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Best Kalimba Songs To Learn

Photograph of the blog post author, Annika Hope

Annika Hope


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Have you heard of the kalimba and wondered how to play it? What are the best kalimba songs to learn as a musician and why should you take up this beautiful instrument? Well, you will find all the answers to these questions and more in this article. 

What Is A Kalimba?

A Kalimba is a type of African musical instrument consisting of a wooden board with metal tines of different lengths. It is played by holding the instrument in the hands and plucking the tines with the thumbs. It is also known as a thumb piano or a mbira.

The History Of The Kalimba

The Kalimba dates back to the 14th century. It is believed to have originated in the Congo basin and is believed to have been used by the Mbala people. The instrument is made up of metal or wood tines that are attached to a wooden board or box. The tines are plucked with the thumbs and fingers to produce a sound that is similar to a xylophone. The Kalimba is traditionally used in ceremonies and rituals to communicate with the spirits. It is also used to accompany singing, dancing, and storytelling. Today, the Kalimba is used in a variety of musical genres, including jazz, rock, pop, and folk music

What Are The Best Kalimba Songs?

There are numerous songs you can play on the Kalimba, but we have narrowed it down to just 10 for you here. We would recommend going out and doing further research into this incredible instrument and what other songs you can play with it, but for today, our list are the most famous. In our opinion. So let’s delve straight in. 

Kokomo by The Beach Boys 

To play Kokomo by The Beach Boys on a Kalimba, you will need a 17-Note Kalimba in the key of C. The notes for the song are as follows; 


Hallelujah by Leonard Cohen

To play this song, you need to tune the Kalimba to the key of C and then place your thumbs on the tines and play the following notes: C D D F G G A A G F D D C. Play this pattern in an arpeggio-like fashion, starting with the lowest note and going up the scale. Once you have mastered the basic pattern, add in the higher notes of the scale (E and G) to create a fuller sound. When you are comfortable with the basic pattern, add in some embellishments such as slides, hammer-ons, and pull-offs. Finally, add in some dynamics, such as crescendos and decrescendos, to give the song more emotion.

Over the Rainbow by Judy Garland

To play “Over the Rainbow” on a kalimba, you will need a 17-key kalimba in the key of C. Begin by playing the melody of the song on the tines of the kalimba. The melody notes are C, D, E, F, G, A, B, and C. Add a bass line by playing the same notes on the lower tines of the kalimba. Add chords to the melody by playing a major chord on the higher tines and a minor chord on the lower tines. To complete the song, add a simple strumming pattern to the chords. Finally, practice playing the song until you can play it without mistakes.

Africa by Toto

Playing Africa by Toto on a kalimba can be quite challenging, but with some practice and patience, you can master it. To begin, you will need to tune your kalimba to the key of C. This can be done by using a tuning hammer or a tuning fork.Once your kalimba is in tune, you can begin to play the melody of Africa by Toto. This melody is composed of two main parts. The first part is a repeating pattern of four notes. The second part is a series of single notes that provide a counterpoint to the first part.

To play the first part, start by playing the notes C, E, G, and A. This is the repeating pattern.To play the second part, you will need to play the notes D, F, A, and C.Once you have mastered the melody of Africa by Toto, you can add in some additional notes to create a fuller sound.Remember to practice regularly and soon you will be playing Africa by Toto on your kalimba like a pro!

Shape of You by Ed Sheeran

To play “Shape of You” by Ed Sheeran on a kalimba, you will need a 17-key kalimba in the key of G. Tune your kalimba to the key of G. Play the notes G, A, B, C, D, E, F#, G, A, B, C, D, E, F#, G, A, B in that order. Repeat this pattern for the entire song. Play the melody of the song with your thumb and Strum the tines with your fingers to create the rhythm of the song

The Sound of Silence by Simon & Garfunkel

The Sound of Silence is a popular song by Simon & Garfunkel, which can be played on a kalimba using the following notes: G4, F4, E4, D4, G3, F3, E3, D3, B2, A2, G2, F2, E2, D2, C2. To play the song, use the notes in the order listed and repeat the pattern as desired to finish the song.

Canon in D by Johann Pachelbel

Playing Canon in D on a kalimba is a relatively simple task. Here are the steps you need to follow: Find the sheet music for the song. You can find this online by searching for “Canon in D kalimba sheet music” and familiarize yourself with the layout of the kalimba. The kalimba will have two rows of tines, with the top row having the higher pitched notes and the bottom row having the lower pitched notes.

Place your thumbs on the tines in the middle of the kalimba. This will be the starting point for playing the song and begin playing the song, following the sheet music. Make sure to use the correct hand position for each note.

Practice the song until you are comfortable with it and then you can add your own embellishments and improvisations to make it your own.

What a Wonderful World by Louis Armstrong

To play “What a Wonderful World” on a kalimba, you will need a 17-key kalimba in the key of C.Begin by playing the melody of the song on the kalimba. The melody of “What a Wonderful World” is quite simple and can be played using just the tines of the kalimba. To add a little more texture to the melody, you can add some simple chords. The chords for this song are C, F, G, and Am.

Once you have the melody and chords down, you can start to experiment with different rhythms and accompaniment patterns. Try playing the melody in different octaves, or adding some arpeggios or strums to the accompaniment. 

Finally, don’t forget to add some of your own personal touches to the song. This can be anything from adding a little vibrato to the melody or playing some improvised solos.With a little practice, you should be able to play “What a Wonderful World” on your kalimba in no time!

Let It Be by The Beatles

Firstly, tune your kalimba to the key of C. Play the following notes on the tines of the kalimba in order: C, G, A, F, G, E, D, then repeat the pattern until you reach the end of the song.

To add more complexity to your playing, you can add in some hammer-ons, pull-offs, and slides. Have fun and enjoy!

Clair de Lune by Claude Debussy

Playing Clair de Lune by Claude Debussy on a kalimba is a great way to bring the beautiful melody of this classic piece of music to life. To begin, you will need a kalimba with at least 17 tines. You can find tabs online that will show you which tines to pluck for each note in the melody. Start by plucking the tines in the order indicated by the tab. 

As you play, be sure to listen to the sweet sound of the kalimba and focus on the harmony of the notes. When you reach a section of the melody that requires a change in plucking pattern, make sure to adjust your technique accordingly.

When you have mastered the melody, experiment with adding your own embellishments and improvisations. You can also add some vibrato to the melody to give it a more expressive feel. With practice, you will be able to bring the beautiful sound of Clair de Lune to life on your kalimba.

Closing Thoughts

The kalimba is a great instrument to play because it is easy to learn and has a unique and beautiful sound. It is also very portable and can be played anywhere. Playing the kalimba can be a great way to relax, de-stress, and bring joy to your life. It can also be a great way to connect with others, as it can be used to make music with friends or family.


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