This sub-site is a place where you can find information and advice on the instruments that I produce. If you have any questions or suggestions, please write to me, i will answer as quick as I can.
- The newly purchased an music instrument.
- Hardness (stiffness) lamellas.
- The size of an instrument (boards, lamellas).
- Tuning lamellas.
- Lamellas forged and "rectangular".
- Fatigue of fingers.
- From where to get the tunes?
What is the difference
- Prices instruments.
- How to care for mbira, karimba, kalimba?
This issue is very important because there is a huge variety of sounds and layouts of sounds, which creates huge possibilities but sometimes limits our opportunities. Eg. the sequence of sounds can be like in a piano, in order to can play well-known European tracks. The order can also be completely mingled as in mbira or karimba which have a well-defined order of sounds. This sequence makes it easier to play traditional tracks. If you want to play with friends you should buy instrument which will be compatible with instruments of your friends.
However, if you want to play alone instrument in any tuning will be good.
You can tune your instrument using hearing, or using tuner. On properly tuned instrument you can play traditional African songs, known European compositions, jazz, or experimental music. When you need to choose an instrument, you should consider question: which sounds you will needing to to play music that you want to play? It is worth remembering that there is no ideal instrument such which can play anything you want. Sometimes the best solution is to have a few instruments differently tuned.
While choosing an instrument you can also be guided by appearance of this instrument. And then play everything what instrument and the fingers will offer. Indulging yourself in carefree improvisation. Freely bring out melodie or rhythms from the instrument.[back]
It should be tuned. Despite that the instrument had been tuned before shipment, after unpacking something can sound strange. This may be due to eg. incorrect delivery handling. In such a situation you should contact the sender to get advice on how to proceed with the instrument.
In this case, you can also tune your instrument by yourself. The rule is simple and described on page Pracownia (advice no. 5). You can also send your instrument to Pracownia, and there will be tuned.
In the case of strong detuning or significant damage, fees may apply. If our newly purchased instrument musical tunes correctly (and it's more possible), you can record the sound of this instrument. This will give the opportunity to restore the proper tuning in a situation where your instrument will lose his tuning. While recording it is important to describe every single sound, you should say which lamella you are striking in this moment. If you skip this information the recording could be useless. After that, while listening to the recording you will be able to compare sounds of the instrument and sounds from the recording. It is also good idea to record video. You should also remember that newly purchased an instrument is going to played out. If, at the beginning an instrument plays well, then it will play better if you will play on him. The rule is simple. The more you play, the better sound.[back]
Lamellas can be hard, medium-hard or soft. Selecting
the lamellas of sufficient rigidity is important,
because you play using fingers, that have the right,
during playing an instrument, to get tired. Especially
when we play an instrument containing hard lamellas.
Well-made hard lamellas are loud, both in the game
without resonator and in the resonator, but sometimes
playing on them require more strength and you have to
get used to it. Soft lamellas are more delicate and
easier while you playing on them. They are quieter than
the harder (stiffer) lamellas, and fingers are less
tired during the game. Massive lamellas, made of thick
wire also have the advantage that a very tightly and
motionless stuck in the fastenings, so if you striking
them very hard or carry your instrument without the
package eg .: in a bag or backpack, the lamellas will
not moves and do not get slack.
It is important to match an instrument to the size of his hand, the length and width of the fingers. The size of the board is dependent on how much we put on it. Its width is determined by the number and size of lamellas. For example karimbas have eight lamellas at the bottom row and seven at the upper row (together 15 lamellas) or ten at the bottom row and nine at the upper row (together 19 lamellas). The Boards are wide up to 16 cm and they are easy to use. One can easily reach all lamellas with your thumb. However, in mbiras number of lamellas ranges from 22 to 28 (or more), and this implies the use of a very huge boards sometimes of from 18 to 24 cm wide (and sometimes much more). Of course, a specific model of mbira can be done in different size, eg. big for musician who have a large hands and long fingers, or a small for child who have a tiny hand (eg.15 cm wide). Small mbiras usually start from very high sounds, so they do not have a very low sounds (because of small size of the board). Big Mbiras often begin with significantly lower sounds and end at the very low bass (they can sometimes start from high sounds).[back]
Distance from one lamella to the other is also
important. Lamellas placed too close together can make
that the musician will be randomly hooking the
neighboring lamellas, which negatively affect to the
melodies. To prevent this, a good option is to see and
try the instrument before buying, or buy one which has
a lamellas in large increments. When buying from a
distance, you can send to the seller, dimension of his
hand, which will give possibility to choose the
appropriate parameters of instrument. Most of mbiras
have this kind of construction: lamellas narrow and
tightly squeezed (especially lamellas from the right
side), this is the intended effect and its aim is to
get such narrow board as it's possible. The lamellas can be spread, but
then you have to use larger board. And it is
uncomfortable. The bigger board, the harder maintain it
and the fingers have to pace a greater distance. This
shows that, if you want to play the lamellofons, you
must get used to to some disadvantages. Sometimes the
instrument can be very small, such as the Kalimba in
the picture that has dimensions of 8 cm long and 5 cm
wide (pocket version). A small amount of narrow
lamellas and a large spacing between them, makes that
on such a small instrument can play small children and
adults. Strengths for those small instruments are small
size, weight, portability and sometimes lower
Lamellas are formed so as to have a determined length at the specified sound. Lamellas made in this way can be tuned, but I would not recommend big change of their destination. Tuning the lamellas takes place by changing the length of the vibrating element. To do this, stock up on something heavy eg .: a small hammer, a piece of wood and a piece of wire. In order to tuning higher sound you should use hammer and piece of wood and hit in lamella, on her wider part. The lamella should slipped higher about 1-3 milimeters. Hitting through piece of wood guarantee that lamella won't be damaged. In order to tune lower sound you should use hammer and a small piece of wire, because you need to hit in lamella on her narrower part. You should remember to not bend the lamella, you can't use too much force. When you bend your lamellas and after that straighten it, it could lose clean sound.
