Updated January 2023
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BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We only make money if you purchase a product through our links, and all opinions about the products are our own. Read more  
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.Read more 
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Best of the Best
Gecko 17-Key Kalimba With Waterproof Box
17-Key Kalimba With Waterproof Box
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Best Quality
Bottom Line

This kalimba has exceptional build quality and offers a rich playing experience.


High-quality materials for optimum experience in both sound and touch. Mahogany wood for a rich sound and look. Steel keys for durability and control. Includes case, tuning hammer, and instruction booklet.


No note labels on the keys.

Best Bang for the Buck
UNOKKI 17-Key Kalimba With Accessories
17-Key Kalimba With Accessories
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Most Versatile
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This model is a great all-around kalimba that's suitable for beginners and experienced players alike.


Engraved metal keys for durability and easy playing. Solid Okoume body provides rich sound. Finger protectors best for beginners who have not yet formed callouses. Fully tested before shipping.


Does not come with a waterproof bag.

MOOZICA 21-Key Koa Kalimba
21-Key Koa Kalimba
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Best for Experts
Bottom Line

Professional players looking for an extended scale will appreciate this 21-key model.


Its 21 keys provide more notes than other choices. Koa wood for warm sound throughout extended scale range. Engraved keys assist beginners. Heavier than other options, helping it hold notes for longer.


Extended scale length might be harder for beginners to learn on.

LingTing 34-Key Kalimba
34-Key Kalimba
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Simple Yet Solid
Bottom Line

A kalimba made with high-quality materials; an excellent gift for music lovers.


It's made with durable violet wood and has 34 keys with adjustable carbon steel tines. Each piece of the thump piano has a unique feel, and it comes with a wiping piano cloth, syllable stickers, a protective box, and a user manual.


Some users had trouble tuning some of the keys.

Newlam 17 Keys Kalimba
17 Keys Kalimba
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Simple Yet Solid
Bottom Line

Durable kalimba made with reliable materials and hand-rest curves for improved comfort.


The hand-rest curves ensure that users are comfortable while playing. Keys come embossed with note names. The materials make the Kalimba durable and provide a unique timbre. Comes with a free e-book for beginners.


Higher notes are dull.


We recommend these products based on an intensive research process that's designed to cut through the noise and find the top products in this space. Guided by experts, we spend hours looking into the factors that matter, to bring you these selections.

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Buying guide for Best kalimbas

The joy of performing music isn’t restricted to individuals who dedicate their lives to studying music. With the right instrument, a little dedication, and a strong desire, anyone can experience the joy of music. The kalimba offers a fun musical experience and is fairly easy to learn.

A kalimba requires no special playing techniques, and it sounds good right out of the box. The best models are durable, resonant, and manufactured to stay in tune with minimal maintenance. What’s more, they’re comfortable in the hand and look fantastic.

At first glance, a kalimba might vaguely resemble a set of elementary school bells. However, the keys are not arranged in the same order. If you are familiar with the piano (or glockenspiel), it may take a little while to feel comfortable with the layout of a kalimba.

Kalimba 101

A kalimba is a small handheld instrument with tuned tines the user depresses primarily with their thumbs. After you grow comfortable with thumb use, you may want to add in your index fingers.

Similar to a piano, each kalimba tine sounds a specific pitch. The tines can be played one or more at a time, or they can be strummed, like a guitar.

A kalimba makes a soothing sound similar to a music box. Adults can use the instrument to create beautiful music and reduce stress.

Four types of kalimbas

Let’s explore the four main types of kalimbas: acrylic kalimbas, flatboard kalimbas, hollow body kalimbas, and electric kalimbas.

Acrylic kalimba: This kalimba has a solid acrylic body and produces the softest tone. Acrylic models weigh more than wooden models and thus may put a bit more strain on a beginner’s hands.

Flatboard kalimba: A flatboard kalimba sports a solid wood body and sounds a deeper tone than an acrylic kalimba. While lighter than an acrylic model, it’s heavier than a hollow body kalimba.

Hollow body kalimba: This kalimba features the lightest weight and produces the loudest natural sound. Some discerning musicians feel a hollow body kalimba is their top choice.

Electric kalimba: An electric kalimba plugs into an amplifier like an electric guitar. For stage use, it offers the best stage presence.

When you are first learning to play the kalimba, you will likely experience a little pain until the tips of your thumbs develop tougher skin.


Distinguishing kalimba features

What makes one kalimba differ from the next? The following features can help distinguish one product choice from another.

Lightweight ergonomic design

A kalimba is an instrument you hold between your hands to play. Because of this, weight and user comfort matter. If a kalimba is too heavy, does not have rounded edges, or it is too wide for your hands, it will not be fun to play.

For the greatest satisfaction, choose a lightweight model that conforms to the natural folds of your hands. For enhanced comfort, look for kalimbas with built-in grooves to accommodate the curve of your palms.

8-key kalimba vs. 17-key kalimba

A kalimba may have 8 keys or 17 keys.

Eight-key models suit beginners with little to no experience who just want to play basic melodies. Seventeen-key models appeal to advanced players who want to produce a wider variety of melodies along with accompaniment.

Diatonic kalimba vs. chromatic kalimba

A diatonic kalimba comprises the white keys on the piano—there are no sharp or flat notes. The majority of kalimbas are diatonic.

