that many of their other kalimbas contain




Expensive yet Premium Quality---Moozica 17-Key EQ Kalimba

Moozica kalimba

2. This next Amazon reviewed is one that is made with more quality. Keep in mind that with more quality comes a higher price. With more quality also comes better sound quality and an overall better instrument. Going through the pros and cons of this next one will go more in depth about the instrument.



  • 1. High Quality Material: This one is made with a high quality material to help with the look and the sound quality.
  • 2. High Quality Sound: The type of material they choose for this one helps to give it the quality sound quality it needs.
  • 3. Built In Hi-Fi Pickup: The built-in hi-fi pickup make it possible for you to plug it into an amp.
  • 4. Package Includes: When you buy this one you get a professional case, bag, audio cable, change over plug, tuning hammer, learning instructions, music scale stickers, 60 day money back guarantee.



  • 1. Expensive: This thumb paino does cost more than the others but you get a good quality product for the money that you spend.



This is perfect for the serious player. It has the proper quality needed for the best quality sound. As well as all of the included extras to become a great player. It also comes with a 60 day money back guarantee if you decide that this purchase was not the one that you were looking for.


How to Play the Kalimba?

Now that you know what a thumb paino is and what the different types of them are now you have to learn how to play one. Like with any instrument the first step is to learn how to hold it properly. Learning this will help the notes be played properly and will help you have more ease when playing. You properly hold by using the sides of the palms of the hands and then comfortably placing your thumbs onto the tines.

Next, you have to know how to pluck the tines properly. You start by hitting the notes with the fleshy part of the thumb and then quickly sliding down to pluck the tine with your nail or even a pick. Being able to do this properly will help to get the notes off of the kalimba that you are trying to achieve. After getting down the proper technique of plucking the tines you have to make sure that it is tuned properly.


To tune you first have to be familiar with the notes on your instrument. Most thumb paino that you buy will come with a notes guide to help become more familiar. After that the process of tuning is fairly easy. You'll need a tuner. To get a tuner you can download one off of the app store or purchase a guitar tuner if you would rather have one from the store. The tuner will let you know if you need to change the pitch. Below we go more in depth with how to tune.

Getting to the actual playing is the fun part. When playing it is important to hold the instrument gently to keep anything from getting in the way of the sound. The kalimba notes alternate so you, in turn, have to alternate your thumbs from the middle out. To get yourself used to the pitch of each of the notes it is always good to test them from the center out.


Plucking any two tines beside each other is known as chord. You use your thumb to pluck both of the notes at the same time. After learning the basics when it comes to the kalimba it's always fun to create your own melodies. Create chords and notes to create your own songs.


How to Tune a Kalimba?

Going back to the tuning of a thumb paino, there are a few things that you need to be able to properly tune. You already know that you need a a tuner but you also need a tuner hammer. This is because to tune the thumb paino into the proper pitch you have to gently tap on the tines to move them into a different place.

The tuner will let you know if the note you are playing is to flat or sharp. If it says that it is too flat you need to gently tap that tine upwards. Remember to check the tine again by plucking it and seeing what the tuner says. Continue to adjust until the tuner says that it is the correct note. The same goes for if the note is too sharp. Only this time instead of tapping upwards you will be tapping the tine downwards. Continue to check and adjust using the tuner.

The best thing to do when tuning is to start with the very center tine. After you have that one correctly tuned you can go ahead and move to the outside notes. Once each note is in the correct pitch according to the tuner it is ready to be played.



Special Tricksa

The most fun part about learning to play the kalimba is to learn the special tricks. There are a few different tricks that you can learn but these are the most common.

  1. 1. Glissando: This is what happens when you pluck adjacent tines on the kalimba. Using your nails can help a lot when trying to accomplish a glissando. You do this by touching your nail over one tine and sliding it out over three or four tines in a row.
  3. 2. Vibrato Effect: If you have a kalimba with two sound holes on the box you can do that vibrato effect. All you have to do is cover and uncover the holes as you are playing to create the vibrato effect.
  4. 3. "Wah Wah" Effect: To create the "wah wah" effect you have to cover and uncover the front sound hole.

There are a few different fun and special tricks that you can learn as you learn to play. Each one can be looked up so you can get a more in depth understanding of them.


Final Thoughts

Kalimbas are unique and interesting musical instruments. For a lot of people they are fairly simple to learn and are a lot cheaper and easier than other musical instruments. Along with that they are small and portable making it easier for people to take them with them wherever they need to go. Learning how to play is a great way to spend your free time.

It not only easy to use but they are also relaxing. You can make beautiful music with one whether it be a resonant box style or a flat board they most make beautiful music. Having one with better quality materials helps to have a better sound quality but overall the lesser expensive kalimbas will work just as well.

Learning the special tricks are just as fun if not more than learning about the kalimba and how to play it. The special tricks make the sound and the music even more unique but also help to give you even more creative control over the music and the sounds you want to play. Playing a kalimba gives you musical freedom.


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