How to Play the Kalimba & Mbira

Learn how to play the kalimba and mbira from the musicians at Wula Drum in this Howcast video.

I’m going to show you how to play the kalimba. It is a piece of wood that is mounted on a gourd, like on the top of the bottom of a guitar, to help produce and project the sound.

The kalimba, as I turn it around for you, just like with the mbira, is played by a scratching fashion at the end of each one of these metal pieces, which is known as a tong or a key or a note. OK?

Turning it back to me, I’m going to play in that fashion and you will hear beautiful sounds.

I can play three notes at one time if I use both of my thumbs and my pointer finger, and it gives you a chordal sound. OK? Here’s how I play.

Isn’t that soothing? That is the sound of my kalimba.

Now I’m going to play for you mbira. What makes the mbira different than the kalimba is simply that the mbira actually sits inside its sound box. If you were in Zimbabwe, you would say daze, which just means resonator. OK?

You play the instrument in that same scratching fashion. With this daze or calabash or sound box, it has a number of bottle caps that help to project naturally the sound of the instrument as you would in an electronic amplifier. OK?

So another important note is that my kalimba and this mbira, they have a different note sequence, a different set of notes. So I can play a different song. I can’t really play the same song as a kalimba, so I’ll show you.

OK, I just played some wonderful sounds on the mbira. I want to tell you some additional things. It’s with the mbira: if you look very closely, you will see what is called a prop stick. It helps to transfer the resonance from the mbira into the sound box or the daze, so if your prop stick is too loose, it won’t give that transference of sound. If it’s too tight, it also won’t give you the same transference of sound. It’ll be muted. You want to find just the right placement of having your mbira sitting in sound, its sound box.

So those are some tips on how to play the mbira and the kalimba.