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Not Your Typical Percussion Instrument: Kalimbas

If you have always wanted to play an instrument that is easy to pick up and intriguing enough to keep you entertained, then a kalimba may be just what you need. Also known as the African thumb piano, a kalimba produces a wide variety of entertaining sounds in a small, handheld instrument. There are many reasonably priced new and used kalimbas for sale on eBay, so you should have no problem finding one that suits you.

Features of a kalimba

Not only are kalimbas small and entertaining, but they are also very inexpensive. Adding to their cost-effectiveness, they require minimal maintenance in comparison to some percussion instruments. If you are more advanced in percussion, they typically have a seven-note diatonic scale that allows you to compose two-note combinations. This makes it easy to create harmonies.

How do you choose the right kalimba for you?

Even though it is such a small instrument, you will have many options when it comes to choosing a thumb piano on eBay that suits you:

  • Number of keys: You can choose between 9, 17, 24, and 30 keys. A kalimba instrument with more keys indicates its ability to accommodate advanced percussionists. A Mugen kalimba is the most advanced available.
  • Key material: Keys are generally made from steel. Sometimes you will find them made from aluminum or carbon steel. Aluminum keys are great for beginners because they are more forgiving.
  • Base material: Bases will be made out of various types of woods. You'll find oak, mahogany, bamboo, and even coconut shell. They all accommodate different notes, so it’s really personal preference.
  • Size: Thumb pianos with fewer keys can generally be held in only one hand. A standard 17-key kalimba will require two hands to operate the instrument.
  • Number of holes: There are a variety of holes in the base of a thumb piano. They are there to transmit sound. You can cover them to change the tone coming out of the base and add effects to your music.
  • Tune: Most commonly, kalimbas are tuned to the international C tune. However, you will find some that are tuned to the international D tune.
What to look for when you are buying a used kalimba

When you are purchasing a used kalimba thumb piano, be sure to inspect the keys closely. If there are signs of having been bent or otherwise damaged, you will want to factor in the cost of replacing them. It is also important that the base is intact with no cracks.