MUSICAL INSTRUMENTS > PERCUSSIONS > FINGER PIANO - KALIMBA-M'BIRA

There are many ways to build this traditional African instrument.  Here’s the Bash the Trash way:

MUSICAL INSTRUMENT BUILDING - THE PROCEDURE!

YOU WILL NEED

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  • A block of wood - we like to use a chunk of 1/2 in - 3/4 in plywood

  • Bobby pins - the big ones sound best, but you can use both sizes for maximum pitch change

  • Tools:

    • Safety goggles

    • Pliers

    • Staple gun with 3/8 inch staples

    • Hammer

1.

KALIMBA

Break the bobby pins by crushing the bent ends with the pliers.

2.

BUILDING A KALIMBA

Lay the longest bobby pin on the left side of your wood, put on your safety goggles, and with adult assistance use the staple gun to staple down the side without the rubber tip.  Use two staples close together, and then, with safety goggles back on and with the help of an adult, hammer the staples tight into the wood.   Bend the rubber-tip end of the pin up a bit.

3.

kalimba

With your goggles on and with the help of an adult, staple and hammer down the remainder of your bobby pin halves, being sure to staple them closer and closer to the rubber tip as you work your way to the right hand side of the instrument.  This will ensure that each will have a higher pitch.  Smaller bobby pins can be put at the high end as well.

TO PLAY

KALIMBA

Play by pushing down the rubber-tipped end slightly, and slide your finger off, letting the rubber tip bounce back up to vibrate.  

 

You can tune the pins by bending them up or down, hammering them down a bit more, adding extra staples to shorten the vibrating length, etc.

Homemade Kalimba Finger Piano

Finger Pianos, like strings, need a resonating body (like a box) to get the best sound.  Without it, your instrument makes tiny plinking sounds.  But put it on a big corrugated cardboard box, or a big chunk of styrofoam, and suddenly your instrument is making big beautiful sounds!