Collins Rhythmcraft - Kalimbas
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The Kalimba is an African instrument with metal tines fashioned onto a wood or gourd body for resonation. The tines are played with your fingers and create what Zimbabwe musician Stella Chiweshe describes as the sound of "tuned raindrops".

Click here for a video demonstration or video slideshow of the kalimba.
(Requires Quicktime plug-in).


Originating in Africa, the Kalimba has played a part in African culture for 800 years. Many Africans use the Kalimba to tell beautiful stories, celebrate life events, or to just pass the time on long journeys. The music of the Kalimba is said to help the sick mind, heart and soul.

Kalimbas are called by many names. In Zambia they are called Luvale; in Cameroon, Sansa; in Zimbabwe, Karimba, Mbira & Matapee; and in South Africa, Kalimba or Thumb Piano, also known as Marimbula in a very large version.

How is it played?

Playing the Kalimba is enjoyable and easy. Simply pluck the metal tines with your thumbs or fingers. Rich melodies and chords roll out without endless practice or training.

"I play by placing the tips of my thumbs on the tines and sliding my thumb nails gently down the tines until it slips off and plucks the note."

By sliding a finger lightly off of the end of the metal tine a clean bell tone will ring. Beware of plucking the tine too hard, this will produce a distorted sound and can change the pitch of the note played.

Playing Chords

Beautiful chords can be played by plucking three tines at the same time. One thumb plucks two tines while the other thumb plucks one.

Vibrato or "Wa-Wa" sound

Each Kalimba has two holes on either side to produce a wonderful vibrato sound. Cover the holes with your pointer fingers and pluck a tine. Opening and closing the holes will create a fun "wa-wa" effect. This effect will happen with up to 3 notes that are tuned close to the resonant point of the Kalimba. To add this effect to all the notes simply play a tine that produces vibrato in unison with others that don't.

Each Kalimba comes with an instructional tape.


Our Kalimbas are created in a unique way. Matt fashions wood, gourd and metal together to create his own version of this traditional instrument. Matt has spent time learning how to make guitars and has incorporated some of guitar construction methods into designing these Kalimbas.

"When preparing to create gourd Kalimbas I comb through literally thousands of gourds at a special gourd farm here in California. I search for acoustically sound, visually pleasing, and easy to hold shapes. The gourd or wood body will create a resonating chamber that a sound board will be attached to. I sand the sound board and the chamber very flat and attach the two together. I then sand the completed body and oil its surface. Once I have a complete acoustic chamber I mount on it the spring steel tines and stainless steel bridge. The stainless steel bridge puts pressure on the tines allowing them to ring on the desired pitches."


A Kalimba's scale is determined by the size of the body. For example a small gourd body will produce high notes more efficiently than a large gourd body.

Each Kalimba is re-tunable. The metal tines can be moved in or out to change their pitches. To change the scale or pitch of any note simply tap the tine in or out with a mallet. Tapping at the back of the tine will lower the pitch, tapping the front will raise the pitch. Both pentatonic and diatonic scales are possible.

The pentatonic scale is used often in world music. This scale is easy to play. You can make up songs right away and play with other musicians without any fear of hitting a "wrong" note because the tones in a penatonic scale all ring in harmony. Most of our Kalimbas are sold with the pentatonic scale.

The diatonic scale is a complete seven-tone scale. More complex songs and chords can be created on a Kalimba with a diatonic scale. The most common scales we tune to are A and A minor, C, F, G and G minor.

Pick-up Amplification

We can install internal pickups to amplify the Kalimbas sound. The quality of our German made pickups is great. It is very helpful to have a way of playing loud enough to be heard over other amplified instruments. The world of electronic effects is opened to the Kalimba with a pickup. Try playing with some reverb, echo or delay for a fun experimental sound. We charge $75 for the pickup and its installation.

Custom Orders

We accept custom orders on Kalimbas.

"I always entertain new design looks and even outlandish dreams. Call and talk to me about what you have in mind."

phone number: (949) 293-4749


Instrument Care

Our Kalimbas are hand rubbed with Tung Oil. This oil is derived from the Tung nut of Asia. It penetrates the wood well and dries to a protective coating. A hard wax is then buffed onto the Kalimba to add a slight shine and increase the moisture protection. Simply apply good furniture wax with a soft cloth once a year or whenever you wish to bring out extra shine. The metal tines are covered in nickel and are easily polished with a cotton rag. Do not subject your Kalimba to harsh weather changes like leaving out in the sun or closed in a hot car. At home position your Kalimba out of prolonged direct sunlight.

Instructional CD

This CD has step by step instructions on playing your Kalimba. It lays out a good approach to the instrument and is very encouraging.

The CD also contains music to play with your Kalimba.

Click here to view our complete line of CDs.

Please click here to view our complete line of Kalimbas.


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