- 1. GECKO Kalimba 17 Keys Thumb Piano
- 2. Donner 17 Key Kalimba Thumb Piano
- 3. TRSCIND Kalimba 17 Key Thumb Piano
- 4. Kalimba 17 Keys Thumb Piano with Study Instruction
- 5. Luvay Kalimba 17-Key Solid Mahogany Body
- 6. 17-key Thumb Piano Kalimba Mbira Sanza
- 7. JDR 17 Keys Kalimba
- 8. Kalimba Thumb Piano 17-Key Portable Mbira
- 9. Kalimba Abida Exquisite 17-key
- 10. Apelia 17-Key Kalimba Solid Mahogany
- Kalimba Selection Tips
- Types of Kalimbas
- Top Kalimba Brands
- Average Kalimba Pricing
- Questions and answers
The Kalimba is also referred to as a thumb piano and it is a delightful instrument that delivers pleasant sounds and tones. It is enjoyed by players all over the world. Although it might not be the first instrument of choice for many individuals, learning to play it will ultimately provide a rewarding experience. Finding the right Kalimba model for you can be challenging, particularly if you are new to it. It is important to understand the qualities and features before making a final purchasing decision. Below are ten of the top kalimbas for 2020:
1. GECKO Kalimba 17 Keys Thumb Piano
The design and style are the best things about this instrument. It is highly appealing in comparison to other Kalimba models. Additionally, its packaging and attractive design provide a luxurious feel.
This handmade kalimba is made from high-end mahogany. This contributes to the robustness of the body and creates an ideal resonance. Tines are from ore steel and the combination of these two materials produce a clean and bright sound. The feeling of playing this instrument is something you will love.
This is a moderately-priced kalimba; however, it is not exactly a budget instrument. As such, to safeguard your investment, the manufacturer provides you with an EVA protective box, which is of high quality. It will certainly keep your instrument safe.
• Produces clear and beautiful sounds
• Handmade construction is solid
• Learning booklet is included
• Feels and looks high end
• Some people have reported having issues with the top keys
2. Donner 17 Key Kalimba Thumb Piano
This remarkable and popular instrument is durable and solidly constructed. It is suitable for beginners and professionals alike. This is one of the main reasons it is so popular.
It is compact and lightweight, which means it can be easily carried around. Additionally, it comes with a bag and this makes it even easier to transport when travelling with it.
Another great feature of this instrument is its affordability. This is an indication that you won't have to spend a fortune to buy it. Best of all, despite its affordable cost, it is not lacking in sound quality and overall performance.
As the name suggests, it has 17 keys and they are made out of high-end carbon steel. This provides a combination of beautiful sound and superb resonance. The body of the instrument is made from mahogany.
• Comes perfectly tuned
• It is professional grade
• Has a solid mahogany body
• Produces exceptional sound
• It is small, lightweight and portable
• Tuning it can be challenging
• Some have complained about a missing tuning tool
3. TRSCIND Kalimba 17 Key Thumb Piano
This device is made from exquisite mahogany and a rhinoceros and an elephant are etched in the wood for a fun vibe. The keys are made out of ore steel and this infuses them with a purer sound and makes them easier to play. It produces a delightful sound and it is visually appealing as well.
Straight out of the box, you will find that professionals have expertly tuned the instrument to the standard C key. You will be able to play peaceful, soft and clear tones that are soothing to the ear. Additionally, a tuning hammer is included in the package to ensure it can be tuned when required.
• Made from mahogany
• Keys are made out of ore steel
• Out of the package it is expertly tuned to C
• Includes instructional resources to assist beginners
• Some people experienced issues with damaged shipping
4. Kalimba 17 Keys Thumb Piano with Study Instruction
This instrument is handmade with top-quality mahogany and its keys are made from ore steel bars. It is a visually-appealing professional instrument with 17 keys.
It is easy to play and is quite used widely. It includes a manual and a songbook designed to assist you in easily tuning and playing the thumb piano. It makes an ideal gift for kids, beginners, professionals, adults and bands.
All the tines/keys produce a beautiful sound and curved notes. They are engraved with notes and letters, which is much more convenient when compared to sticker notes that are found on other thumb pianos.
The 17 keys are as follows:
This small and portable thumb piano is suitable for recording, performance, outdoor fun, family gatherings, party, school and relaxation.
