So you’ve purchased your new kalimba and you’re ready to begin playing your favorite songs – but where do you actually go to find them?
Although kalimba is rising in popularity, it is still a relatively niche instrument, which means there isn’t as much accessible music available as there is for something like guitar or piano. That being said, there are still plenty of free kalimba tabs on the internet for all sorts of popular music, and sheet music for other instruments can be modified for kalimba without too much hassle.
In this article, we’ll go over some of the best websites to find kalimba tabs / sheet music on the internet, and share some further resources that will help you play your favorite songs in no time!
Before We Begin – Kalimbas, And Keys
Before looking for tabs online, it’s important to take note of your kalimba’s key – or what notes make up your kalimba.
Most 17-note kalimbas arrive tuned to the key of C Major. This means the notes C, D, E, F, G, A and B make up the tines of the instrument.
The key of your kalimba is not fixed – it can be altered by retuning it. For example, retuning the kalimba so the ‘F’ notes become ‘F Sharp (F#)’ – a half-step higher, changes the key of the kalimba to G Major.
Because you’re always limited by what notes your kalimba can play at a given time, you will need to ensure the tab you’re trying to find is available in your kalimba’s key, unless you’re willing to retune it. This is why some frequent kalimba players will purchase additional kalimbas to avoid the hassle of retuning.
Important: Just because a song isn’t naturally in the key of C, does not mean that you won’t be able to play it on the kalimba. Sheet music can be transposed to the key of C and still sound very recognizable. This is because it’s the intervals between notes that we recognize as a melody, more than the actual notes themselves. Don’t worry if you don’t understand what this means, just know that most songs you want to play can be done so on kalimba without much hassle!
Anyhow, let’s look at some specific places to find kalimba tabs online!
This one might be a little obvious, but there is an ever-growing amount of quality kalimba tabs being published to YouTube! These also tend to come in specific styles, so you can find tabs that you enjoy the most and then visit their channel to view their entire catalog.
Although the example posted above is a tab aimed towards beginners, there are also channels publishing videos for more advanced players as well. Therefore, it can be a great resource to learn and grow from as your skill increases.
Playing a lot of different songs also has the added benefit of training your ear. Due to how few keys are on a kalimba, this is an easy instrument to learn if your long-term goal is to play songs by ear!
Kalimbist is a relatively new website with a whole host of neat features! Some of the neat ones I love include:
- The ability to filter tabs by difficulty or genre.
- Changing the speed of playback.
- Enabling and disabling separate parts – such as melody and rhythm, if the tab creator wrote them separately.
- Transposition to different keys.
- Importing / exporting features.
Other than the ability to browse and filter kalimba tabs that have already been published by other users, you’re also given the ability to create your own tabs from scratch. I used Kalimbist myself to create this arrangement and found it to be relatively simple to use.
The developers are continuing to add new features, and it’s perhaps the best online interactive software to create kalimba tabs at the moment. Oh, and it’s completely free!
I’m very excited to see how it continues blossoming as the kalimba community releases their arrangements on the platform!
If you’ve spent much time Googling around for kalimba tabs, you’ve probably ran into KalimbaTabs.net at least once. With over 2,000 tabs already available and more being added all the time, you’re bound to find songs that you already know and love.
The added benefit of using this site over YouTube alone is that many tabs also have the notes written out below the video, as illustrated above. This makes it easier to practice certain sections that are giving you trouble.
That being said, not all tabs posted on this website have the notes written underneath, so you may have to browse around a bit to find the tabs you like best.
Transposing Kalimba Tabs To Your Kalimba’s Key
As mentioned at the beginning of this article, most regular sheet music can be played on your kalimba by transposing the sheet music to your kalimba’s key (usually, C Major.) Essentially, this is shifting the pitch of all of the music up or down until the key matches. Music in the key of C Major typically has no sharps or flats – matching the exact notes of your kalimba.
Then, you can read the sheet music as normal, and play it on your kalimba.
We recommend using something like MuseScore, as there are already tens of thousands of arrangements available, as well as a transposing feature built right into it. And although you won’t be able to play complex piano arrangements on your kalimba regardless of skill, you should be able to play many melodies and even rhythm parts!
Writing Your Own Tabs – Free Tablature Software
If you wanted to write your own tabs, I also wanted to include a link to free, kalimba tablature software, which you can view by clicking here.
Although it’s certainly possible to write kalimba tabs with the Kalimbist website mentioned earlier, this particular software is able to be downloaded and ran offline in case that interests you. I personally find the layout of this software a bit more difficult to read than something like Kalimbist, but I wanted to include it anyway as it’s completely free and open source.
Here at Musical Sanctuary, we really support developers that open source their music software, allowing other people to build and expand upon it for free, and it ties in heavily with our mission to make the beauty of writing and playing music accessible to everyone.
To run the software, open the page and scroll down until you see something that looks like this:
I hope you’ve found this list of resources helpful, and you’re able to enjoy playing some new songs soon!
If you have any other resources you’d recommend we add to this list, do us all a favor and share them through the comment form below.
Thank you, and enjoy!