Lamellas sometimes can become looser. This may be due
to many factors, such as:
- an instrument is new and all the elements are still matching
- the instrument is often, intensively used
- you used excessive force while playing the lamellas, then the lamellas may deform(as with every instrument, playing the lamellofons you must play carefully)
- not taking care of the instrument or stored in unsuitable conditions, eg .: excessive humidity, high temperature.
Loose lamella may have tone deaf or unpleasant buzz or could during the playing change the height of her sound. Such a lamella should be pull out and using pliers or other practical tools to bend it in such a way that when re-installing it will lay in tightly and immobile. Then put in and tune lamella in accordance with its original sound. To do that you need to hit using hammer and piece of wood in the wider side of the lamella and put the lamella on the board. Removing lamella If an instrument is kept such as during the game and lamellas with their wider part are facing in our direction, you should put them forward movement from one another. Sometimes if lamellas stuck tightly you must also pull the adjacent lamella. Before remove lamella you should determine exactly where it is pressed by the upper rod and, after pulling out at this place you should do the bulge so that after inserting the lamella it will sit even more tight of the upper rod. You must remember not to remove the lamella upside down
The sounds of the instrument can be read by the electronic device named 'TUNER'. It is easy to use, and a basic tuner is quite cheap. The one I use is about 5 years old and still running. So if you buy simple but good quality tuner, it can serve you very long. Tuner makes it easier to identify the sounds of lamellas, thanks to him we can save them, to later be able to use records and properly tune the instrument. This device is particularly useful for beginners. It is worth to buy tuner indicating the chromatic scale, and at the same time having a metronome with which you can practice an equal game.[back]
Lamellas forged are those that arise through flatten steel wire. In such a way to first end of the wire retained stiffness, and the second end gained flexibility and possessed desired sound. It is a process that requires a lot of strength and absorbing a lot of time. For example to do one medium-sized lamella for small Karimba it is needed about 120 hammer blows. If you multiply the number of strokes on the amount of lamellas, eg. 15 then you'll have 1,800 hammer blows. The hammer blow must be very precise because a small mistake causes damage to the lamella, which makes it at a loss.
Lamellas are made of wire of different thickness and hardness. For the production of large (long and wide) lamellas that should sound low, thick wire is used (eg low sounds in Mbira). These factors make the price of instruments with large lamellas are high. Knowledge of the details of their formation helps to understand the valuation of the instrument.
Lamellas forged are usually tightly mounted. Which makes an instrument is more resistant to detuning and during the travel is in better condition.
There are different styles of forging, lamellas may have a different shape and stiffness. For the same amount of sound may sound a little bit different. Because of that instruments offer a great diversity in terms of sound.[back]
Lamellas "rectangular" are usually the same throughout its length, width and thickness. Material to this kind of lamellas can be purchased in the spool in a huge quantity. Further preparation involves trimming to the correct length and rounding ends. Work on the preparation of such lamellas is undoubtedly lighter and shorter than the forging. Rectangular lamellas sounds far quieter than those forged, hence almost always they are placed on resonating boxes. Weakness of rectangular lamellas is also this that if they are having a uniform thickness over whole length, they easily moving in their mountings and can become looser. Which can cause an unpleasant buzzing sound and frequent detuning the instrument.
It is worth mentioning is that the use of the instrument by young children, should take place under the watchful eye of caregivers. If lamellas (rectangular or forged) loosely stuck in the retainer, it may happen that the baby is able to remove them and use in an unsafe way. Therefore, instruments for children should have lamellas very tightly fitted into the mountings, and have strongly rounded edges of the boards and other components.
