The kalimba – also known as the thumb piano – is a melodic percussion instrument based on an ancient instrument from Africa: the ‘mbira’. Kalimbas are so-called lamellophones. These types of musical instruments have lamellae, also called tongues. These tongues can be made of wood or metal and in the case of the kalimba they are actually always made of metal. The reeds are played with both thumbs. In the middle are the low notes, the longest reeds. The further you go to the right or left, the higher and shorter the reeds get. There are different types of kalimbas. The number of tongues a kalimba has can vary. On some kalimbas you can play as many as seventeen different tones, but there are also smaller models that only have five tones. Kalimbas with a sound box sound louder than kalimbas without a sound box. You can amplify the volume of a kalimba without a sound box by holding the kalimba on a resonating surface. For example a table, a guitar, a door, a drum, basically anything that can resonate is suitable. Nowadays there are also kalimbas that have a pick-up (element) so that you can easily connect them to an amplifier. There is no standard tuning for a kalimba, but in general they are often tuned diatonic. The much larger marimbula, which can also be found in this category, is very similar to the kalimba but comes from the Caribbean, especially Cuba and Jamaica. You hold the kalimba in both hands and you can play it standing up, but the marimbula is an instrument that you sit on or behind. Kalimbas are suitable for playing (counter) melodies and the low-sounding marimbula is more suitable for playing simple bass lines and complementing harmonies.

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