10 Best Kalimba To Buy In 2021

by | Jan, 2021 | Exotic Instruments

Top 10 Kalimba Review 2021

 

Every New Year is the time for new beginnings. Are you looking for the best kalimba to buy in 2021 and finally take your first steps into playing music?

Perhaps you already are a musician looking to extend your repertoire with a simple, great instrument. Whatever the case, you came to the right place for two reasons: you’ll learn everything about kalimba playing, and you’ll get the best options to buy today.

I know, you already went online and typed “best kalimbas to buy in 2021” and a zillion results appeared. Don’t worry, we got your back; let’s divide our picks into categories.

Lights, music, curtains… let’s meet the contestants!

 

Our top 10 best kalimba choices in 2021

 

Best kalimbas for beginners

  • 17 Key African Wood Kalimba Thumb Piano
  • 17 Key Solid Mahogany Kalimba Thumb Piano
  • 17 Key Kalimba Thumb Piano & Lesson Book

 

 

Best Bang for the buck

  • 17-tine Bright-blue Kalimba
  • Kmise KKB-1 17-key finger piano
  • Gecko K17MBR 17-tine kalimba

 

 

Best professional kalimbas

  • Moozica 21-keys solid Koa kalimba K21KS
  • AKLOT MI2620-AKM 17 keys thumb piano
  • Moozica K17BL 17-keys finger piano

 

 

The runner-up

  • AKLOT MI2891 Acrylic kalimba

 

Photo Title Buy
10 Best Kalimba To Buy In 2021 19 Kalimba 17 Keys, AKLOT Transparent Acrylic Thumb Piano Note Carved Starter Finger Piano with Kalimba Case Tune Hammer Study Booklet Stickers Check Pricing

 

No matter if you are a seasoned musician, a beginner, or even simply curious; buckle up because you’re in for a kalimba ride. The best kalimba to buy is just coming your way.

Let’s do this!

 

First things first, before we get deeper into each candidate, let’s understand the basics.

A kalimba is an instrument originally from Zimbabwe that has been part of the country’s culture for millenniums. It is considered a lamellaphone, part of the idiophone family (in case you don’t know what they are, check it here and here).

The number of keys can be as little as 5 in the mini kalimba (that fits in your pocket) all the way to 21 in the large kalimba. These tines are usually tuned to different notes and plucked with the thumbs to create melodies and chords.

 

5 keys finger piano

5 keys finger piano

 

kalimba keys closeup

17 keys finger piano

 

 

Although the wooden kalimba is an ancient instrument, it became notorious for the western world thanks to Hugh Tracey with the so-called Hugh Tracey kalimba.

 

The Hugh Tracey popularized kalimba piano features a slightly different tuning that is more Western-friendly than the original model. He was indeed responsible for commercializing many African instruments outside the continent and making them visible to other parts of the planet.

 

Even though Tracey was the one who ignited the fire for this kind of kalimba thumb piano, the one bringing it to the mainstream was Thomas Mapfumo (you can see him in action here). He managed to make music in the 80s mixing traditional sounds like the kalimba finger piano and modern ones like the electric guitar and drums.

 

The kalimba is a great instrument that is easy to play and produces sounds that are as soothing as they are entertaining. Let’s see some more info about it before we analyze every candidate.

 

What’s the difference between a kalimba and a mbira?

You might hear or read in some places "kalimba mbira", but is it the same? Well, what we know today as a kalimba used to be called mbira for its creators. Later on, as it became more popular in the western world, the name changed to "kalimba", and nowadays they are used as synonyms. So, yes, a kalimba is a mbira.

Kalimba for beginners, a great place to start.

Why is a kalimba a great instrument for music beginners?

 

10 Best Kalimba To Buy In 2021 20

 

Well, the answer to that question is very simple: because it has a very gentle learning curve.

Unlike other harmonic instruments capable of creating songs and melodies (piano, guitar, etc.), the kalimba is a remarkably simple instrument that is easy to learn and take around.

