Top 12 Kalimba Books You Must Read

Whether you just started learning how to play the kalimba, or if you are already an experienced player, the best way to learn more and expand your knowledge is through books. 

Believe it or not, books are one of the best ways to discover more about music and your favorite instrument. Fortunately, there are so many different and great books available for the kalimba players out there. 

Here, I will go through some of the best books you need to check out that will undoubtedly improve your playing skills and knowledge about this incredible African instrument. 

Since each book has its own purpose, you might find that some of these are more useful to you. The reason for this is that there are so many different genres, interests, and even tunings for the thumb piano. So, be sure to find the one that suits you the best. 

The Big Kalimba Songbook: 100+ Songs for kalimba in C (10 and 17 key)

The first entry on this list is a songbook. Probably the main reason why you should check this out is the chance to practice a lot of different songs. 

Thomas Balinger and Lena Eckhoff did a great job creating this book, and it is perfect for beginners. 

Of course, even if you are an experienced player, you still might find something useful here. 

The main quality of this book is that all songs are written for the C major kalimba. Now, if you are not familiar with tunings, most kalimbas are in the key of C, which makes this book an excellent choice. 

While it is possible to find different tunings or to change the tuning by yourself, most beginner instruments are in this specific key, and the songbooks you can find usually follow the same “rule.”

If you have a kalimba in the key of C, this book is something you shouldn’t miss. It is a great way to improve your playing technique and learn something new and exciting. 

Each song in this book is adjusted so you can easily play in the C major. You won’t have to worry about the original tuning and keys, and all you have to do is start practicing. 

Kalimba Songbook: 50 Easy Classic Songs

The first thing you might notice if you check this book is that there are a lot of similarities to the previous entry on the list. 

Firstly, the authors of the book are the same, and all songs are adjusted for the C major. You can also play it with both seventeen and ten keys, so you can learn songs regardless of the type of kalimba you own. 

What is different between these two books is that here, you will get a lot of useful tips that will help you a lot if you are a beginner. 

For example, you will be able to learn more about the instrument and how it works. There are tips for playing positions, and even ones for care and maintenance of your kalimba. 

Besides practicing, care and maintenance play an important role if you want your instrument to be playable for a long time. 

You will also learn a bit about music theory and ways to tune your kalimba. 

It is a nice combination of tips, theory, and songs, and this songbook is great for both beginners and more experienced players. 

The Big Alto Kalimba Songbook

It seemed only natural to talk about C kalimbas first, but this isn’t the only type of kalimbas available. When Hugh Tracey created the first kalimba over fifty years ago, it had fifteen keys. 

You can still find this instrument on the market. New ones, of course. These 15-note instruments are also known as alto kalimbas, and this book focuses on the traditional Hugh Tracey kalimbas. 

This also means that all songs are in the key of G instead of C, and they are adapted for fifteen tines. 

The book offers one hundred different songs you can learn, and if you have a G kalimba, this might be the best option for you. 

One of the main things you should check is if the writer of the book is reliable, and here, you will encounter Thomas Balinger and Lena Eckhoff again. 

Among the songs they included in this book is House of the Rising Sun, Whiskey in the Jar, but also some easier songs like Twinkle, Twinkle. 

The Most Comprehensive Compilation of Popular Songs For 17-Key Kalimba

Another great book written for the seventeen key kalimbas is by Y. Lee. The author explains how easy it is to start playing the kalimba, and there is a handy little instruction part before you can start learning songs. 

Of course, if you already know how to read ktabs, you can just skip this part. But it is a great opportunity for someone to learn everything they need about the instrument. Even if you are an absolute beginner, you’ll be able to understand the basics before you start playing. 

The songbook covers the most popular songs, as well as various genres, which means that you will undoubtedly find something you like. 

There are Christmas songs available, traditional ones, popular performers like Elvis Presley, and even soundtracks from movies. 

But one of the best things about this book is that you will get videos to play along with for each song. This will allow you to easily learn something and hear how it’s supposed to sound. 

Kalimba Goes Classical

Kalimba is a rather versatile instrument, but there is no doubt that it shines during slow melodic songs. While you can play any musical genre on it, somehow, classical songs sound really astonishing. 

The next entry on the list is by Thomas Balinger and Lena Eckhoff, and they wrote so many great books focusing on thumb pianos. 

Here, you will get a chance to learn more about classical music and play some of the best pieces by famous composers. 

Each arrangement is easy and perfectly adapted for C kalimbas. This also means that you might have problems if you don’t have this type of instrument so be sure to check it out before you order it. 

Among the songs you can find in this book are ones written by G. F. Handel, Mozart, Wagner, Debussy, Bach, Chopin, and many more. 

Kalimba Goes Classical is a great way to improve your repertoire and learn some of the legendary pieces you probably already know. 

It is worth mentioning that you can get this book if you have either seventeen or ten note kalimba in C since each song is adapted for both types. 

Making Lamellaphones

While there are so many songbooks available, it’s not often that you find something different and unique, but this is exactly what Making Lamellaphones is. 

The book is written by Bart Hopkin and Richard Selman, and it gives us great insight into how to make lamellaphones or instruments from the kalimba family. 

This incredible book covers everything you need to know about the history of these instruments, as well as how to make one by yourself. Inside, you will learn how to build both simple as well as sophisticated instruments. 

