The kalimba (or “thumb piano”) has experienced a dramatic rise in popularity in recent years. Despite the growing number of kalimba players around the world, they are still a relatively niche instrument. This makes them difficult to find in stores, as few retailers bother to carry them.
That being said, there are still a few wonderful places where you can buy kalimbas online. If you’re wondering where you should buy your kalimba from, we’ll cover our top 5 choices.
There are pros and cons to each option, so you may wish to read over each carefully!
Without any further ado, let’s begin.
Let’s start with one of the most obvious – Amazon.
In the United States, this is by far the place where most people turn to shop first, and it’s also the most popular place to buy kalimbas.
However, just because it’s the most popular, does not mean that it’s the best.
It’s true that there are a wide variety of kalimbas listed for sale on Amazon, with varying degrees of quality. Additionally, just about any type of kalimba you’ll want to buy can be found here – hollow, flat, wooden or acrylic. The only type of kalimba that’s a bit difficult to find is the chromatic kalimba, but we will suggest other sources for chromatic kalimbas in a moment.
The Pros Of Buying A Kalimba On Amazon
Amazon is well known for their fast shipping, low prices and seamless customer service. If for whatever reason you aren’t happy with your kalimba, it’s simple to send back for a full refund. In many parts of the United States, most kalimbas should also arrive in 1-2 days.
The Cons Of Buying A Kalimba On Amazon
Because Amazon is a marketplace and many kalimbas are sold by third-party sellers, quality control is all over the place. Amazon is currently experiencing an issue with fake reviews on many listings. Additionally, many of the different kalimba brands are private labeled from the very same factory – there is no difference between them other than the logo.
Etsy is not an option that many new kalimba players turn to, but did you know that some of the most unique and beautiful kalimbas can be found here?
While many of the listings are simply personalized versions of kalimbas you’ll find on Amazon, there are also a lot of unique and handmade kalimbas available on Etsy as well.
We’ve managed to find kalimbas with custom designs, 2 sets of tines (or keys), and chromatic kalimbas spanning several octaves.
Quite simply, you’re not going to find these from a traditional retailer like Amazon – they have to be custom made.
While the price is typically a bit more expensive, you’ll have a kalimba that is truly one-of-a-kind!
The Pros Of Buying A Kalimba On Etsy
Not only are you supporting small businesses, you’ll be able to find kalimbas that are uniquely yours. In a world of mass-produced kalimbas (with most being the same few variations on Amazon), this can really help yours stand out – plus there’s something cool about owning a handmade instrument!
The Cons Of Buying A Kalimba On Etsy
Because the kalimbas are often handmade and personalized, shipping takes longer. They are also likely to be more expensive than a mass-produced kalimba you could find elsewhere.
Sweetwater is one of our favorite online retailers for music equipment.
Unlike Amazon or Etsy, Sweetwater is ran by one central group of people – it is not a marketplace. This means they tend to have higher quality control, at the expense of a much lower selection.
Music is their lifeblood and they know the business well. Sweetwater’s support is incredible and one of the best we’ve seen from any business, period.
At the time of writing, Sweetwater only carries one brand of kalimbas – Meinl. We really can’t blame them for this choice – Meinl is an excellent brand and are known for their quality across the board, not just on kalimbas but with their other percussion instruments as well.
Sweetwater carries a bunch of interesting variations that Meinl has produced as well – such as their ‘Wah-Wah’ kalimba that has the soundhole on the bottom rather than in the center – allowing you to bounce it off of your stomach to produce a wah effect.
The Pros Of Buying A Kalimba On Sweetwater
While not quite as noble as buying from Etsy or Kalimba Magic (which we’ll cover later), it’s still great to support a music-oriented company rather than a mass retailer like Amazon. Great customer service and a curated list of products means that you’re unlikely to experience any problems. There is also a wide variety of kalimbas available, and their selection is easy to browse all in one place.
The Cons Of Buying A Kalimba On Sweetwater
While highly curated, the list of available kalimbas from Sweetwater isn’t that large. Their cheapest 17-tine kalimbas are also a bit more expensive then what you’d find on Amazon, although the quality is likely to be higher.
This one surprised us.
Typically, people turn to Aliexpress due to the incredibly cheap prices. Because many of the sellers on Aliexpress are factories or trading companies themselves, they are able to sell products directly for a much lower price.
While in many cases you get what you pay for (not to mention the extremely long shipping times), many of the same kalimbas being sold on Amazon for $30 or $40 are available for less than $10 on Aliexpress.
What also surprised us was the sheer variety of kalimbas being sold. While you won’t be able to get anything custom-built just for you, there are a wide variety of kalimba shapes, a large variety in the number of tines, and some truly unique designs we haven’t seen sold before on other platforms.
You’ll have to wait for them to arrive and there’s no saying how good or bad the quality will be, but Aliexpress is perhaps offers the cheapest kalimbas online – and a variety of them too!
The Pros Of Buying A Kalimba On Aliexpress
A large selection of kalimbas are available at a great value. Some of these kalimbas are the same as the ones sold on Amazon, but at a much cheaper price.
The Cons Of Buying A Kalimba On Aliexpress
Slow shipping times (several weeks or longer) and no quality control.
5. Kalimba Magic
If you’re looking for the best of the best, this is it.
Kalimba Magic is the largest and most popular store dedicated specifically to kalimba. They are carriers of the Hugh Tracey brand of kalimbas, which is perhaps the best major kalimba brand in existence.
The prices are expensive, but it gets you an instrument you won’t ever feel the need to upgrade. Not only does it resonate beautifully, but it doesn’t have the buzzing issue many cheaper kalimbas have (which can be quite annoying, especially on the higher tines.)
Kalimba Magic carries kalimbas of all different shapes, keys, and sizes. You can also add an optional pickup to plug your kalimba into an amplifier (which can be a great deal of fun, especially if you add extra effects. See an example below.)
While an expensive Hugh Tracey kalimba may not make sense for first-time kalimba buyers, many musicians that end up sticking with the instrument end up buying one eventually.
That being said, Kalimba Magic also carries a selection of cheaper kalimbas as well, and since they are one of the few companies focused specifically on kalimba, you can’t go wrong shopping from them.
The Pros Of Purchasing From Kalimba Magic
A wide variety of kalimbas at a great price. Top quality kalimbas available, including the famous Hugh Tracey line. This company is focused specifically on kalimba, and has been part of the industry for a long time.
The Cons Of Purchasing From Kalimba Magic
You won’t get free one day shipping like you would on Amazon – but we promise their kalimbas are worth waiting for.
These are the most popular places to buy kalimbas online, and each as their own set of advantages and disadvantages.
There is no perfect answer – it all depends on what you value most when purchasing your kalimba.
That being said, most first-time kalimba players end up purchasing a kalimba on Amazon. If you’re already an experienced kalimba player and you’re looking for something a bit better, we highly recommend ordering a custom kalimba on Etsy, or purchasing a high-quality brand off of Kalimba Magic.
We hope you’ve found this article helpful – let us know in the comments below who you ended up going with!
To your success,
– The Musical Sanctuary Team