• High-quality instrument
• Produces a remarkable sound
• Quite easy to learn
• Wood is smooth and beautiful
• Only one thumb guard is necessary
5. Luvay Kalimba 17-Key Solid Mahogany Body
This kalimba is made out mahogany and ore metal is used to make the metal line. This makes the sound clearer and more peaceful and highly improves how it feels when you touch it.
It is lightweight and portable and its smart size makes carrying it around easy. It can be taken with you wherever your journey leads you. This device can also be played along with instruments like the ukulele and the guitar.
The package includes:
• The 17-key kalimba
• A cloth bag
• A tune hammer
• Green and red stickers
• Letter (number) stickers
• A paper box 1 x
• A cleaning cloth
• A Manua
• A pair of finger picks
• Produces excellent sound
• Made of beautiful mahogany wood
• Fun and easy to play
• Some of the instructions are not in English
6. 17-key Thumb Piano Kalimba Mbira Sanza
This body of the instrument is made from koa single wood from Africa and this is intended to provide a richer and thicker sound in comparison to mahogany. It has 17 keys pre tuned to the international standard C tune and includes a tune hammer to make adjustments or changes as you deem necessary.
Though the bag does come with a hard shell case, it does come with a nylon carrying bag. In addition, the package includes a song book, removable tremolo chain, finger picks and tune stickers. The tune stickers are meant to make it easier to identify the tunes quickly. You will be able to play all different types of songs by interpreting the numbered musical notation. Even novices will be able to enjoy playing it. It is an ideal gift for any group, including the elderly, music lovers, teenagers, adults and children.
• Made of koa wood
• Delivers remarkable resonance
• Affordably priced
• Some complained of non-working tines
• No protective case included
7. JDR 17 Keys Kalimba
The JDR Kalimba features manganese steel keys and is designed to deliver enhanced toughness and flexibility. It delivers a crisp, clear sound, while being easy on the fingers. A number of individuals who have used this instrument are impressed by what it has to offer. In contrast to some of the other kalimbas available on the market, this one has embossed letters and notes; therefore, they will not wear off as time passes.
The device is handmade out of solid mahogany that has variable growth, providing each kalimba with a unique shading and grain. It retails at an affordable cost, especially due to its exceptional and high-quality performance. With its many positive reviews, it is obvious that this model is a leader within the field.
In addition to the kalimba, which is pre-tuned and ready for use, you will also receive a waterproof case, cleaning cloth, tuning hammer, music book, dust bag, number stickers and green and red stickers.
• It is well made
• Comes with a waterproof case
• Delivers great sounds
• Easy to learn
• More suitable for a child
8. Kalimba Thumb Piano 17-Key Portable Mbira
This kalimba is handcrafted out of high-quality material and also includes parts made out of ore steel bars. The wood is naturally air dried and provides ethereal timbre and this is a remarkable match with its natural wood grain.
The keys are embossed with notes and letters, which are not the same as other sticker note thumb pianos. Its hand-rest curve design is made to ensure the right angle ergonomically.
In addition, the device is easy to play and you could learn a song in 5 minutes. When you receive your package, you will get the play guidance and guidelines on how to easily play a song in a short amount of time. It is suitable for kids, beginners and even professionals find it useful.
Also included in the package are the thumb piano, instruction book, tune hammer, flannelette bag, cleaning fabric and stickers. There is also the option of getting an additional electronic songbook free of cost by contacting the manufacturer.
• Impressive sound effects
• It comes pre tuned
• Includes a songbook
• Looks and sounds amazing
• Fun to play
• Some people have issues with the two highest notes on both sides
9. Kalimba Abida Exquisite 17-key
Made from mahogany and its keys made from carbon steel, this instrument provides you with a better sense of vision, hearing and touch. The wonderful polished wood is quite remarkable and in the middle of it is an adorable carving design. This lightweight kalimba is ideal for your kids, family members, lover and friends.
It is designed to produce exceptional sound quality, prolonged sound and bright, perfect echo. They combine to give off a melodic, sweet and soothing sound. A sand chain is attached, which is meant to deliver a vibrato feeling and help you to experience a different methop of playing.
