7 Best Kalimbas For Beginners With Excellent Tuning in 2020

Are you a big fan of kalimba? Are you looking to buy the best Kalimaba on the market?

Best for Beginners
GECKO Kalimba 17 Keys Thumb Piano Builts-in EVA High-Performance Protective Box, Tuning Hammer and Study Instruction.
Best Value for Money
JDR kalimba 17 Keys Thumb Piano,Portable Mbira Finger Piano Gifts with EVA Waterproof Hard Protective Case,Tuning Hammer and Study Instruction
Professional's Favorite
UNOKKI Kalimba 17 Keys Thumb Piano with Study Instruction and Tune Hammer, Portable Mbira Sanza African Wood Finger Piano, Gift for Kids Adult Beginners Professional.
GECKO Kalimba 17 Keys Thumb Piano Builts-in EVA High-Performance Protective Box, Tuning Hammer and Study Instruction.
JDR kalimba 17 Keys Thumb Piano,Portable Mbira Finger Piano Gifts with EVA Waterproof Hard Protective Case,Tuning Hammer and Study Instruction
UNOKKI Kalimba 17 Keys Thumb Piano with Study Instruction and Tune Hammer, Portable Mbira Sanza African Wood Finger Piano, Gift for Kids Adult Beginners Professional.
Best for Beginners
GECKO Kalimba 17 Keys Thumb Piano Builts-in EVA High-Performance Protective Box, Tuning Hammer and Study Instruction.
GECKO Kalimba 17 Keys Thumb Piano Builts-in EVA High-Performance Protective Box, Tuning Hammer and Study Instruction.
Best Value for Money
JDR kalimba 17 Keys Thumb Piano,Portable Mbira Finger Piano Gifts with EVA Waterproof Hard Protective Case,Tuning Hammer and Study Instruction
JDR kalimba 17 Keys Thumb Piano,Portable Mbira Finger Piano Gifts with EVA Waterproof Hard Protective Case,Tuning Hammer and Study Instruction
Professional's Favorite
UNOKKI Kalimba 17 Keys Thumb Piano with Study Instruction and Tune Hammer, Portable Mbira Sanza African Wood Finger Piano, Gift for Kids Adult Beginners Professional.
UNOKKI Kalimba 17 Keys Thumb Piano with Study Instruction and Tune Hammer, Portable Mbira Sanza African Wood Finger Piano, Gift for Kids Adult Beginners Professional.

Last update on 2020-06-04 / Affiliate links / Updated prices and images from Amazon Product Advertising API

Check out the specifications of our hand-picked Kalimbas in the below table.

#ProductWood usedDefault tuningAmazon
product
page
1Gecko Kalimba 17 Key
Thumb Piano
MahoganyAccurateCheck price
2JDR 17 Keys
Kalimba
MahoganyAccurateCheck price
3Unokki 17 Keys
Kalimba
MahoganyAccurateCheck price
4Kithouse KalimbaMahoganyStarts at D
ends on E
Check price
5Apelila 17 Key
Kalimba
Mahogany and
 Christmas tree cut
Full, warm soundCheck price
6Luvay KalimbaMahoganyInternational standard
C tune
Check price
7Newlam Kalimba
Thumb Piano 17 keys
TonewoodAccurateCheck price

Today in this post, I am going to review the best Kalimbas available on the market today.

Thumb pianos have different indigenous names in parts of Africa and Asia. In some parts of Africa, it’s called mbira.

However, the most common name is Kalimba.

Do you know what a Kalimba is?

It’s a unique instrument that makes sound through the plucking of the metal tongues of the instrument. Interestingly, this soothing instrument comes in different brands and types.

So, this may be difficult when you’re trying to select one. This article shows you the best kalimbas on the market today.

Here are the 7 best kalimbas [Finger pianos]

Gecko Kalimba 17 Key Thumb Piano

Specifications:

  • Wood: Handmade with a high-quality Mahogany
  • Tines:  Ore steel bars
  • Weight: 1.9pounds
  • Tuning is accurate
  •  Convert key C to key B with the tuning hammer
  • Comes in a waterproof case

Build and design

Gecko 17 keys Kalimba build and design

The Gecko 17 keys Kalimba has is a thumb piano that has the look and feel of a quality product.

The box itself is made from mahogany, which is pone of the best forms of wood in terms of durability.

Gecko 17 keys Kalimba durability

The keys are equally solid and durable; they’re made of ore steel. It is quite handy and easy to grasp by even small-sized hands.

The wood does not chip easily, especially around the soundhole at the center.

Speaking of the soundhole, there’s a beautiful hand-engraved pattern around the middle hole that makes this Kalimba look even more beautiful.

Gecko 17 keys Kalimba waterproof case

The thumb piano is made of mahogany, so it’s not really waterproof, but it comes in a waterproof case. The Gecko could use extra protection when you’re outdoors.

