With its Southern African origin, the Kalimba is a traditionally made idiophone usually tuned to a major key that could be adjusted. Its music exudes purity, warmth and soulfulness. It is perfect for a quiet and reflective solo in a studio production.
This article focuses on infusing the kalimba sounds with other instruments in a production. For this to happen, one must take caution to ensure that notes from other instruments do not overshadow the quiet melody of the Kalimba.
We have carefully designed Kalimba instruments for professional and studio use.
Like any other studio production session, here are a few tips to help you infuse the Kalimba into your production.
Practice, Practice, Practice
You need to become familiar with the Kalimba. Practice, they say makes perfect. You should consider using our music tutorials and a lightweight Kalimba if you are a beginner to get a feel of the instrument and how to create music with it.
Consider practicing daily, understanding the instrument and where in your sound it will fit in without displacing the other instruments or sounding out of place.
Next step would be to create the music you want using the guide and a Kalimba tuned to the most suitable key. Traditional Kalimba music involves cycles of polyrhythmic patterns. A typical composition is usually made up of 48 beats organised into four phrases containing 12 beats. Time signatures are not that clear to transcribe as Kalimbas vary in frequencies and tunings. However, we have tutorials to help with this.Consider recording the vocals with the Kalimba music to ensure harmony between the two. This is encouraged but not essential (further discussed within the article) to get proper recordings of the Kalimba for the overall sound production.
Get a Solid Foundation
The foundation of any production is very important. Think of your best track? Imagine it without a bass line. Notice how ‘all over the place’ it sounds.
The most common foundation instruments are the drums and piano and they do very well with the Kalimba. Before you begin infusing kalimba sounds while creating your instrumental production, be sure that you have your foundation in place. The foundation is usually in a loop. You could use a pre-recording or sample to create this.
If you already have a sound in mind for the Kalimba, that is no problem, the good thing about the drums is that you can create music with it however you want. If you do not have the Kalimba music ready, consider creating it at this point to get a feel of how it will blend in with the production.
Ensure the bass line doesn’t sound too thick so the quiet warmth of the Kalimba is not overshadowed when added. Remember, the Kalimba is not made to be awfully loud.
Give it Rhythm
Once you have a foundation in place, picking a rhythm comes next. Drums, pianos and acoustic guitars could be used to create the rhythm. You could layer various instruments to get the perfect melody you want as well.
This is the first point that the kalimba could be introduced. It may get lost in the various sounds so if you do not want that, consider leaving it out for now. To amplify the sounds of the Kalimba, the calabash Deze (link to product) may be used.
P.S Another good rhythm instrument is the acoustic guitar. This is a percussion instrument just like the Kalimba and hence there may be a cacophony of sounds. Try changing the key to match that of the Kalimba.
Sprinkle in the Melodies and Colours
At this point you have a nice sounding production, still raw.
This is the second point to add the Kalimba music if it wasn’t introduced before. The Kalimba could be introduced with the lead vocals.
Trying mixing now. Adjust each instrument and arrange your production to cover each part of the vocal. You could play around with other instruments at these points. The Kalimba is quite versatile and the best thing about music is easy manipulation.
Other Tips for the Kalimba in the Studio
- A SOLO MAYBE?
If you want to better appreciate the beauty of the Kalimba sounds, you may consider a solo. The Kalimba can be used to accentuate the vocals at a certain part of the track by being the only instrument in the background.
Now, this is something you will usually see with a piano or lead guitar, go for something new with the Kalimba!
- CONSIDER AFROBEATS
With its African origin, this lamellophone is the best instrument to play with the Kalangu (Talking drum) of West Africa. It gives off the best traditional sounds of Fuji music, peculiar to Africa and excellent for dancehall music
- LO-FI Production
The Kalimba is also a very good fit for Lo-fi music production as it produces sound at a frequency suitable for Lo-fi and thus would blend in with the other instruments.
Looking for inspiration? Björk, Pharaoh, Earth, Wind and Fire are a few of those that infuse the beauty of the Kalimba into their music.