Kalimba is an easy rhythm study featuring 16-note patterns with off-beat stress.  It was written to imitate the sound of the south African instrument by the same name which is played by plucking different lengths of metal tines.  Read below to produce the “Kalimba” sound on the guitar.

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Counting 16ths

In simple meters, all beats may be subdivided into 2 equal parts, alternating strong (S)  and weak (W).  This stong/weak relationship is the natural organization of beats.  Notice for eighths and sixteenths, the beat with the numeric count is strong and also called the downbeat.  Strong beats generally receive slightly more stress than weak beats.

The main rhythm of Kalimba includes a variety of patterns including sixteenth and eighth notes as well as a sixteenth rest.  The rest on beat “2” gives attention to the note before, stressing the weak or “off” beat: “a” of “1.”

To begin, clarify the rhythm by counting aloud and clapping.

When secure, apply the rhythm to the right hand on open strings.  The 2nd-beat rest may be produced by prepping a on (2) as a sympathetic motion to previous m stroke.  Play and count aloud:

Play and listen to the stress felt on strong beats 1 and 3 (played with p) and the off beat: “a” of  1 (played with m).

At m. 7 and elsewhere there is a 2nd-beat rest produced by prepping m on (1) as a sympathetic motion to previous a stroke.  Again, play and count aloud:

m. 7

m. 7 clarified on open strings

Making the Kalimba Sound

To produce a “Kalimba” sound, slip a staple over strings ① and ② ,then over ② and ③.  Ends of the staples may be slightly bent to securely attach to the strings.


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