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Kalimbas


The mbira, or 'thumb-piano' is a traditional African instrument, well known in many parts of Africa. It was the favourite instrument of pioneering musicologist, Hugh Tracey, who first heard it as a young man while farming in Zimbabwe in the 1920's. He loved its originality, its companionship and the fascination of its crossing finger and sound patterns. For him, the essence of African music was encapsulated in this small, lively instrument that you could hold in your hands. Wanting to share his discovery, he eventually developed his own version, the Kalimba, in the 1950's. He tuned them to a western scale, to allow musicians all over the world to enjoy the instrument.

Now, many years later, the original Hugh Tracey Kalimba 'thumb piano', still sets the standard. The body is made, like the African originals, from resonant Kiaat wood, and the keys, which you pluck with your thumbs, are made of high quality spring steel. It can be played individually or in groups and its clear tone holds its own remarkably well against voices or other instruments. It is an ideal portable instrument for use at home, school, in formal and informal music groups, for music therapy, at camps, while hitchhiking or sick in bed.

Kalimbas are tuned to the diatonic scale of G major although they can be retuned to any key. They come with instruction cards giving hints on tuning, melody and chord playing. There are six different Kalimba models, some have a resonating box and others are board-based.

If you want to hear what a kalimba sounds like, and see how the notes are arranged, Click Here.

For a Graphic view of the Pitch Ranges of all our instruments, Click Here.

Treble Kalimba
This is the basic Kalimba of the range, and is recommended for beginners. It has a clear, resonant tone well suited to guitar or voice, for solo or group playing. 17 notes, box based with vibrato holes. Range - B to D''
Alto Kalimba
A deeper toned Kalimba to accompany the treble or for solo use if preferred. 15 notes, box based, with vibrato holes. Range - G to G''
Celeste Kalimba
A small, quiet model with a clear tone for solo playing. Illustrated is the treble layout, with 17 notes, board - based. Range - B to D''. But we also produce other layouts based on the celeste board configuration. These include the alto notes, two junior models (one pentatonic and one diatonic) with wider spaced notes for small fingers, and the African tuned Karimba shown below
African Karimba
An African tuned Kalimba based on traditional mbiras from the Zambezi valley in Zimbabwe.
The instrument has two ranks of keys with brass buzzer rings, and comes supplied with an instruction leaflet for six tunes. It is also available with the traditional African 'Trade mark' shaped board base.
TM Kalimbas
This body shape resembles the traditional Karimbas from Zimbabwe and Zambia, and is the basis of our beautiful logo, designed by Hugh Tracey in 1933. The "TM" stands for "trade mark". Shown is the Karimba African tuning note layout, but we also produce them with the Alto described above.


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