What's the kalimba and why should you learn it ?

The kalimba, also known as the "mbira" or "sanza," is a percussion musical instrument originating from Africa. This pocket-sized instrument with its enchanting and melodious sound is increasingly seducing enthusiasts worldwide.

Composed of bamboo tines placed on a resonance box, the kalimba fascinates with its ease of learning and portability. Whether you're a beginner or an experienced musician, this article will unveil the secrets of this captivating instrument and convince you to give it a try!

What is the Kalimba and where does it come from?

The kalimba finds its roots in the musical traditions of Central and Southern Africa. Originally made with natural materials such as wood, gourds, and animal shells, this ancestral instrument spread throughout various African cultures under different names like mbira, sanza, or likembe.

Although mentioned as early as the 16th century, the kalimba did not truly arouse interest in the West until the 1950s-1960s. Today, luthiers around the world continue the artisanal production of this instrument while adapting it with modern materials like metal or plastic.

kalimba for sale, kalimba music instrument, kalimba
Country of Origin Names Used
Zimbabwe Mbira
Uganda Endingidi
Congo Sanza
South Africa Kalimba

The appealing advantages of the Kalimba

The kalimba instrument seduces with numerous advantages that make it an accessible musical instrument and ideal for beginners:

  • 🎵 Easy to Learn: With only 15 to 17 tines, the kalimba is one of the simplest instruments to master. Its scales are easily identifiable on the tines.
  • 🎵 Portable: The size of a hand, this little gem slips anywhere so you can play anytime!
  • 🎵 Affordable: A quality kalimba costs on average between $20 and $100, making it a very accessible instrument.
  • 🎵 Versatile: Folk, blues, world music... The kalimba lends itself to numerous musical styles.
  • 🎵 Soothing: The soft and melodious sounds of the kalimba have relaxing and meditative virtues.

How to play the Kalimba in a few steps?

  1. Position the kalimba: Hold it horizontally in one hand, with the lower tines on the left.
  2. Learn the notes: Identify the scale on the tines using a thumb pick or the tips of your fingers.
  3. Perform scales: Start by going up and down the notes to familiarize yourself with the instrument.
  4. Play simple melodies: Begin with easy tunes like "Frère Jacques" or traditional African music.
  5. Proper fingering: For a clear sound, pluck the tines with the rigid side of your nail or a thumb pick.
  6. Listen and practice!: The best way to learn is to listen to pieces and practice regularly.

Online tutorials will help you progress, but nothing beats practice to fully master your kalimba!


The kalimba is a delightful little instrument gem that absolutely deserves to be discovered. Whether you're a budding music lover or an experienced musician, you'll be charmed by the sweetness and simplicity of this African thumb piano. So, are you ready to be seduced by the kalimba?

kalimba for sale, kalimba music instrument, kalimba

Frequently asked questions

Is the kalimba suitable for children?

Yes, absolutely! The kalimba is one of the simplest and most fun musical instruments to learn from a very young age. Children love it for its beautiful sounds and small size that gives it a toy-like appearance.

Are there different types of kalimbas?

Yes, we mainly distinguish two categories of kalimbas: those with a resonance box (for a fuller sound) and those without a box (very portable). There are also models with different numbers of tines: 8, 15, 17 tines, etc.

What styles of music can be played on the kalimba?

The kalimba is a very versatile instrument that lends itself to a wide variety of musical genres: traditional African music of course, but also folk, blues, world music, relaxing sounds, and meditation.

Is the kalimba a complicated instrument for beginners?

No, quite the opposite! With its maneuverability and limited number of tines, the kalimba is one of the very first instruments recommended for beginners of any age. It's an excellent "discovery instrument."

Does the kalimba have therapeutic virtues?

Yes, the soothing and enchanting sounds of the kalimba contribute to relaxation, meditation, and stress relief. Many use it in a therapeutic setting for its relaxing and anti-stress properties.