• It is visually appealing
• Made out of sturdy materials
• It produces rich, gorgeous sounds
• Thick keys
• Comes with an awesome case
• At least one reviewer reported difficulty in figuring out the keys
10. Apelia 17-Key Kalimba Solid Mahogany
Even though this instrument is made out of solid mahogany wood, it is available in a range of designs and colors. With exquisite details and etchings, it beautifully combines charming designs and colors with the rich, full sounds produced by its solid mahogany construction.
With its carbon steel keys, you can rest assured that the Apelila will last for a long time. It is engraved with letters and this makes it ideal for beginners, who may need some additional guidance in the beginning. Additionally, there is an accompanying user manual to help you get started.
The package also includes a velvet bag, tuning hammer, two finger picks and stickers. It doesn't come with a waterproof case so you should consider investing in one.
Since the instrument is made from wood, it could become damaged by the elements; therefore, a hardier case would be ideal, especially if you plan on travelling with it. However, this should not be a big issue since it is among the lowest-cost kalimbas currently available. It also performs a lot better than many would expect.
• Easy to learn
• Made from high-grade mahogany
• Produces a clear and pleasant sound
• Doesn't come with a waterproof case
Kalimba Selection Tips
If you are planning to purchase this African equipment, you might face problems in selecting a Kalimba, especially as you have no idea about this musical instrument. You just saw somebody playing it, liked the music, and decided to purchase one. Selecting the wood from which the body of this musical instrument is made is among the toughest task. Do not worry as the following sections will help you determine which one is best for you.
• Mahogany: Apart from being cheap, the body of the Kalimba made with this wood gives a warm and perfect sound. I would strongly suggest people planning to play this instrument for the first time to opt for a model whose body is made from this wood.
• Acacia: This wood is better than Mahogany, provides the same lower octave as Marimbas made of Mahogany do, but the high pitch sounds are not so good. Even if you do not have an ear for music, you can easily tell the difference in sound in the African musical instrument made from those two different kinds of wood.
• Cassier: This wood provides a denser sound than the others and the tone transmission is better too. Thanks to this, the high scale sounds are perfect but the lower frequency ones are not so good. Keeping these three options in mind, I would suggest that you opt for the model whose body is made of Mahogany.
Next up is the selection of the size of the instrument and the number of tones it produces.
The number of keys plays a huge role in determining the sound range of the instrument. The market is full of these instruments available in different sound ranges such as teen sounds, 15 sounds, 12 looks, 8 sounds, five various sounds, and so forth. The 17-key model is the most popular one and the one you are likely to purchase. No doubt, it is expensive but offers you many styles and a big selection. It is the one preferred by the industry the most, and one that I recommend the most. As the name suggests, this model has 17 keys, which is much more than the other models described above. Thanks to this, you can produce a wider range of sounds, justifying the cost of the instrument. Of course, if you do not have the budget to purchase this model, you can opt for the 10 key model which offers a lower range and lower quality of music.
Types of Kalimbas
• For beginners, the 6-note pentatonic is the best and is ideal for kids aged five and above.
• If you are a musician but have never played the Kalimba before, the 15-note Alto is perfect. It is suitable for players aged 12 years and above.
• Those who have total knowledge of this musical instrument should opt for the diatonic models (Treble or Also), or even the chromatic model. The Also boasts of 15 notes and the Treble of 17 notes.
The above are the tip of the proverbial iceberg. There are many more choices from which you can choose. You can search online or physical musical stores to check them and purchase the one you like the best and which suits your level of experience.
Top Kalimba Brands
The top 10 Kalimba brands for the year 2019 along with their brief description includes (unless noted otherwise, all are tuned in “C” scale, have 17 keys, and have a Mahogany body):
• Donner (Carbon steel, includes portable bag)
• Mugig (Ore metal, includes protective box, tuning hammer, study instruction, and Kalimba learning booklet)
• Gecko (Ore steel, includes carry bag and tuning hammer)
• Ammoon (Carbon steel, African piano wood, includes carry bag and tuning hammer)
• Walter D. Mahogany Tone Wood (Carbon steel, includes user manual, tuning hammer, bag, key stickers, and instructions)
• Larkyueqi Mahogany (Aluminum alloy)
• ADM (Iron ores, African Mahogany, includes tune hammer, bag, and music book)
• Ubeta (Carbon steel, includes a portable bag, wipe cloth, and stickers)
• Vangoa (Mineral steel, includes cloth bag, tuning hammer, key stickers, and pickup)
• Mugig Kalimba Mbira Thumb Piano 10 key (Metal, includes cloth bag, engraved notation, music book, and tuning hammer)
Average Kalimba Pricing
Taking into account 10 different models, starting from a modest $22.99 to a whopping $51, the average cost of each Marimba worked out to approximately $37.30. The average might change if one only takes the costly or the low priced model for sampling.
