About the Kalimba / Thumbdrum / ThumbPiano

Originating in Africa, the thumbdrum has made its way throughout the world. Known also as a sansa, kalimba, and thumbpiano, it has been used in ritualistic music and in the recording studio. Closely related to the mbira, another traditional African instrument, it is played by plucking the tines, or keys, with thumbs or fingers.

The first kalimba to be exported commercially out of Africa was the Hugh Tracey Kalimba. After years of studying African music and dozens of prototype instruments, Hugh Tracey’s company African Musical Instruments began manufacturing kalimbas, a western version of the mbira, in the late 1950s. The name kalimba is a Bantu word which means “little music”, and is similar to the word karimba, a type of mbira.

In addition to being a serious musical instrument, the Thumbdrum, or kalimba, is perfect for play and experimentation. Sturdy enough for children, it is a welcome addition to the standard percussion instruments normally available. Thumb pianos are simple to play and includes an appealing marimba-like sound. Accurately tuned with an accompanying songbook, they allow adults and children alike to explore music for themselves in new ways.

Diatonic Scale Kalimba

The Diatonic Scale is a form of music scale that involves a progression through a range of tones. While the scale proper is often attributed to ancient Greece as the point of origin, there are also indications that the basic scale was known as far back as the period of Neanderthal man. The Diatonic Scale is often employed in many different types of music today, and continues to provide a basis for inspiration for new musical compositions as well as arrangements of old favorites.

The Diatonic Scale itself is an eight note scale do- re- mi, etc. with which simple melodies can be played. The Diatonic Scales are in two different octaves both of which are in the key of C. The high scale begins with Middle C: C-D-E-F-G-A-B-C. The other is one octave lower.


Pentatonic Scale Kalimba

A Pentatonic Scale is a musical scale with five pitches per octave in contrast to an heptatonic (seven note) scale such as the major scale. Pentatonic Scales are very common and are found all over the world, including but not limited to Celtic folk music, Hungarian folk music, West African music, African-American spirituals, American blues music and rock music, Sami joik singing, children’s songs.

If the Thumbdrum you receive is tuned to a Pentatonic Scale, it will have “P” stamped on the wooden bridge. The Pentatonic Scale is a five note scale. The Pentatonic Scale is primarily a rhythm scale though many Pentatonic songs are available. Our Pentatonic Scale is the key of G: D-E-G-A-B-D-E-G.

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