Unlike the vibraphone or the lamellophone, the kalimba is a kind of thumb piano that offers the possibility to music lovers to make music. However, several specificities of this equipment are to be taken into consideration in order to know more about the product but especially to select it. Let's take a look at these different criteria of choice.
Level of Play Criteria
First of all, it is important to look at the level of play. You should look for an instrument that suits your level of expertise. Even more so, choose something that suits the kind of music you want to play or that you already know how to play. You need to understand that every sign has its own strengths as well as its own level. In this case, you need to do proper research and find out about the various models before selecting the one that will be most suitable.
How many keys?
This element is related to the one we discussed earlier. The number of keys available on your instrument reflects the complexity of the level of play required. An instrument with seven keys will be much easier to use for a beginner, while an instrument with seventeen keys requires a good deal of flexibility and knowledge in order to be able to play smoothly.
The sound holes are used to make the sound of your instrument resonate. It is especially the situation of the main opening positioned at the level of the blades. But depending on the model, there are additional holes. These offer the possibility to amplify the sound or to create effects. For example, by placing your thumbs or fingers above the holes and moving them, you can modify the resonance capabilities of the cavity designed by the box. The various notes will be amplified by means of the resonance of the box, emitting a "wah-wah" effect in particular.
Shape and ergonomics
There are different types of instruments: the kalimba on a board, in a box or the kalimba on a shell. The kalimbas on a board do not have the possibility to modulate the sound with the "wah-wah", unlike the kalimbas in a box. Indeed, they do not have a sound hole. But the board mounted variants are more durable. They are very thick, which makes them a good selection for people who might leave their instrument lying around.
Each model is tuned to a particular key range. This instrument is no exception either. The most popular scale is C minor. But you can find other tuning scales. Select the scale that appeals most to your ear. This is a matter of personal taste. But it is necessary because you cannot change the scale of an instrument. Instruments placed on coconut or pumpkin shells are supposed to have a better resonance. But be careful with this kind of product, they are mostly toys and minimalist handcrafted instruments with no real performance.
The most relevant specificity of any kalimba remains its tuning. The tuning of this kind of instrument can be simple but also complicated. To be honest, it all depends on its quality and design. However, do not think that you will not have to do this operation. Your instrument will gradually go out of tune as you use it and you will have to adjust it periodically. You will need to adjust it once a year if you don't use it often, once a month if you use it moderately, or once a day if you play for hours at high volume. You can also choose to adjust your instrument to a different tuning to experiment with new tones and arrangements. But if you are a beginner, it is better not to try such complicated operations. Every instrument we tried has a classical tuning. So the procedure is quite simple. But it is possible that the model you like does not have this kind of tuning. In this case, we do not recommend this variant, as you will be bothering to tune the instrument and the result will not necessarily be conclusive, which would be a pity for the good use of your instrument. The best solution is to select a kalimba with a standard tuning. Or even better, a kalimba with a classical tuning but also with an instruction guide and a musical guide.
Equipment under construction
If you have ever looked into this kind of instrument, you will have noticed that they are often made of wood. But wood of all shapes and colors. However, the models that we recommend the most are made of coconut wood or those made of maple, solid wood, pine or birch. There is a wide choice of materials for these instruments. The type of wood affects the color of the final product as well as its overall quality. Indeed, not all woods have the same capacities. A thicker wood will obviously be more robust in the long run. The touch will also be different because the grain is not similar, although an instrument of this kind must be well polished in order to be pleasant in hand. But it's not just that. The material used for the blades is also relevant. Indeed, carbon steel is a good choice, it is robust and aesthetic.
Look and decoration
The appearance of a kalimba plays a big role in its ergonomics. It is good to select a light variant that fits properly in your hands. A variant that is too wide can be complicated in its use because it is more difficult for your thumbs to reach the central blades. As far as decoration is concerned, instruments are traditionally colorful and folkloric equipment. The appearance is therefore an element to take into account. Although some instruments have red or blue blades that serve as reference points when you use them, other variants have paintings on their shells or simple engravings. It is therefore a question of personal choice, but you must be careful that the appearance of the product does not affect its ergonomics.
Finally, the last element concerns the price. There are products of all ranges and all prices. But be careful with prices that are too attractive. After all, everything will change according to your use. If you are looking for a product to have fun or a product for children, an entry-level instrument will be sufficient. But if you want to learn and progress in this activity, turn to a mid-range product or a high-end product.