Thus, you’ll be making music with it in no time!

The quick Kalimba buying guide.

You might come across a kalimba for sale and scratch your head thinking:

 

"Is this the best kalimba I can buy for this price?"

 

After being in the music business for so long I’ve seen it more times than I can count; people buy instruments out of geographical closeness rather than quality, or sound.

 

I understand that if you type something like "kalimba Amazon" or "best kalimba for beginners" on Google, results are overwhelming. Nevertheless, you shouldn’t buy the first thing that comes your way either.

 

With that in mind and to help you make an informed decision, this is our brief buying guide, so you know what means what in kalimba land.

 

How many notes should your first kalimba have?

The first question that arises to one’s mind is about the size: should you get a big, pro kalimba with 21 tines or should you just go for a pocket model of 5 tines? Well, let me explain to you why the answer is none of those.

 

You should go to a 17-tine kalimba because of two reasons:

 

  • It is the standard. By this, I mean that most tutorials, song tablatures, and info you’ll find online and offline is going to be directed towards that kind of Kalimba.

 

  • It features everything you need. You’ll find all the notes you need to learn and play all your favorite songs with a 17-tine kalimba.

 

Why do you need to buy a wooden kalimba as your first one?

I know what you might be thinking "this is 2021 and acrylic is just as good". Well, after playing for many years, let me tell you that nothing has been invented yet that can match the feel of a wooden musical instrument.

 

Don’t get me wrong, I own and love acrylic kalimbas; I even have a crystal kalimba! The thing is that those are different flavors I added to my arsenal but my first and true love is still made of mahogany.

 

10 Best Kalimba To Buy In 2021 21

 

Learn to master the original kalimba sound and then expand as much as you like. In case you are curious about how they sound like; you can check this video featuring a popular Ed Sheeran song.

 

Hollow body or solid body kalimba?

Kalimbas, besides coming in different shapes, sizes, colors, and materials can also be solid or hollow. What is the difference between them? Moreover, which one should you get? Let’s break it down so you can see the difference.

 

Hollow body kalimba

The hollow body kalimbas feature a soundhole making the volume of the instrument quite louder and making room for natural harmonic overtones to appear. This is to say that notes will sustain longer and will differentiate more. This type of kalimba is great for learning how to play note by note and practicing precision.

 

Solid-body kalimba

Kalimbas with no soundhole are planks of wood that resonate when you pluck the tine. This type sounds flatter, with less volume, and is great for those playing a style in which strumming is more common than plucking single notes.

 

They are also a great choice for those needing an electric kalimba because the absence of a sound hole is better to avoid feedback.

 

Both models have pros and cons, I would suggest you go for a hollow body kalimba as your first instrument and then add (or move on to) a solid body kalimba.

 

The Best 10 Kalimbas to buy in 2021

 

Music, please! The time has come for you to meet each of our contestants in a deep review. We went the extra mile for you and tested each one to tell you exactly what you need to know about them.

 

Read on, choose well, and pluck the tine away!

 

Our beginner’s choices

Let’s start with the beginner’s choices. These are ideal for those who are in the search of their first kalimba.

 

The crucial aspect of a beginner kalimba is not only the price but also the playability. By this, I mean that a cheap kalimba is not necessarily a kalimba for beginners.

 

A kalimba for beginners must be easy to use and appealing to the player. In other words, it is hard enough to start playing a musical instrument to also struggle with it.

 

If you attempt to learn on the cheapest kalimba around, you’ll probably abandon it because of how it sounds and feels. A good beginner kalimba should sound well, feel great, and stay in tune.

 

17 Key African Wood Kalimba Thumb Piano

Let’s start with a solid-mahogany, hollow-body, kalimba that is sold by Newlam.

 

This model is particularly resonant because mahogany is a dark-timbre wood that makes the perfect ground for the chime of the tines. One of the best things about its design is definitely the hand rest on both sides for playing long hours.

