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How to Tune A Kalimba: Tips and Tricks

Keeping your kalimba in tune is the most essential thing you can do to sound good. Don’t believe anyone who tells you that kalimba tuning isn’t important! Tunings were passed down through generations in African villages. Of course, using an electronic tuner makes things much easier! Here’s a full guide of how to tune a Kalimba to play your best Kalimba songs!

How to Tune A Kalimba: Tips and Tricks

Kalimba tuning can be thought of as both a noun and a verb. The tuning of a kalimba refers to which notes are located where on the instrument and how they sound when played together. Tuning a kalimba entails adjusting tines to produce the exact sound that is expected, based on which note each tine is designated to play.

The act of tuning can be used to nudge a slightly detuned kalimba back into its original tuning – that is, the notes are generally just a tad out of tune, and it is usually obvious what note each tine should be tuned to. But on the other hand, tuning (or retuning) may result in the kalimba being transformed into a completely new and unique tuning.

The mechanics of these 2 tuning actions – restoring an old tuning or changing to a new tuning – are nearly identical. When you modify your tuning, you are acquiring the skills you will need when you decide to transform your tuning, which is a radical act.

There are 2 problems to consider: First and foremost, what type of tuning do you desire? And the second, how do you go about fine-tuning it? Please keep the following two points in mind: For starters, an electronic tuner is necessary for precision. Two, I find that tuning with my fingers gives me the most control, but others may prefer to use pliers or another tool.

The tuning of most Hugh Tracey kalimbas lasts for months. You might need to retune weekly if you play very hard. You can mess up the tuning if you drop your kalimba or the tines get caught in a bag or on your shirt sleeve. It only takes a few moments to touch up your tuning. While switching tunings should take 5-10 minutes, you should allow 30-40 minutes for your first attempt.

How to Tune A Kalimba: Tips and Tricks

Make sure you know how to return to your original tuning after switching to a different tuning. Also, double-check that you’ll be able to pull off the tuning. Longer tines will have a lower pitch, while shorter tines will have a higher pitch. As a result, it’s important to think about whether the desired note is so low that a tine would be too short to make it.

Also, after you’ve tuned up, double-check that the tines are roughly evenly spaced. There is a strange phenomenon that occurs from time to time: shifting the tines to the left or right to get them evenly spaced will “excite a buzz” in one of them. If this occurs, change the tine’s orientation so that it does not buzz. Now you have to move the neighboring tines (2-3 on every side) around to re-establish roughly equal spacing – and hope that this doesn’t cause one of the other tines to buzz as well. Learn all of the tips and tricks we’ve accumulated over the years. 

After you’ve gotten some practice adjusting your kalimba’s tuning to get it back in tune, you might also want to look into some of the alternative tunings. The Alto is home to most of the tunings we offer at Kalimba Magic. 


Kalimba FAQ’s

Is it possible to tune a kalimba to any key?

The 8-Note Kalimba can be tuned to a variety of world scales. The C major scale is the standard tuning for most 8-Note Kalimbas.

How often do I need to tune my kalimba?

The majority of kalimbas will keep their tuning for several months. If you play for long hours, you may need to retune your instrument on a weekly basis.

Why does the sound of my kalimba differ?

The main reason for this is due to the instrument’s design. Higher notes or tines are much shorter than lower notes or tines, which means there is less space for vibration.

Sakari Oramo