I recently received the following message from an Etsy user.
“I am building a kalimba and have never touched one nor played one. There are narrow keys/tines and wider ones and there are a couple thicknesses. How do I choose? And thank you for being willing to field questions! :)”
Here is my response, which I realized afterwards I could just paste and post right here onto my nyKalimba blog so everyone can make use of these ideas.
“This is a great question, and it is one that I have long been meaning to write about on my blog. To make a sturdy kalimba, it is important that the tines are well secured to the sound board, otherwise they will buzz and rattle or have a dull sound.
So, to answer your question, the keys should be chosen to compliment the soundboard (and resonator if you are building a box or using a guard). Also, the tensioning system must be considered.
Here are some questions to ask yourself when designing your kalimba:
-Am I using hardwood or softwood? How dense is it, also how thick, long, and wide is the wood?
-How will I be holding the tension rod/bar/tube down? By screwing directly into the soundboard, drilling through it and using nuts, using a grounding bar, another way?
-How many keys do I want and what is the range of notes in terms of deepness or highness of pitch?
-What are my choices of materials for keys?
I hope this is helpful, let me know if you have any more questions. If you give me more info about what you were planning on doing, then I can give you a more precise answer.
I have experimented with countless combinations of woods, key materials, and tensioning systems. I have learned what I like, made more failed attempts than I can remember, and I continue to experiment as I acquire new materials, expand my knowledge, and improve my skills. Let me know if you would like me to recommend a particular design for you to start with or base your own design on.”
I am extending my offer of assistance to any one who visits this site. If you have any questions, I will be glad to help!