Sound quality and performance

Gecko 17 keys Kalimba quality and performance

This Kalimba enables you to do the vibrato effect. You can achieve this by covering the two holes at the rear of the box.

The tuning is accurate, but if you wish, you may alter it to your taste. The default tuning is in C.

Gecko 17 keys Kalimba tuning
Gecko 17 keys Kalimba tuning

The Gecko Kalimba sound is muted, and well rounded. The ore steel used in making the steel parts give that warm sound that is devoid of ant harshness.

If you want a bright sounding Kalimba, you can check out some others on this list.

JDR 17 Keys Kalimba

Specifications:

  • Wood: Solid Mahogany
  • Tines:  Adamant Ore Metal 
  • Tuning: International standard C tune and 3 range
  • Weight: 1.65pounds
  • Dimensions: 5.2 x 7.2 x 1.3 inches
  • Tuner app for Apple(insTuner) andAndroid (gStrings)
  • Comes in a waterproof case

Build and design

Like most solid thumb pianos, the JDR kalimba is made of mahogany wood.

Aside from the fact that this wood makes the Kalimba more durable, it also has good tonal characteristics. The quality of wood affects its tone, just like it does in an acoustic guitar.

JDR 17 Keys kalimba build quality

The 17 keys are made of steel and they have a staggered arrangement. The staggered arrangement makes it easier to play the thumb piano without having your fingers clash with each other.

JDR 17 Keys kalimba waterproof case

The Kalimba itself is not waterproof or water-resistant but it has a waterproof carrying case.

This case enables you to carry the JDR Kalimba outdoors without damaging it. There’s also a tuning hammer and cleaning cloth added to the mix, in case you want to play on a key different from C.

Sound quality and performance

JDR 17 Keys kalimba sound quality and performance

The sound of this Kalimba is top-notch. Like I said earlier, the wood plays a big part.

Another interesting benefit of mahogany is that it gives each kalimba its unique sound.

Because each mahogany chunk has a different grain pattern, this has a slight effect on the tone of the Kalimba.

JDR 17 Keys kalimba build
JDR 17 Keys kalimba protection cases

There’s enough room inside the thumb piano to give a good environment for the sound. Also, the steel keys do not give a harsh tone while playing.

Unokki 17 Keys kalimba

Specifications:

  • Wood:  Handmade with high-quality Mahogany
  • Tines: Ore steel bars
  • Tuning: International standard C tune & portable 17 keys/notes
  • Weight: 1.3 pounds
  • Dimensions: 5.2 x 1.3 x 7.4 inches
  • Tuner app for Apple(insTuner) andAndroid (gStrings)

Build and design

This is another 17-key thumb piano made from mahogany wood. The keys are made of steel.

Unokki 17 Keys kalimba build quality
Unokki 17 Keys kalimba build quality

The wood will last very long and the steel keys will not rust or corrode easily. Each Unokki Kalimba has a unique look because the finish follows the Mahogany grain pattern.

Like the other Kalimbas we have looked at, Unokki is not waterproof. In fact, it’s almost impossible to find one that is. However, it has a waterproof case. The case makes the kalimba easier to carry and use outdoors.

Sound quality and performance

Unokki 17 Keys kalimba performance

The mahogany and steel keys combine to give a crisp, sweet sound. It sounds good when played as a solo instrument or in combination with other instruments.

It’s also easy to play without getting your fingers cluttered. If you need to change the tuning, there’s a tuning hammer added for that purpose. Its default tuning is the key of C.

Kithouse kalimba

Specifications:

  • Wood:  Handmade with high-quality Mahogany
  • Tines: Ore steel bars
  • Tuning: International standard C tune
  • Weight: 1.6 pounds
  • Dimensions: 7.9 x 9.1 x 3.1 inches
  • Tuner app for Apple(insTuner) andAndroid (gStrings)
  • comes with waterproof EVA box with soft lining
  • Pattern: Mandala flower

Build and design

The build materials of the Kithouse Kalimba are the standard Mahogany for the soundbox and ore steel for the keys.

If you like your thumb piano with more embroidery, you would absolutely love the Kithouse kalimba.

Kithouse kalimba build design
Kithouse kalimba build design

The soundhole is patterned along the sides with flowery design. The keys are curved downwards to make it easier to pluck at them with your thumbs.

Additionally, the thumb piano comes with green and red stickers that you can place on the keys for easier identification. This makes it easier for beginners to play the instrument.

Kithouse kalimba waterproof case
Kithouse kalimba carrying case

Kalimbas can be a little fragile, so if you’ll be moving it around a lot, then it needs some protection. The supplied carrying case does this job.

The case has a hard exterior that protects it from direct impact. It also has a soft lining inside so that any impact will be properly cushioned.

Sound quality and performance

Kithouse kalimba sound quality and performance

It’s a 17-key kalimba that starts at D and ends on E when it’s on the default tuning.

You can lower the overall pitch by tapping the post lightly with the tuning hammer.

