Skip to main content

Forums » Smalltalk » I got a kalimba

Me: >gets kalimba literally 3 days ago and has barely put it down since

Also me: "Huh... Why do my thumbs hurt?"

For the uninitiated: This is a kalimba.

(Mild CW: It sounds a lot like a music box, so if you're like me and have a peculiar sensitivity to that sound, be aware when you click that link.)

So the story here is that about 10 years ago, I ordered some harmonicas from amazon.com (since I like to play the harmonica, but I'm not very good at it haha) and amazon.com has never let that go. They've recommended me musical instruments on and off for the last decade. "Hey, I see you bought a $40 harmonica, can we perhaps interest you in this $400 hurdy gurdy?" No, amazon. Go away. >:(

Well, one day it recommends me a kalimba. I've never seen this thing before, so I go looking it up on youtube, where most people use it to play Ghibli music and that one song from Minecraft you'll know by the first 6 notes.
Pros: It sounds lovely and looks fun.
Cons: The sound it make actually made me cry. I don't know why, but I have a sensitivity to that sound... I also cry if I wind up a toy music box I've had since I was a child.

Put it out of mind until Youtube tossed another rec at me, because Youtube also won't let anything go! Look up one thing on it, and now it thinks you want 400 more of that thing. So a few months later, I opened up another video and, for some reason, watched it 4 times... Decided, on a whim, that I wanted one of these things. For one thing, I love things that make sound and it seemed nice to pluck around on. For another, I wanted to work past my weird sensitivity problem through exposure therapy. Did some cursory research and threw one on my Amazon wishlist, and decided to wait for a sale or when I had cash. It wasn't a high priority.

Until Amazon gave me a coupon for it a couple days later that halved its price... I don't know, was that fate? It was the only thing on my wishlist that coupon applied to that wasn't over $100, so I bit.

When I got my kalimba, I did not put it down all day. Or the next day. And even into the next day. It is now Day 4. I haven't played it yet today, but I anticipate a strumming session when I have a spare moment. It's one of the cheaper ones, so the high notes don't resonate like the lower ones and the highest note might actually be dead, but it's good enough to learn on and it does make a pleasant sound.

And I have found the sensitivity to the sound it makes has less power over me now. :)

I can barely play anything on it. The first thing I learned to play was a children's song I'd forgotten both the name and the words to until playing it in a call and some friends helping me out. (It's Brother John, but it's a French song originally... apparently. I should've known that since it shows up in a TNG episode.)
The second song I learned to play was a song from Zelda: Spirit Tracks which I personally don't think is a very good game, but it has an amazing OST. I can play this reasonably reliably now. I'm working on learning the Wind Waker theme as well, but still practice the things I know for fun.
And obviously, I've learned to play parts of that Minecraft song. Because who hasn't played the Minecraft song on a kalimba? Haha.

I'm going to be the most annoying person in calls for a while. >:)

I wonder how many people around these parts play kalimba? Or any musical instrument, really? Got any interesting stories about how you started? Let's talk about music. :)

Remove this ad

I have a kalimba. Used to be able to play a couple of Final Fantasy tunes on it (including one with complicated chords and stuff), but I felt the fact that it was limited to a diatonic scale made me get tired of it. So I mostly just stick to my keyboard and my 3-chamber ocarina.

Here's the tab I put together in Excel for Fragments of Memories from Final Fantasy VIII
ahHZB4z.png

I believe one of the two differently-coloured notes plays on the repeat and the other at the end, but I can't remember which is which... neither are played on the initial run through though.

I used to be able to play this tune pretty fluidly though.
Aardbei Topic Starter

Riik wrote:
I have a kalimba. Used to be able to play a couple of Final Fantasy tunes on it (including one with complicated chords and stuff), but I felt the fact that it was limited to a diatonic scale made me get tired of it. So I mostly just stick to my keyboard and my 3-chamber ocarina.

Here's the tab I put together in Excel for Fragments of Memories from Final Fantasy VIII
ahHZB4z.png

I believe one of the two differently-coloured notes plays on the repeat and the other at the end, but I can't remember which is which... neither are played on the initial run through though.

I used to be able to play this tune pretty fluidly though.

That's so cool. They do actually make chromatic scale kalimbas though, and you can obviously tune it pretty easily to use a chromatic scale but that'll limit you on octaves. I might do that at some point, but I find the challenge of working without the 'black keys' to be really interesting since I generally do enjoy things that require me to get creative within limits.

If I get really good at this thing, I may someday invest in one of those two-row kalimbas.

How did you start learning the keyboard? Did you begin as a kid, or an adult?
The kalimba I have was a gift, otherwise I probably wouldn't have thought to get one myself (I'm kinda content with my ocarina and keyboard) - but it was still fun to try out and certainly held my interest longer than other instruments I've been gifted (often cheap variants of the instruments they're meant to be with limited notes or poor tuning).

I had a little portable keyboard when I was like... 5? Moved onto larger keyboards from there. Self-taught until about 16-ish, had a handful of fortnightly lessons, then after a long break from lessons did a couple of years of piano lessons recently that ended due to covid and the teacher going digital (and me not really being interested in digital lessons). Currently I have a sorta budget-pro synthesiser which I prefer to the fully pro version because the weighted keys on this model are better, and I mostly focus on piano stuff these days.

