Saturday, January 29, 2011

The History and Craftsmanship of the Thumb Piano

An African instrument, the Thumb Piano is very similar to the Kalimba. A couple of other terms are the Mbria or Likembe. They all look quite similar to one another but quite naturally they have a variance in the sounds each instrument makes. These instruments have been around for thousands of years. Originally the keys were made of bamboo and over time the keys were replaced with medal keys. In the early 1900's the thumb piano was give the name Kalimba.
It was thought in ancient times the thumb piano (Mbira, Kalimba) was to project its sound into heaven and was even considered to draw down spirits to the earth. Some of them were violent spirits in which the music would stop until the spirits had departed from the area. Now lets look at the craftsmanship of the piano.
The piano is made of rosewood and the sound board is made of spruce and comes in different tunings. On the back of the instrument is has two vibrato holes and the fingers alter the sound by moving them over the holes and away from the holes.
Most of the time the piano is played by a solo musician and the tuning is not critical as playing with another musician. If playing with another musician then you may want to take note of the tunings. The lower keys have a low pitch while the shorter keys have a high pitch. All of the keys on the piano can be tuned by adjusting the pieces of metal inward or outward. The low keys are located in the center of the wooden box and the high keys are located on the outside of the box. This Dobani brand instrument has a very incredible sound. This particular thumb piano or finger piano as it is sometimes called is a well made product. The thumb piano is part of the bar percussion family.
For more information on the thumb pianos or finger pianos and other ethnic instruments please

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