A chromatic kalimba may appeal to more advanced players. These models can play the “white key” equivalents on a piano as well as the “black key” equivalents. In other words, you can play sharps and flats on a chromatic kalimba.

Some chromatic kalimbas have two rows of layered tines; others have tines on the front and back of the instrument. Chromatic kalimbas allow you to play the most complicated music, but they are harder to find.

Included accessories

Certain accessories may enhance your overall experience playing a kalimba. These items include a tuning hammer, thumb picks, travel bag (or case), song sheets, tuning instructions, and dust cloth. Some kalimbas come with these items. In other instances, you may wish to purchase them separately.

Although you might be tempted to engage in marathon practice sessions, the brain learns faster in smaller timeframes of time that are frequently reinforced. In other words, three 10-minute practice sessions throughout the day are far better than one 30-minute session.

What accessories do I need to play a kalimba?

Thumb pick

Playing a kalimba may hurt your thumbs, especially when you’re first starting out. To play pain-free, invest in a few thumb picks.

Similar to a thimble, a thumb pick slides over the thumb. It protects the thumb as you to pluck the tines. This protection allows you to pluck the tines strongly, creating rich and resonant tones.

Tuning hammer

A kalimba will not sound right if it isn’t tuned. Unlike a guitar where you twist a knob to tighten or loosen a string, the individual tines of a kalimba must be lengthened or shortened to tune the instrument. To accomplish this task, you need a kalimba tuning hammer.


Unless you’re a highly trained musician with perfect pitch, you will require a mechanism that lets you know when the individual tines of your kalimba are in tune. To accomplish this, you can use a chromatic guitar tuner. This device has a gauge that notifies you when the tines are properly tuned.

Cost of kalimbas


While it is entirely possible to find a quality kalimba for under $25, these lower-cost models are considered “budget” instruments. This may mean they are smaller in size, made of inferior materials, or unable to hold their tune for long.


Most people find kalimba satisfaction in the $25 to $50 price bracket. The best of these models are durable and comfortable in the hand. Your purchase may include accessories, such as a tuning hammer or a travel bag. These pricier instruments usually have 17 tines.


Kalimbas that cost over $50 are designed for serious musicians. Some feature ornately designed sound holes or built-in jacks for easy amplification. These models may also have additional tines that expand the range of playable music.

Learning to play an instrument is similar to creating a path through the woods. The more you travel that path, the more defined it will become, and the easier your travel will be. Regular practice is essential to learning and maintaining any ability.



  • Grow your thumbnails. To minimize pain when playing the kalimba, allow your thumbnails to grow so you can play with them instead of the soft part of your thumbs.
  • Consider using thumb picks. Thumb picks are specifically designed to make it easier to play the kalimba while producing a pleasant tone. If you experience pain while playing with your bare thumbs, consider using thumb picks.
  • Alternate thumbs when playing. You may be tempted to use your dominant thumb for every note. Instead, learn to alternate thumbs. This helps you avoid fatigue and allows you to play more complicated passages.
  • Experiment with playing techniques. The sound holes on the sides or back of your kalimba can be covered and uncovered to create a “wha-wha” effect. Sliding your thumb across several tines can produce a glissando effect that is similar to that of a harp. Learn about and experiment with techniques to expand your tonal repertoire.
  • Learn how to play at different volumes. Dynamics and phrasing give music emotion. Learn how to play both loud and soft passages on your kalimba.
  • Learn how to quickly stop the sound on your kalimba. While the music box-like ring of the kalimba is pleasing to the ear, some musical sections require short (staccato) notes. This is accomplished by placing the thumb tip on the tine after it has been played to stop the ringing.
With any musical instrument, the goal is to make it an extension of your body. This allows you to play with natural flow and confidence. One way to do this is to practice with your eyes closed.


Q. How do you tune a kalimba?

A. When you pluck a tine on a kalimba, it vibrates. The length of the tine determines the pitch.

A shorter tine vibrates more rapidly to produce a higher pitch, while a longer tine vibrates more slowly to produce a lower pitch.

The tines on a kalimba are not fastened in place, but they are tight and not easily moveable. With the help of a tuning hammer, you can tap them up or down. To lower the pitch of a tine, tap it down from the top to make it longer. To raise the pitch of a tine, tap it from the bottom to make it shorter.

Q. How do you read kalimba music?

A. Kalimba music may be notated several ways. A trained musician can play a kalimba by reading standard music notation. If you have no musical reading experience, however, there is no reason to fret. The easiest kalimba music actually features a picture of a kalimba with little black dots on it. When you see a black dot, you play that note. This music is read from the bottom to the top.

Alternatively, some kalimba music reads left to right and uses a series of numbers or letters—these are the numbers or letters written on the instrument’s tines. When you see two numbers or letters stacked on top of each other, it means you should play two notes at the same time.

Q. How do I fix a buzzing kalimba?

A. The number-one cause of kalimba buzzing is dirt. When debris lodges between the bridge and the tines, the instrument buzzes when plucked. Gently wiggling the tine from side to side is usually all it takes to get rid of the buzzing.

If that doesn’t work, slip a piece of paper between the tine and the bridge to clear the debris. Note that after fixing a buzzing problem, you may have to re-tune the instrument.


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