You want to buy a kalimba but you don't know which one to choose, so we'll show you the different types of kalimbas available and how to go about finding the right option.
I've written this article to help you find the best musical instrument for playing the Kalimba at home.
No matter what kind of music you like, there's always a way to express yourself with this percussion instrument.
Kalimbas are stringed instruments whose sounds are produced by contact between a string and an instrument. The different types of kalimbas are described in the table below. The number of notes that each type can have is equal to the number
Kalimba instruments are made of wood and metal to create notes of music that is very pleasing to the ear. There are also instruments in other materials, such as acrylic or resin.
The kalimba is one of the most popular musical instruments in Africa and South America. It has been used for centuries throughout the continent.
You'll find instruments with several different notes, i.e. the smallest kalimba with 4 or 5 notes or more. In general, they're of fairly low quality and can't be used to play all kinds of music, but they're handy to carry around.
Criteria for the best kalimba to buy?
Once you've read this article in its entirety, you'll be able to select the best kalimba according to various criteria: price, sound, size, weight, etc.
- The number of notes
- The material of which the instrument is made
- Accessories supplied with the instrument
- The presence or absence of a resonance chamber
- The Kalimba brand
- The ideal budget for your thumb piano
You'll then be able to choose the best instrument for your needs and situation.
What is the perfect number of notes to start playing the Kalimba?
To be perfectly honest, there's no such thing as a perfect kalimba, but the number of keys is an essential element. An instrument with too few keys won't allow you to play a lot of music, but will be easy to transport.
If you want to get started with this instrument and you don't really know how to play music, I'd advise you to start with a 17-note kalimba. These are the most common, and they're easy to learn, since you'll find many tutorials for learning to play this instrument directly on Youtube, for example.
It should be noted, however, that 17-note kalimbas can't be used to play all kinds of music, as they don't contain all the notes, but only a specific scale. When you buy a kalimba, you'll often need to know how it's tuned, the most common being "C". More rarely, you'll come across stringed instruments in "B" or "B".
If you want to play as much music as possible, you'll have to shift the ma with a larger number of notes, notably the kalimba. In 34, they are sometimes tuned "chromatically", meaning that the instrument has all the notes, of all the "colors", hence the name "chromatic", so you can play sad or happy music in all the existing scales.
My advice would be to buy a 17-note kalimba for beginners, and a 34-note kalimba for more experienced or daring musicians. If you come across a 10-note kalimba, consider it a pocket or children's kalimba, so as not to discourage the latter, but they may soon become frustrated by the limited number of notes and bore the audience.
One of the advantages of the 17-note kalimba is that you can choose not to play with the notes at the ends, thus simulating a slightly smaller kalimba for starters.
Which material to start with for kalimba?
In fact, as if you were where there are several types of instruments, you'll easily find wooden instruments with different types of wood: mahogany, walnut, pine etc.
But you'll also find transparent or more "exotic" kalimbas, i.e. instruments made from plastic, acrylic or resin. These are rather pretty, but don't have the same properties as wooden kalimbas.
Indeed, these rather transparent instruments often sound a little more crystal clear, a little higher pitched, a little "purer", perhaps even too pure... I'll let you judge for yourself.
In fact, the ideal is perhaps to start with a wooden kalimba, and if you want to diversify, then go for an acrylic or resin kalimba, although these tend to be a little more expensive than their wooden counterparts. Remember, though, that the most important thing is to have an instrument that appeals to you visually, to the touch and to the sound!
The risk is that you'll end up with an instrument that you'll never touch, and that will certainly end up in the back of a drawer.
Resonance box or no resonance box for your thumb piano?
There are two types of kalimba: flat kalimba and kalimba with a resonance box. What is important to note is that instruments with a resonance box sound pretty good even without a microphone, but it is more difficult to create small "wahwah" effects, which could be called the equivalent of "vibrato".
However, instruments without a resonance box still sound particularly good when placed on a table or hollow surface, such as a wooden crate or other instrument. It's not uncommon for musicians to stick their kalimba on a guitar and play to amplify the sound it produces.