 

Photo Title Buy
10 Best Kalimba To Buy In 2021 1 Kalimba Thumb Piano 17 Keys, Portable Mbira Finger Piano Gifts for Kids and Adults Beginners Check Pricing

 

On the good side, the design is ergonomic and comfortable and sounds very good for its price range. This value-pack kalimba includes:

  • Tuning Hammer
  • Flannelette Bag
  • Finger Covers
  • Cleaning Cloth
  • Instruction Book
  • Thumb Piano Key Color Stickers

 

Furthermore, they even engraved the notes on the tines for better eye-to-hand coordination. Finally, the soundhole on the front and back are great to practice that wah-wah sound we all love so much.

 

On the not-so-good side of things, seasoned players will find that the critical E3 and D2 tines sound kind of low in volume and resonance. This is proper to the price range and common to all models in this category.

 

This is a great first kalimba instrument for anyone starting out and a decent backup if you already play.

 

What we liked

  • Mahogany body
  • Ergonomic design
  • Included accessory package

 

Not so much

  • E3 and D2 tines sound a tad flat

 

17 Key Solid Mahogany Kalimba Thumb Piano

The same brand as the above model, this is another all-mahogany instrument that sounds as good as it looks. Finding a good quality kalimba at this price range is not an easy endeavor, but the people at Horse did a good job.

 

Photo Title Buy
10 Best Kalimba To Buy In 2021 2 Kalimba 17 Keys Thumb Piano, Easy to Learn Portable Musical Instrument Gifts for Kids Adult Beginners with Tuning Hammer and Study Instruction. Known as Mbira, Wood Finger Piano Check Pricing

 

The great touch of having engraved, ore metal tines is just one more reason to make this kalimba a great pick.

 

On the good side, the kalimba sounds and feels great. Indeed, the smoothness of the mahogany and the mellow sound of the ore metal tines make you want to play it. Furthermore, the accessory included in the package makes this a value-pack kalimba.

Included Accessories:

  • Flannelette Bag
  • Study Manual
  • Tuning Hammer
  • Cleaning Cloth
  • Finger Covers
  • Color & Tune Stickers
  • White Gift Box

 

Finally, I enjoyed the finger covers and think they are a must for beginners.

 

On the not-so-good side, the case is replaced with a soft carrying bag which is good, but not great. Also, the ergonomic design of the previous model is dearly missed.

 

If you are looking for a great entry-level kalimba to learn on (and you are not planning any trips), this might be it. If you want to see it in action, after a long speech and unboxing, you can hear "Falling Slowly" from the soundtrack of the movie "Once" played on it here.

 

What we liked

  • Finger covers included
  • Learn-to-play material included
  • Solid mahogany construction

 

Not so much

  • No ergonomic design
  • Soft carrying bag

 

 

17 Key Kalimba Thumb Piano & Lesson Book

This model of kalimba manufactured by MiaoYin is a great beginner’s pick. The three-layer mahogany body with matte wax is both, resistant and resonant. Plus, the loud sound is enough to play with your friends and a ukulele or any similar instrument.

 

Photo Title Buy
10 Best Kalimba To Buy In 2021 3 Kalimba 17 Keys Thumb Piano with Study Instruction and Tune Hammer, Portable Mbira Sanza African Wood Finger Piano, Gift for Kids Adult Beginners Professional Check Pricing

 

On the good side, the layered wood adds firmness and makes it a sturdier instrument. This becomes a paramount quality when you are thinking of making a gift for a kid or a youngster.

 

Solid-wood, hollow kalimbas sound better but tend to be more fragile, susceptible to breaking and having cracks upon minor accidents. The bundle is complete with the following:

  • Instructions
  • Cloth Bag
  • Red and green stickers
  • Tuning Hammer
  • Polishing cloth

 

On the not-so-good side, the tines tend to go out of tune rather fast. Although it is a common issue to most of the affordable, beginner-oriented kalimbas, it can be annoying. Also, the absence of a hard case or padded bag makes it more fragile in the long run.

For those looking for an affordable, entry-level kalimba that sounds good and does the job, this can be a great candidate.

