As children, many of us grow up learning musical instruments. From the guitar to the violin, we all learn one instrument or another. However, as we go through our teenage years, many of us give up on our musical ability. Whether we fall out of love with the instrument, begin prioritising alternative activities or simply want to focus on our social life, we all have our reasons for doing so. How do you want to get back into music whilst doing something different to everyone else? You can consider playing the kalimba.
Also known as the thumb piano, the kalimba is a small piano-like instrument inspired by the traditional Zimbabwe instrument, the mbira. It has a very distinct sound and is now played all over the globe. Where can you buy one? You can buy a beginner or professional kalimba online. There are many digital stores you can buy a kalimba from, many of which will provide you with a high-quality instrument. We sell coconut thumb pianos and do not currently have kalimbas for sale but we can still guide you in the right direction.
Kalimbas are traditionally from Zimbabwe, Africa and are made from Kiat wood which is a traditional African hardwood. One of the most popular kalimba brands is a chinese company called Gecko and each instrument is mass produced. To ensure your instrument is unique, we highly recommend doing a little research before purchasing.
There are many different types of kalimbas but typically they come in two different forms; board or box type. A board kalimba is made from a flat piece of wood whereas a box type has a hole below the tines to allow more resonance. One is not better than the other, it depends on your preference. In terms of tuning, there are three main types of kalimbas, these are treble, celeste, and alto.
- The Treble kalimba has 17 notes
- The Celeste model is board mounted, and has clear high notes. In comparison to the other types; it sounds more delicate like a music box.
- The Alto has 15 notes which is exactly two octaves. This kalimba is usually in the key of G but can vary from instrument.
A traditional kalimba is made from African hardwood (usually kiaat). Alternative options include coconut, gourd, bamboo, maple, cherry, spruce, sandalwood, mahogany and more. All of which will provide the instrument with its own unique sound.
Notes / Tines
Depending on where you shop, a kalimba should have 6, 8, 12, 17. If you’re completely new to the instrument, you could look for a lower number of tines although going for an instrument that has 17 notes means that you will be able to play almost any song. Many kalimbas will come with their own manuals which will help you to quickly pick up the instrument.
When it comes to buying a kalimba, the price is one of the most important aspects. You can pick up a budget instrument made from coconut or gourd for as little as £12. If you are looking for something more midrange with 17 keys, a case, tuning hammer and other accessories you will be looking at around £22. The professional Hokema range is priced at around £90 plus, whilst the Sansula and electric kalimba is priced around £150 or more.
Most Popular thumb piano kalimbas
There are many different types of the thumb piano, those made with a ply, hard, softwood board, coconut shell, base metal keys, or superior steel sprung keys. From small 12cm to a large 20cm, the number of notes is another factor. Ours range from 5 to 17 and are tuned to the western scale. These could be a suitable gift for a kid or for a beginner-professional musician. We have compared many types of kalimbas to make this easy for you and have chosen these based on the manufacturing, the style, and the price.
Simple yet effective mahogany wooden board kalimba with a simplistic design. This one is suitable for a beginner child or professional. This one is full size (17 or 21 keys), and as it has the key notes marked on each tine, you can play almost any song depending on your skill level. This solid wood kalimba also comes with a sleeve to protect it from scratches, etc. This is the best budget kalimba because it is everything you need to get started on your kalimba journey and will provide the ability to play your favourite songs.
The hand crafted 17 note Hokema kalimba is a luxury music instrument that has a solid American cherry wood board and is tuned to perfection allowing the sound to be perfect every time. Each instrument is made in Germany; if you are serious about playing the kalimba then this is one of the most professional sounding musical instruments you can get hold of, second to the Sanulsa deluxe range.
This one is a little different, and is rather unique. The coconut thumb piano is made from natural produce and comes in assorted dot painted pattern designs. Each one is approximately 12cm, but this does of course vary. This one has 7 notes which makes it much less intimidating for beginners, allowing you to relax with your kalimba without the worry of knowing too much what you are doing. It has a beautiful sound and each one features different colours.
Our most popular, this coconut thumb piano has beautiful carvings on it, and is approximately 16cm. With an upgraded wooden top, it comes in assorted designs and make for a fantastic gift. This 7 note is also suited to beginners, but would also be a great element to bring into the music studio!
Just as the name suggests, this small beautiful kalimba is approximately 7cm, yet it still has 8 notes, and fits in your pocket. It has the notes on it so that you can play like a pro, on the go. It is compact, portable, and sits perfectly in the palm of you hand. You could say that it's child size, but we think that its the perfect size. It's cute to say the least, it's an absolute charmer that any musician should have.
Showcasing our large gourd kalimba, that is approximately 20cm diameter. This one has 8 strong robust steel keys and is suitable for a beginner adult. It combines the dot painted design with the wooden top and is a statement woodwind instrument that delivers a stunning natural look.
7. Vietnamese Dan Bung Thumb Piano
Featuring a round handmade thumb piano with steel sprung keys from Vietnam. It has hand-painted flowers to the side, with an effective working soundbox. These thumb piano kalimba are sourced from many countries such as Africa, Vietnam, Indonesia and more places but are shipped from our warehouse in the UK. This is more of a music instrument collectors item as not many of these are made and our quantity is limited, if you like the look of it, you should get it before its gone!
This African musical instrument consists of a rosewood board with attached staggered metal tines, played by holding the instrument in the hands and plucking the tines with the thumbs. So fun to play and relaxing to hear, the most simple thumb piano that we sell, children love to play these, it is a fantastic toy but can also be used by the professional musician who would like to try a new angle.
Up next: The Best Kalimba Apps (Free & Paid)