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How to tune the kalimba or mbira

By far the most important thing you can do to keep your instrument in good condition is to tune your instrument regularly. This is of course is very pleasant for yourself, but it is also important for the life of your instrument. If people tell you that this instrument does not have to be tuned, do not believe them. Everything needs maintenance, every musical instrument, including your Mbira or your Kalimba.

It is quite a challenge to have these instruments sound as they should sound, you want your instrument to sound like when you heard your own instrument for the first time. It is a matter of making very small adjustments, and constantly watching and listening to see if each key sounds right or wrong. This process means that you might have a good sounding instrument again within 5 minutes, but in some cases it can take longer because, for example, the instrument has fallen and multiple keys are out of tune.

After all, each key must be in exactly the right place to give the resonance and the correct pitch. Tuning your instrument is a matter of practicing, practicing and practicing again. It is difficult to get the pitch of all the keys correctly the first time. This requires practice, so do not be afraid if it does not work immediately. But try again.

In this video Dingiswayo Juma explains how to 1. tighten a loose key 2. tune a mbira / kalimba key:

There are two important things in the correct tuning of your Kalimba or Mbira:

Firstly, you need to know at which pitch you want everything to be tuned. In what tuning is the instrument built and what is the pitch of each key? This is important to know when buying, as this is fixed on most kalimba and mbira instruments and cannot be changed after purchasing the instrument.

Secondly, you must have the right tools and place them in the right position when tuning to ensure you are not damaging your instrument. If it is your first time, get someone experienced with kalimba/mbira tuning to assist you. 

If you would like further assistance with the tuning of your instrument or have any questions feel free to contact us or send us an email to

Tuning diagrams

The following images help you to tune your instrument with each key at the correct pitch. Click on the image to open it or right click and choose 'save as' or 'save link as' to download the outline (jpg file).

22/23-key Mbira layout:

Mbira G Tuning 


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