 

What we liked

  • Three-ply mahogany construction
  • Matte wax finish
  • Good accessories bundle

 

Not so much

  • No case or padded bag included
  • Goes out of tune easily

 

Best bang for the buck kalimbas

This might be the toughest category for any kalimba online. Indeed, it is the toughest category for any musical instrument online. The models you are about to see are the ones that offer the best bang for the buck, thus, the best you can buy on a budget. It was hard work, but we managed to narrow down the list to these beautiful three instruments.

 

17-tine Bright-blue Kalimba

Yes, you read it right! We’re going Technicolor! This finger piano is an all-mahogany, regular African kalimba featured in a fantastic, blue-dyed tone that shows the grain in the wood and looks great.

 

Photo Title Buy
10 Best Kalimba To Buy In 2021 7 Kalimba Thumb Piano 17 Keys with mahogany Wood Portable Mbira Finger Piano Gifts for Kids and piano Beginners Professional (Bright blue) Check Pricing

 

On the good side, the kalimba is well-designed, well-built, and features all you need to get started right from the box. The included booklet to learn how to play is very helpful and so is the tuning hammer. Finally, the feel of the hollow box is just right and the ergonomics are perfectly designed for the thumbs to feel comfortable.

 

On the not-so-good side, this kalimba sounds great but isn´t as loud as the competition. Also, the absence of any kind of carrying bag, case, or pouch is dearly missed.

 

If you want a good-sounding, cute kalimba that stands from the rest and does the job, this might be it.

 

What we liked

  • Beautiful color
  • Flawless craftsmanship
  • Solid material to learn how to play

 

Not so much

  • No carrying bag
  • Sounds a little quiet compared to others

 

Kmise KKB-1 17-key finger piano

Back to brown; this time we’re going electric! This second model adds a piezo pickup to the usual bundle so you can amplify the kalimba sound through any amplifier (or go pedal-crazy like this guy).

 

Photo Title Buy
10 Best Kalimba To Buy In 2021 8 Kalimba 17 Key Finger Piano Marib Mahogany with Padded Gig Bag Tuner Hammer By Kmise (Mahogany) Check Pricing

 

On the good side, the kalimba is solid mahogany and feels smooth to the touch. The craftsmanship is flawless, and it has a "handmade" feel that shines through. Moving to the sound department, it sounds great for the price range both plugged and unplugged.

Also, the triple-hole design adds some dimension to the overall sound that is very welcome. Finally, the case is simply great. Indeed, it is sturdy enough to endure almost anything from getting wet to jumping up and down on a bus.

 

On the not-so-good side of things, the E3 (always the most difficult tine) is somewhat hard to tune and to get a good sound from. Although this is kind of annoying, it is common to most of this category as well.

 

If you are looking for a greatly-crafted instrument to learn how to play and take everywhere with you, this might be it.

 

What we liked

  • Piezo pickup included
  • Hard case
  • Flawless craftsmanship

Not so much

  • E3 tine is hard to tune

 

Gecko K17MBR 17-tine kalimba

Buying a Gecko kalimba is ensuring a quality standard in the instrument we are getting. Indeed, the brand is highly praised by beginners and professionals alike and this model is no exception.

 

Photo Title Buy
10 Best Kalimba To Buy In 2021 9 GECKO Kalimba 17 Keys Thumb Piano with Waterproof Protective Box,Tune Hammer and Study Instruction,Portable Mbira Sanza Finger Piano,Gift for Kids Adult Beginners Professional Check Pricing

 

On the good side, the enormous effort that the company invested in the learning material is worth noting. The songs in the April Yang kalimba book are compiled to learn while having fun and the added theory from the instruction book might just complete the best learning combo you’ll find.

 

Plus, they added QR codes for YouTube videos in which everything is properly demonstrated. Besides the learning material, the hard and soft bag, stickers, and tuning hammer make this the perfect starter's combo.

 

On the not-so-good side of things, the furthest three tines on each side are not quite as resonant as the rest. Other than that, it is a wonderful sounding kalimba.