For a beginner, it doesn't matter if there's a resonance box or not, your choice will depend on the design and on the type of use you're going to have: indoors or outdoors, but I have a slight preference for resonance boxes because I really like the little "Wahwah" effect.
Do I need to buy a book to learn the kalimba?
We often receive messages on the store asking how to learn to play the kalimba. Of course, there are books on the market that are relatively expensive and don't necessarily feature the best music for learning.
I really suggest you take a look at Youtube and type "tuto kalimba" in the company of the name of the music you want to learn, and you'll be surprised - there's certainly someone on earth who has already made a video to teach you how to play this instrument. No need for a book.
The big advantage I find in using video tutorials is that you also get the rhythm and rendering you need, which is how I learn most of my tunes.
The second advantage is that you don't have to pay for anything, and you can take it with you wherever you go, thanks to your phone. If you really want to have paper so you don't have a screen when you play the kalimba, which I totally understand, you can transcribe the whole thing onto a small piece of paper with a pencil.
What accessories should I buy for a kalimba?
There are a multitude of accessories sold on the Internet to help you get the most out of your instrument. Among the classics are the little bits of plastic you put on your fingertips when you don't have fingernails. In my opinion, this is a bit of a waste of money, simply because these little bits of plastic don't necessarily follow the movement of your fingers as you'd like them to, and tend to slip out of your pudgy fingers, ending up in the bottom of a drawer.
On the other hand, there are accessories that are much more practical in everyday life, such as the tuning hammer, which will be your best ally not only because it will give you precision in tuning your instrument, but also because it will encourage you to tune your instrument regularly, much to the delight of those around you.
This is a small instrument, often electronic, that will enable you to tune your instrument in the best possible way. At the moment, there are several types, of varying size and quality. However, if you have a telephone at hand, you can use specific applications to learn how to tune your instrument.
you don't have to use applications made for kalimbas. guitar tuning applications may suffice, and often on the kalimbas we have in our store, you'll find inscriptions on the notes to help you find your way around, so be careful: the notes are notated in the international system, i.e. from A to G.
In my opinion, the best application to do this is "PANO TUNER", available on most phones free of charge.
Chains for kalimba
One of the wackiest accessories you can find for this instrument are the chains that are placed on the notes of your instrument. These chains can be very useful because they serve to change and modify the way in which your instrument will sound. You can then put them on the notes or not put them on the notes, giving you a choice that will allow you to choose which type of sound you prefer for one piece of music or another.
Legend has it that this chain is traditional because kalimbas were considered too pure to "offend the gods", which is why we use this chain or another object on the notes to have a sound that is just a little less pure.
I don't know exactly if this legend is true but I find it beautiful 🙂
Microphones for kalimba
Among the list of useful accessories for this instrument you'll find microphones that you can place directly on your instrument, enabling you to record your instrument more easily and more faithfully. But this isn't just for recording, as these microphones can be connected to guitar amps, for example, to transform your classical instrument into an electronic one. Can you imagine? We can turn your kalimba into an electric kalimba, and you can even connect effects pedals! Pedals used for electric guitars on your kalimba, and you can also install loop pedals to play around with. I love adding layers to your music, which gives me a strikingly professional effect!
Small stickers for thumb piano visual markers
The little stickers are supplied almost systematically with all our kalimbas in our store. They are a must-have when you have this type of instrument.
What budget for beginner kalimba?
So for beginner kalimba or I recommend you to put between 40 and 50 €for a 17 note kalimba and you can go up to 120 € for a kalimba with more notes.
You'll regularly find poor-quality kalimbas on the Net at prices ranging from €10 to €15, but the sound isn't up to scratch and you'll soon tire of them.
I have many friends who have bought trinkets that can be found on Aliexpress but who in the end never play their instruments because they simply never paid the right price and always hoped to find the best instrument how in several instruments that can be expensive in the end.
If you want a more professional instrument, you can find kalimba made by luthiers, but you'll have to pay between €200 and €300 for a top-quality instrument, although the quality is definitely there.
Congratulations, you've reached the end of the article. You now know the criteria for choosing your instrument of choice.
If there's one kalimba I can recommend, it's this one: https://thekalimba.com/thekalimba-instrument-kalimba-17-notes/