It is a natural phenomenon that accompanied many musicians while playing musical instruments. While play the lamellofons it may occur when you'll playing a long time without the break or use instrument not matching to your hands. It is important to keep your hands become accustomed to the instrument gradually. From my own experience I remember how my fingers slowly and very awkwardly moved between lamellas, and during the time gained speed and precision. Practice makes perfect. Ends of fingers sometimes get tired. Dealing with this is simple - you should strike the lamellas using your nails, then you can play loud and long. Sometimes also apply some kind of cap on the tip of the fingers having a claw at its end, which can hit lamellas. Personally, I did not use this solution so difficult for me to say if it worth to use it.[back]
Saved melodies played on mbiras, karimbas and kalimbas can be found in the section entitled 'Tabulature'. A good option is to visit youtube where you can see how others are playing on these instruments. Videos can be very helpful when learning playing, because we can hear and watch at the same time, and we see which finger hits the lamella (this is good especially when we do not have tabulatures). I also recommend to contacting with musicians who forming music on lamellophones, there are chances that they will share some tabulatures and recordings. More about them in the section 'Musicians'. It is worth to play compositions created by themselves, do not be afraid that you don't be able - you are able only sometimes you don't know it ;)
You can also take advantage of opportunities to participate in the workshop conducted at the Pracownia Promyk. The workshop is for all, and its aim is to show the ease of use and learning playing the karimba. Details are given in the section 'Offer'.[back]
The difference is large and primarily concerned with how the lamellas are tuned - it determines the possibilities of repertoire that can be created on a particular instrument.
Karimba has a precise order and composition of sound: three tones in the top row are repeated and two from across the octave are missed - this is an intended effect, causes that karimba offers the opportunity to play compositions that sound exotic.
Kalimba may have a different, even quite crazy
tuning. The order and amount of sounds can be
accidental or shaped so as to be able to play an
instrument known compositions. Kalimba can be applied
when, want to play familiar songs or want to have the
full range of sounds, a full octave or even a few
octaves. Kalimba scale can also be chromatic.
An interesting example of the differences between karimba and kalimba is the fact that when you have kalimba which have 11 lamellas (or 15 lamellas) comprising sounds a '' g '' f '' e '' d ', c', h 'and' g ', f' e '(15 extra d', c ', h, a), you can play Christmas carols, other well known songs e.g. "ODE TO JOY" and simple melodies. At karimba listed here melodies you can't play beacuse of the tuning. the melody can not. Karimba provides a different repertoire. Interesting that on the karimba you can play some simple melodies e.g. "Three Blind Mice.", "Brother John".If you have problems with recognition does an instrument that you have is karimba or kalimba, you should look at tuning. Karimba has specific tuning. What you can see in the section 'Karimba'.
They are different and depend on many factors, which are sometimes difficult to spot at first glance.
1. Value of the materials from which an instrument is
Price of wood depends on whether the wood is domestic or imported from distant countries. A various kinds of metals also can be used in instruments. Sometimes colorful metals have bigger price.
2. The size of the instrument.
Lamellas have the biggest impact on the price, especially their size. They are forged, so the producing of large lamella takes more time and requires more force than producing small. I mean length, width and thickness of the lamella. Also, producing more accurate lamella requires greater precision as well as time. And here the small lamellas can also have an impact on the higher price of the instrument. Lamellas can also be made from hard stainless steel, which is causing that the time of producing is significantly longer but durability of the instrument is also longer.
3. Other details affecting costs:
carving on wood, different technique impregnation of wood (or lack thereof), more or less complicated mounting of lamellas, polishing ends of lamellas (it improving convenience of the playing - polishing is available on request).
4. Second hand instruments sometimes have higher prices than the new, due to the fact that the instruments over the years were play out, and they play better than new. Sometimes I sell instruments on which I play personally. They are often precisely tuned. They are special because the work with the instrument takes a very long time. And time plays here an important role.[back]
The most important thing is not to expose the instrument to excessive moisture or water. Lamellas in the basic steel version may become covered with tarnish or mild rust when the moisture is very high or the instrument is exposed to it for too long. It is worth remembering to that wrapping the instrument with a fabric (e.g. for transport), make sure that the fabric is completely dry. Wet or damp may cause tarnish or rust. This topic does not apply to instruments with stainless steel plates.
In a newly purchased instrument, you can also soak a piece of fabric with olive oil or a stick with a cotton swab, gently grease the surface of the plaques and then wipe the plaques almost dry. A thin film that will be great at protecting steel against corrosion. It is often the case that in places where we touch the plaques with our fingers, they are greased automatically from our fingers.
The second factor may be too high or too low a temperature. Most often this applies to fresh instruments, i.e. ones in which some elements of the structure are still arranged, matching each other. The effect of the elements adapting to each other may be that some of the metal plates will have to be removed from the clamp and slightly bent and then slipped back. I described the tuning topic 'here'.
Another important issue is to be careful about the instrument during storage and transport. Lamellae have a limited range of deflection and if it is exceeded they can permanently deform. This can make the game less comfortable or even impossible. They may lose the correct sound. I am referring to the situation when the instrument or a plate is overly pressed.
It is worth remembering that if a child is to play an instrument, a parent or guardian should be present all the time while the child is playing because children may e.g. dismantle the plaques and in many instruments with plaques it is possible. And the plaques are often thin and can pose a threat used in the wrong way.[back]
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