 

If you are looking for the perfect kalimba to learn, have fun, and master your technique, then this might be it.

 

What we liked

  • Wonderful learning material
  • QR codes for YouTube samples
  • Great accessories bundle

Not so much

  • Smaller tines sound lower than the rest

 

Professional-sounding kalimbas

Here we are, at the top of the crop, the creme de la crème in kalimba land.

These choices are for seasoned players with a trained ear that can notice and enjoy the difference between a mid-range kalimba and a top-notch instrument. This is not the category we suggest for starting but the one you can aspire to. It takes time and a lot of playing to enjoy those harmonic overtones and the complexity of hand-picked wood. If you are a pro player, you’ll be delighted with them!

 

Moozica 21-keys solid Koa kalimba K21KS

This is the first solid-body kalimba in this rundown and is made by another brand that is a synonym with high-quality kalimbas: Moozica. This solid version is made of Koa, a highly resonant wood with a beautiful grain that projects the midrange a little further than mahogany. This is to say that, for a solid body kalimba, this instrument sounds loud.

 

Photo Title Buy
10 Best Kalimba To Buy In 2021 13 MOOZICA 21 Keys Solid Koa Kalimba, Single Solid Wood Board Professional Kalimba Thumb Piano Marimba with Learning Instruction and High Performance Carrying Case (Acacia Koa, 21-Key) Check Pricing

 

This Moozica kalimba plays better than most of the competition in the upper registers and works great for strumming and chords. Furthermore, the projection that koa brings to the mix is perfect for certain music styles that require more strumming than melody. Finally, the bundle that Moozica put together with this kalimba is great for taking it everywhere.

 

For those with a trained ear that can appreciate the sweet timbre of the Koa, this is a great kalimba to play and enjoy for hours.

 

What we liked

  • Flawless construction
  • Beautiful, hand-picked koa
  • Great accessories bundle

 

AKLOT MI2620-AKM 17 keys thumb piano

I know what you might be thinking, and I agree that the shape of this AKLOT kalimba is not for everyone. That being said, once you get it in your hands and start playing, you’ll realize just how ergonomic the design is.

 

This hollow-body, solid-mahogany wooden kalimba is a great instrument to play for long hours.

 

Photo Title Buy
10 Best Kalimba To Buy In 2021 14 Kalimba 17 Keys Thumb Piano Solid Wood Finger Piano Start Kits African Instrument with Protective Case Tuning Hammer Study Booklet Cleaning Cloth from AKLOT Check Pricing

 

What I enjoyed the most about it is how the tines distribute the sound evenly and there is no volume loss when you go to the higher notes. Indeed, D2 and E3 sound loud and proud.

 

The bundle of accessories it comes with is very handy; from the Eva case to the tuning hammer, everything is perfectly thought of. Finally, the lessons, both written and online, are great to keep practicing and learning.

 

If you like to step out of the ordinary and play on a good-sounding, different instrument, this kalimba is a perfect choice.

 

What we liked

  • Online and offline lessons are very helpful
  • Flawless construction
  • Unique design

 

Moozica K17BL 17-keys finger piano

We’re back in the color territory but this time with a Moozica kalimba that sounds as good as it looks, and then some. The hand-picked mahogany, the perfectly crafted ore tines, and the flawless finish make this kalimba a great instrument for seasoned players in the search for a new kalimba.

 

Photo Title Buy
10 Best Kalimba To Buy In 2021 15 Moozica 17 Keys Kalimba Marimba, Solid Mahogany Wood Professional Thumb Piano Musical Instrument Gift (Mahogany-K17MB) Check Pricing

 

The bundle that Moozica put together with this product takes an already great-sounding instrument to the next level.

 

Indeed, the carrying bag, hammer, instruction material, stickers, and finger protectors are everything you need to practice until you reach perfection.

 

In the sound department, the solid mahogany is dark and rich providing nice lows for the high-chime of the tines. You’ll feel that you have to make less effort to make the same volume as other models; this is what we call "effortless joy".