Questions and answers
Q: My six-year-old so wants to play the Marimba for the first time. He has no idea of musical instruments whatsoever. Which model is best for him?
A: I strongly suggest that you purchase the 6-note pentatonic for him. You can also opt for the Donner model.
Q: I have noticed Kalimbas whose body is made out of different types of wood. Which is the best choice?
A: Only go for models that have a Mahogany body, as this will give you the best sound.
Q: Is it better to pay slightly more and go for a model that includes accessories such as a training manual, carrying bag, and tuning hammer?
A: By all purposes do so. You will end up the winner in the long run.
Q: What is the country of origin of this instrument?
A: This instrument is originally from Africa.
What is the best Kalimba?
If you are looking for the best Kalimba, look no further than the Donner Kalimba. It is small and portable, ensuring that you can carry it with you without any stress. This is a portable thumb piano, which produces the international standard “C” when you play it. Unlike many other brands that use low-grade wood to manufacture their Kalimbas, the body of this one comprises of top-grade Mahogany wood, which always gives a warm and perfect sound both in the lower scale as well as in the higher scale. Professionals always choose this wood when they purchase this musical instrument.
You will be pleasantly surprised when playing this instrument as the tune it produces when played is nearly akin to that of the piano. The manufacturers have ensured that all materials used are of the highest quality. For example, the main component of its keys is made of carbon steel. Thanks to this, this specific model produces high resonance as well as high-quality sound. You can easily play this instrument by using your two thumbs. Apart from being portable, this model tips the scale at a low 1.05 pounds… one of the lightest Marimba available. You do not have to waste time reading the booklet and finding out how to tune the instrument, as it comes pre-tuned from the factory; therefore, you can play it immediately after purchasing it. Carrying this musical instrument is extremely simple as it ships with a portable bag that allows you to store it properly and carry it around effortlessly.
What is the Kalimba used for?
This kalimba is used mostly for dance music or personal entertainment, but you can also play it in bira spirit possession ceremonies. According to Hugh Tracey, an ethnomusicologist working with this tradition, the Kalimba is a new musical instrument with an old history. The Marimba also provided inspiration for the development of other African musical instruments such as the Marimbula, Timbrh, Endongo, Chisanzi, Likembe, and Mbira. The world knows about this instrument due to the efforts of Hugh Tracey, who, after working for a lifetime of studying and recording African music, wanted to introduce this unique, companionable, and fascinating African instrument to the rest of the world. He adapted it to the “C” Western scale to ensure that people worldwide could appreciate it. Manufactured in workshops by African craftsmen, using mubvamaropa, the resonant hardwood historically used for the Mbira in southern and central Africa together with Sheffield.
Is it easy to learn Kalimba?
The Kalimba is among the four instruments in the world that are easy to learn. Also known by different names such as thumb piano, Mbira, etc. is it a popular African musical instrument and is now loved by individuals all over the world. Apart from what you see in the front view, it also has dual vibrato holes in its back. Players need to simply cover the vibrato holes with their fingers, and pluck the keys with their thumbs to generate music. While playing, covering and uncovering the vibrato holes makes the melody much more pleasing.
What is the difference between a Kalimba and a Mbira?
“Mbira” and “Kalimba” are often used interchangeably to describe those musical instruments. While there are some subtle differences between the two, including a single row of keys on the Kalimba and double rows of keys on the mbira, the scales are the major difference between the two instruments.
How many keys does a Kalimba have?
Given the different types of models available, you might be thinking while selecting a Kalimba about the number of keys it has. As mentioned in the details above all good Kalimbas have 17 keys. However, there are exceptions such as the Mugig Kalimba Mbira Thumb Piano, which has only 10 keys.
George A. Smith received a Masters Degree in Music Education from the University of Berkeley. George has been teaching music professionally for the past 8 years. George regularly contributes content to several music websites including LoadRecords.com.