With the rise in popularity of the kalimba instrument, I’ve been excited to see more and more people considering to pick it up! Other than the beautiful sounds this simple instrument can make and the wide variety of genres it can play, one of the greatest reasons the kalimba is a wonderful 1st instrument is due to how easy it is to play.
And although it may take some time before you’re able to pull off complex pieces, there are very few instruments that allow you to pick up and play recognizable music more quickly.
But why is kalimba such an easy instrument to play?
In truth, it boils down to a few key reasons!
1. There Are Usually Only 17 Total Notes (Or ‘Tines’)
Although there are kalimbas with even fewer tines (and occasionally more), the 17-key kalimba is by far the most popular.
To make things even simpler, many songs will not even utilize all of these notes, making it even easier to play them.
This is vastly different to other popular instruments like the guitar or piano – and although the kalimba is somewhat limited in nature due to its few playable notes, it also makes it much easier to pick up and build skill.
The limited number of keys also makes it easier to train your ear and pick out notes just by hearing them. If your long-term goal is to play melodies by ear, then the kalimba is a wonderful choice!
2. The Notes Make Up A Perfect Scale
Unless you change the tuning of the kalimba yourself, most kalimbas come with the notes aligned in a perfect scale (most commonly, the key of C.)
If you are already a piano player, this is the equivalent of having only the notes that make up the white keys on a piano, without any of the black ones.
Don’t worry if you do not know what this means! In a nutshell, it essentially makes it harder to play a ‘wrong’ note in a song.
3. The Notes Are Positioned In A Beginner-Friendly Way
To make things even easier, the keys of a kalimba are positioned in a way that makes it more difficult to play wrong notes, while also making it easier to play chords (two or more notes, typically two that sound good together.)
For example, look at the ‘G’ note on the right-hand side in the picture above.
Next to it, we have the notes ‘E’ and ‘B’.
Two popular chords in music are ‘C Major’ (notes C-E-G) and ‘G Major’ (notes G-B-D.) The notes for these chords happen to be right next to this ‘G’!
This means that even if you were to miss the key you were playing, there’s a higher chance that the note you hit still ends up being part of the chord.
If you wanted to play that full chord, you would also need to only slide your thumb in the appropriate direction when playing it.
This isn’t true for every situation, but the layout of the kalimba makes it easy to play beautiful songs – even with chords, very quickly.
4. Kalimbas Are Cheap And Portable
This may not sound like a huge advantage, but it is – let me explain why.
I hate to say this, but many musicians spend too much time eyeballing, researching and trying out top-of-the-line gear and accessories for their instruments, and not actually playing them. Unfortunately, music is one of those things where there aren’t shortcuts – sheer practice will make you sound better than an instrument that’s 10x the price.
Kalimbas are cheap, and you can take them with you anywhere. This makes it easy to pick up and practice, or even just fool around with at any time.
Personally, I keep one on my desk and attribute its accessibility to a lot of my skill, ear training and muscle memory!
5. There Is Still A Lot Of Room To Grow
Although the skill ceiling isn’t as high as something like piano or guitar, it still does take time and dedicated practice to master some of the advanced techniques.
This is actually a good thing, because it motivates you to continue practicing. Nobody enjoys practicing when they feel like they’re never making any progress. With kalimba, it’s easy to see your skill actually growing as you play it more, learn new techniques, and master new songs you couldn’t play previously.
Our Recommended Kalimba Picks
Although the majority of kalimbas that we recommend are are wooden, some people may prefer the acrylic version pictured above. For more information about both choices, I highly recommend reading over this article:
Finally, before you rush on over to Amazon and pick out a brand new kalimba, you should know that there are often better stores to purchase them at. Click here to learn about the best online kalimba stores.
I hope that after reading this article, you’ve found the inspiration to pick up a kalimba for yourself and begin playing it!
If you have any questions about the kalimba or if there are any other questions that I can answer for you, please don’t hesitate to leave a comment below.
Thank you, and I hope you enjoy this amazing instrument!