 

Finally, the carved hand rests are welcome for long hours of playing, which this kalimba will very likely inspire.

 

If you want a great-sounding kalimba with a great feel and looks that stand out, this Moozica model might be the best.

 

What we liked

  • Great-sounding mahogany construction
  • Carved hand rests
  • Beautiful blue-dyed wood

 

The Runner-up

Finally, we have the runner-up; a kalimba that deserved to be in the top 10 and didn’t fit in any category of the above.

 

AKLOT MI2891 Acrylic kalimba

No rundown for the best kalimbas to buy in 2021 could be complete without an acrylic model. This transparent, kind of glass kalimba looks and works just like a kalimba of its kind should.

 

Photo Title Buy
10 Best Kalimba To Buy In 2021 19 Kalimba 17 Keys, AKLOT Transparent Acrylic Thumb Piano Note Carved Starter Finger Piano with Kalimba Case Tune Hammer Study Booklet Stickers Check Pricing

 

Right from the start, I need to tell you that you shouldn’t ask this kind of kalimba to sound anywhere near a wooden one; it’s just a different flavor. It sounds a little more dreamy, spacey, with less sustain and a different midrange. Those profound lows from the mahogany are completely gone, but there is this subtle higher midrange that makes everything sound movie-like effortlessly.

 

The bundle that the company put together is exactly what you need to learn how to play and, if you live in a very cold or hot country, you won’t have to worry about your kalimba going wildly out of tune because of the weather since acrylic will not change with temperature or humidity.

 

For players looking for a different sound or beginners who want a hassle-free instrument to learn on, this runner-up is a great choice.

 

What we liked

  • Flawless acrylic construction
  • Well-made learning material
  • Complete accessories bundle

 

Kalimba tuning

Before we reach the end of the article, let’s talk a little bit about kalimba tuning and kalimba playing. This is important because even if you learn kalimba online, you should know the basic concepts.

 

How to tune a Kalimba?

 

What does a sharp or flat note mean?

Let’s go through the very basics of what tuning means. First, let’s say that tuning is a common agreement among musicians in which vibrations make each note. This was done centuries ago and our ears are perfectly trained to enjoy music in-tune. Thus, your instrument should be in tune every time you pick it up to play.

 

  • Sharp note - A sharp note is a note that sounds on a higher pitch than it should by a semitone. In kalimbas, if you have a sharp note, you need to make the tine longer; hence, you need to hit it with the tuning hammer from the top (opposite to where you pluck it).

 

  • Flat note - A flat note, on the other hand, is when a note sounds with a lower pitch than it should by a semitone. This means you have to make the tine of the kalimba shorter by hitting it with the hammer from the bottom (where you pluck it).

 

Kalimba tuning: the options

Which are the options to tune your kalimba? Let’s look at the most common ones:

 

  • Apps - Whether you have iPhone or Android, you can download a tuning app that will use the microphone on your cellphone to identify the note. You can then use the tuning hammer to adjust it as indicated above.

 

  • Clip tuners - These tuners attach to the instrument and identify the note by the vibration they get from it.

 

  • Regular tuners - The old-school regular tuners have a microphone and will detect the note by picking up the sound.

 

Some final thoughts

Sadly, we have come to the end of our journey but hopefully to the beginning of yours. I sincerely hope that what you have read in this article will give you the tools and the push you need to get started in making music.

 

10 Best Kalimba To Buy In 2021 32

 

The road to music is very long and paved with a lot of effort, but I guarantee that once you get there, you’ll have a new superpower, a shelter, a happy place to go. Music has meant happiness for me most of my life and hopefully, it does the same for you.

 

Choose one of the kalimbas above, make use of your time, and learn to play your favorite songs. Remember that we never know where life can take us, so we might as well enjoy the journey.

 

Play the kalimba and make your life happier, one song at a time.

 

Happy playing!


PS - To see how our 2021 Kalimba Review compares to our 2020 lineup, click here.

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