I'm not as good as my experience would suggest because I struggle to practice regularly on account of executive dysfunction. I can play a slightly simplified version of the piano collections rendition of Final Fantasy X's To Zanarkand (mostly simplifying the hard section that wasn't in the original anyway) and I can play the piano collections version of Dearly Beloved from Kingdom Hearts. From a classical standpoint, I think the most difficult piece I can currently play to some complete degree is Felix Mendelssohn's Venetian Boat Song (Op. 19, No. 6)... which I would be able to play fluidly by now if not for the fact that I've really been struggling with keeping up with practice recently.

Your comment on potential future investments is pretty much how I went with ocarinas. I started with a beginner 12-hole and now have a 3-chamber, which has a much larger range (though the uppermost chamber is painfully high pitched). Though 3-chamber ocarinas are incredibly niche so really expensive... I had to go for a cheap plastic one, and that still set me back around £100 (including delivery cost). I suppose I could have found cheaper, but I wasn't willing to risk it on an unknown brand. I might upgrade to a clay one eventually, though I'd be worried about it surviving being shipped from the US.

Fun fact - for Zelda's Lullaby on standard ocarina C-key tuning, you have to change the key to play the full tune on a 12-hole. A 3-chamber can play in the correct key, albeit an octave higher than optimal, which pretty much reaches the upper limit of the instrument (though that's not an issue if you just play the 'main' bit). Link's ocarina must have been in a weird key.
Aardbei Topic Starter

Actually I didn't know that about ocarinas since I've never owned one. I debated on getting one for a while but have fears about the same thing with shipping and general storage with clay.

I checked how much a budget 34-key kalimba would run me and that was around $100 so this will definitely be a later purchase if I stick with it haha.

Speaking of Zelda songs, I've learned to mostly reliably play a song from Spirit Tracks, which isn't a very good game, but it has an amazing OST. Still fumbling with the Wind Waker theme a lot...

In order to play Zelda's Lullaby on a kalimba, I need to switch to the G key. I also found I could play part of the Star Trek TNG theme if I switch to using the G key. Started messing with more chords besides thumbing two tines at once, and have taken to trying the scales with a phone app metronome at least once a day. I would just like to be able to reliably hit the keys I want... heh.

My primary "instrument" is actually whistling, and depending on my company, people either love it or hate it. There is no middle ground.
Oh, I can play both the DS9 and Voyager themes on ocarina.
Aardbei Topic Starter

That's neat. I like the Voyager theme... The DS9 theme is kind of simple, but it is funny to me how they thought the way to spice it up past season 3 was to just add more trumpets.

Yep that's how music works, just play louder, guys.

Small kalimba update: It has now been a week. I've been playing this thing every day and can reliably play a couple simple songs. Still struggling to do more complex ones, but I think it's the consistent practice that counts for a while, so I can build my muscle memory. (Assuming it's anything like art, or playing Tetris, anyway...)
Aardbei Topic Starter

So, in reference to kalimbas being unable to do more than the white keys on a keyboard...

I found this on r/kalimba today and wanted to share it. https://www.reddit.com/r/kalimba/comments/x02swn/finally_can_play_this_song_with_the_help_of/

This is pretty wild. I'm a little intrigued though... I have some small magnets around here for craft projects that I'd like to try this with.
This thread is about music and Star Trek so I must comment on it.

My friend got a kalimba and she liked it but couldn't play much on it. When I went to visit her, I started playing around on it and pretty soon it seemed like I was there to visit the kalimba more than her because I didn't want to put that tiny little musical instrument down. I can't remember what I played first, but I DO think that French song "Are you sleeping, are you sleeping, Brother John..." was one of the first ones I tried. (That was a good TNG episode, too).

Let's see...what else...I think I remember trying to play the Mario Brothers theme (the original one). After that one day I kind of lost interest in it, probably because I didn't actually have one at home myself.

I bought an ocarina at the local Renaissance Festival when I saw an elf playing the Legend of Zelda theme on it. I can't say I ever really got into that, although I played around with it quite a bit (and accidentally really annoyed the person driving us home from that festival lol). How I became interested in music? Band! Used to be in band. Also had a keyboard (musical kind) and took piano lessons at some point way back when, as a kid.
Aardbei Topic Starter

Small update: I broke a nail. :) Can't play anymore until it grows back, but I can successfully play the Stardew Valley theme and I do still thumb on it to keep my practice up. (Thimbles just don't work for me. They're thick and unruly. Same reason I can't really use finger guards when needlefelting...)
Abigail_Austin wrote:
This thread is about music and Star Trek so I must comment on it.

My friend got a kalimba and she liked it but couldn't play much on it. When I went to visit her, I started playing around on it and pretty soon it seemed like I was there to visit the kalimba more than her because I didn't want to put that tiny little musical instrument down. I can't remember what I played first, but I DO think that French song "Are you sleeping, are you sleeping, Brother John..." was one of the first ones I tried. (That was a good TNG episode, too).

Let's see...what else...I think I remember trying to play the Mario Brothers theme (the original one). After that one day I kind of lost interest in it, probably because I didn't actually have one at home myself.

I bought an ocarina at the local Renaissance Festival when I saw an elf playing the Legend of Zelda theme on it. I can't say I ever really got into that, although I played around with it quite a bit (and accidentally really annoyed the person driving us home from that festival lol). How I became interested in music? Band! Used to be in band. Also had a keyboard (musical kind) and took piano lessons at some point way back when, as a kid.

Band kids unite. :)

Zelda songs are a good way to learn many instruments, I think. They're short and recognizable, and with few exceptions, mostly diatonic. (Song of Healing has one strange note that makes it hard, but I can mostly play it on Kalimba now.)

You are on: Forums » Smalltalk » I got a kalimba

Moderators: MadRatBird, Keke, Cass, Auberon, Claine, Sanne, Ben, Darth_Angelus