What is a kalimba and how does it work?

The kalimba is an ancient musical instrument affiliated with African and Andean cultures. It takes the form of a small rectangular plate with small metal rods placed vertically, and a large transverse rod that acts as a neck. The music produced by this type of instrument can range from classical to modern, ambient sounds. Since the mid-20th century, the kalimba has been reinvented and modernized, gaining international popularity as a creative and entertaining method of producing music.

How does a kalimba work?

All modern versions of the kalimba generally use metal keys placed vertically on a plate. Each key is struck with the fingers to produce a sound. Each key produces a specific note, causing the blades to vibrate and resonate through the metal plate, producing a range of sounds. The keys are numbered and divided into similar musical tones, so it's possible to produce melodies and music without advanced musical knowledge.

What kind of music can I play with a kalimba?

The kalimba is very versatile and suitable for all genres. Most beginners will try their hand at simple melodies and children's songs, as this is a fun way to start exploring this instrument. Once the technique has been mastered, an experienced user will be able to take a more daring approach, moving towards more complex melodies and more varied genres. The kalimba can also be used to explore ambient sounds, and most modern brands offer kalimba-specific key sets.

What's the difference between a kalimba and a lamellophone?

A kalimba is a type of lamellophone, which is a musical instrument powered by a series of vibrating metal bars placed on a metal plate or equivalent. The blades can be made of metal, wood or synthetic materials, and can be activated by the vibration of hands, keys, drumsticks or the vibrating blades themselves. In general, lamellophones are considered versatile musical instruments, and can be used to produce sounds ranging from classical to contemporary.


The kalimba is a versatile instrument with a variety of sounds, from simple melodies to ambient music, that many enjoy. It can be used for personal entertainment or for live performance. Whether you're a beginner or an experienced musician looking for new types of instrument, the kalimba is an excellent option for many musical applications.