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> Kalimba/Thumb Piano Tuning
DavesTrumpet
post Jan 1 2004, 08:41 AM
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Hi

I was wondering if anyone out there has any tips on tuning a thumb piano.

I have a pretty nice little 8 note kalimba set up in bilateral tuning (diatonic key of C) and the second and fourth scale degrees are quite flat. Is it just a simple matter of slighly unloosening a screw and working the metal tongues into position, or is there more to it than that?

I have a V-SAM and also access to a 490-ST at work.

Dave M
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John Norris
post Jan 5 2004, 11:06 AM
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Hi Dave,
the basic method would be to lengthen the tongues to lower the fundamental note and shorten them to raise it.
You could try the C Major Just temperament in your Peterson.

I am sure you could also tune the overtones. John Salazar of Salazar Fine Tuning is someone who does this professionally, here is some info:
Tuning Marimba, Xylophone and Vibraphone with a Strobe Tuner

John N.
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DavesTrumpet
post Jan 5 2004, 06:00 PM
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Thanks, John! Using C Just Temperament did the trick. Hums like an organ now. I appreciate that!

I'm wondering something. This is more a general question, not necessarily for the thumb piano. I play this thing in D Dorian quite a bit. Is there a tuning that benefits dorian scales. With the instrument set up in C, the E sounds a little flat when playing in D Dorian. I'm curious if there is an accepted temperament for modal tuning, like Dorian.

Thanks,

Dave

(I'm really a trumpet player!wink.gif)
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John Norris
post Jan 7 2004, 10:04 AM
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Hi Dave,
you mention that the kalimba is set up in C diatonic which would make it CDEFGABC, tuning this C scale in Just Major temperament would mean flattening the major third by 13.7 cents, this of course puts it out of tune for your Dorian mode of DEFGABC which is almost a D minor scale except the Bb is replaced by B natural, we could try to tune it to Just Minor in the key of D. Use this chart to get the offsets:


Go to the column where the root is D and tune the notes to the offsets underneath, B is not present in the D minor scale but experiment a bit and let us know how you got on.

Another experiment would be to tune it to Just major in the key of F with a B natural, this is easily done, just go to the JST preset on your V-SAM and select F as your root note.
For your reference here is a chart of the Just Major presets for each of the twelve roots in the V-SAM:
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kalimbamagic
post Sep 3 2007, 05:08 PM
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Unlike most western instruments which permit a single tuning
adjustment (flute, trumpet), or a few tuning adjustments
(violin, guitar), or are fully tunable but a real pain to do
(piano, marimba), the kalimba's individual notes are completely
tunable and easily re-tunable. I can change keys on the
kalimba in like 30 seconds (ie, changing my two F# into F natural
to go from key of G to C). I just wiggle the tines back and forth
while gently pulling or pushing to flatten or sharpen.
Some kalimbas don't retune so easily.

Traditional African tunings don't use western intervals. You
can "normalize" one or a few notes to western notes (octaves
and perfect 5ths were used in some scales), but you can't get
all the notes to land on western tones. It is
impossible to retune most instruments to such a scale - but
the kalimba can do it. Most of these traditional African
tunings are becoming rarer and rarer, as Africa has been
inundated by western music and the western scale.
Dr. Hugh Tracey (maker of the Hugh Tracey Kalimba) spent
decades trying to document those scales before the equally-tempered
scale took over. Hugh Tracey did the job with a set of
tuning forks covering an octave on a 4 Hz grid. Primitive,
but it worked in the field in 1950.

The karimba, a traditional instrument, is tuned with:

A root +00
C 3rd -40 cents
E 5th +00
F# 6th -20 cents
G# 7th -40 cents
A +00

ie, the 3rd, 6th, and 7th are between the major and minor,
and the 5th is perfect.

An upper octave also has a 2nd (B, -20 cents) and
a 4th (D, +20 cents).

To learn more about the kalimba, check out my web site www.kalimbamagic.com
and search on "tuning", or go to the International Library
of African Music site http://ilam.ru.ac.za/ to find out
more about the work of Dr. Hugh Tracey and his son Dr. Andrew Tracey.

-Mark Holdaway
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