One of the main qualities of the book is that you will learn more about the acoustic properties of the instrument, and it will allow you to understand better how design can affect the sound quality of the lamellophone you decide to create. 

Even though this book will hardly help you improve your playing skills, it is something that many kalimba lovers will enjoy. 

Furthermore, you will also learn everything you need about making these instruments. Who knows, maybe you create something that you will enjoy and that will allow you to create beautiful music. 

The Soul of Mbira: Music and Traditions of the Shona People of Zimbabwe

The next entry on the list focuses on history instead of song learning. The book was written by Paul F. Berliner, and it gives us a great insight into the traditions and music of Shona people. 

If you are unfamiliar with Shona, you should know that they are one of the first creators of mbira which later evolved into kalimba. It is a great and unique opportunity to learn more about musicians and cultural context that made kalimbas possible and popular. 

For anyone willing to follow Hugh Tracey’s steps and learn more about ethnomusicology, The Soul of Mbira is something they shouldn’t miss. 

It is a great opportunity for any kalimba lover to learn more about the origin of this instrument, what it was used for, the inspiration, and culture that led to the creation of kalimba we have today. 

When Hugh Tracey designed the first kalimba, he took inspiration from this very instrument, and you’ll get to see all similarities between mbira and kalimba. 

Music Theory: From Beginner to Expert

Finally, this book is not specifically written for kalimba, but it is something you should definitely check. If you are looking to improve your playing skills, you will need to learn more about music theory and how everything works. 

The book will allow you to understand the basics of music theory, and it will help you build your knowledge. The Ultimate Step-By-Step Guide to Understanding and Learning Music Theory Effortlessly will allow you to play easier and know hows and whys of the kalimba. 

Needless to say, even though this is not specifically written for the thumb piano, you can still use it to improve your knowledge and understanding of music. 

With solid theory knowledge and background, you will play easier and you will spend a lot less time thinking about music. 

The reason why this is the last entry on the list is that there are some things that you won’t need for kalimba, but it is still a book you should check. 

21 Simple Letter-Coded Songs for Kalimba: Kalimba Sheet Music for Beginners

The book is written by Helen Winter, and it is something you should check out as soon as you can. The primary reason why this book is great is its approach to kalimba.

Most people consider kalimba to be an instrument for adults, but here, you will have a simpler approach perfect for beginners.

The book contains easy-to-follow and visual guide that is perfect even for kids. If you bought your kid a thumb piano, you might want to get them this book as well.

Helen Winter understands how difficult it can be for beginners, and that following notes is nearly impossible if you are inexperienced.

The book offers a couple of songs you can learn and practice and it is something beginners shouldn’t miss. 

Here, you will find twenty one song that’s is adapted for kalimba, and you will have a lot of fun learning them with this book.

Second Songbooks for 10 Key Kalimba

Before we go in-depth about this book, you should know that this one was written specifically for the ten key kalimba. 

As you can see from the cover, the notes on your kalimba should be e5, c5, a4, f4, c4, e4, g4, b4, and d5.

This is one of many books writen by Ondrej Sarek, and you will get a chance to learn basics of music as well.

One of the first thing you will notice that all songs are written as sheet music instead of ktabs.

If you are a beginner, this might seem a bit scary for you but have no fear. The first thing in this book is instructions how to read each note, and since there are only tne of them, you won’t have any problems.

The book offers 59 songs you can learn and it is a great way to start improving and learn more about music theory.

Robert Burns songs for Alto Hugh Tracey Kalimba

If you are fortunate enough to have one of Hugh Tracey kalimbas, you will enjoy this book.

Each song here is specifically adapted for alto kalimba, and it follows the carier of Rober Burns.

Robert Burns was a Scottish lyricist and poet, and if you never had the pleasure hearing his songs, now it might be the time.

This is another book written by Ondrej Sarek, and you will need to learn a bit about music theory to use this book. As you can probably expect, there is a handy little part where Sarek explains how to read sheet music.

While this book is only for a specific part of kalimba players, it is something that everyone can get. Who knows, the book might inspire you to get a different type of thumb piano. 

Songbooks for Alto Hugh Tracey Kalimba

Finally, if you are interested in learning more about Alto Kalimba, this is another great book by Ondrej Sazek that might help you along the way.

Unlike previous one, here Sazek covered some of the more popular songs, and you can significantly improve your playstyle with this book.

Alto kalimbas are among the most popular types of kalimba, and there are many great songs you can learn.

The book covers 74 different songs like Beautiful Brown Eyes, London Bridge, Mary Had a Little Lamb, and many others.

Getting this book is a perfect idea for both beginners and intermediate players. While the songs aren’t as difficult as some others, the book will also teach you basics of music theory.

With it, you’ll be able to understand music better, and even experiment on your own or create versions of your favorite songs on the kalimba.

It is a great book for everyone who have alto kalimba, and it might inspire you to get this instrument for yourself if you don’t have it already.


Today, you can find so many different and great books. The main concern you should have is finding the one that suits your instrument the best. 

Since we all know that kalimbas can have different numbers of keys and various tunings, your main focus should be to find the appropriate book. 

Fortunately, with so many incredible books available, you won’t have a challenging time find a perfect one for you.

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