Kithouse kalimba tuning

The sound is warm and sweet, Even though the keys are made of steel, the keys still do not sound harsh. Because the Kithouse Kalimba sounds warm, it will be soothing whether as a solo instrument or as accompaniment.

Apelila 17 Key Kalimba

Specifications:

  • Wood:  Solid Mahogany
  • Tines: Carbon Steel
  • Tuning: International standard C tune
  • Weight: 1.03 pounds
  • Dimensions: 7.1 x 5.1 x 1.4 inches
  • Tuner app for Apple(insTuner) andAndroid (gStrings)
  • Color: Natural Wood / Blue / Green

Build and design

Apelila 17 Key Kalimba build and design
Apelila 17 Key Kalimba build and design

The Apelila Kalimba design offers more creative options than most others.

Rather than just sticking with the traditional Mahogany polish color, you have a variety of color options. Aside from color options, the soundhole of the Apelila comes in different forms.

You can have a thumb piano with a guitar-shaped soundhole. If you want, you can go for a Christmas tree cut too.

Apelila 17 Key Kalimba design
Apelila 17 Key Kalimba design

The various designs of the Apelila Kalimba add some fun to the aesthetics. It will also make kids interested in the instrument.

Unlike some other Kalimbas here, Apelila does not have a waterproof carrying case. The bag that comes with it is made of fabric.

So, if you have to take it outdoors, be careful to avoid water as much as you can. Also, make sure to prevent direct impact because there’s no padding to protect the thumb piano.

Sound quality and performance

Apelila 17 Key Kalimba sound quality and performance
Apelila 17 Key Kalimba sound quality and performance

If you’re a beginner, then the Apelila kalimba is a good option for you. The key names are engraved on the steel keys. This eliminates the need to place stickers. However, the labeling becomes incorrect once you apply to tune on the keys.

It has a full, warm sound. When tuning, you should use a real tuner or a tuning app on your phone. This is because you’re unlikely to get the accurate pitch with your ears only.

Luvay Kalimba

Specifications:

  • Wood:  Solid Mahogany
  • Tines: Carbon Steel
  • Tuning: International standard C tune
  • Weight: 1.67 pounds pounds
  • Dimensions: 9.5 x 9.4 x 3.2 inches
  • Tuner app for Apple(insTuner) andAndroid (gStrings)


Build and design

Luvay Kalimba is sleek, but it looks a bit different from some of the other thumb pianos here.

It’s not handmade, rather it’s machined. If you prefer the sleekness of technology than rugged handmade stuff, then this is for you.

Luvay Kalimba build and design
Luvay Kalimba build and design

Even though it’s machined, it’s as solid as any handmade kalimba. The frame is made of Mahogany and the keys are made of strengthened steel.

It comes with a cloth bag that can help to protect it against dust and light moisture. However, that’s as far as the cloth can protect. Unlike Gecko Kalimba and the likes that have hardback cases, this one doesn’t.

Sound quality and performance

Luvay Kalimba sound quality and performance

For easier playing, the key names are engraved on the steel keys. Also, the keys are curved downwards so that your thumbs hit the notes well, and they don’t hurt after playing for some time.

The Luvay thumb piano is tuned to the international standard C tune, but you can tune it to another key by using the tuning hammer added.

Newlam Kalimba Thumb Piano 17 keys

Specifications:

  • Wood:  Solid Mahogany
  • Tines: Ore steel
  • Tuning: International standard C tune
  • Weight: 1.1 pounds pounds
  • Dimensions: 9.1 x 7.5 x 2.9 inches inches
  •  Hand-rest Curve Design
  • Tuner app for Apple(insTuner) andAndroid (gStrings)

Build and design

Newlam Kalimba Thumb Piano 17 keys  build and design
Newlam Kalimba Thumb Piano 17 keys build and design

This kalimba is not made from Mahogany like the rest of them on this list. Rather, tonewood was used.

Tonewood is definitely not stronger or more durable than Mahogany, but it is also a good choice. If you take good care of it, the Newlam kalimba will last for years.

The sides are caved in a little to make it easier to handle the thumb piano with both hands.

Newlam Kalimba Thumb Piano 17 keys carrying to places

The soundhole is creatively painted, and not carved like the Apelila. If you wish to move around with your Kalimba a lot, then the carrying case that comes with Newlam Kalimba.

Sound quality and performance

Newlam Kalimba Thumb Piano 17 keys sound quality and performance

The tonewood material used in making the Newlam kalimba adds some sweet-sounding resonance to it. Plucking at the keys, we find that this thumb piano sounds soothing, with not too much sharpness.

FAQs on Kalimba

What is kalimba?

A kalimba is a percussive instrument that is played by plucking metal keys on a soundbox. The kalimba has different names in regions of Africa and Asia. The general name for such instruments is Thumb Piano

How to Play kalimba?

To play a kalimba, you pluck the key or “tongue” that corresponds to the note you wish to play. If your Kalimba has holes at the rear, cover them to get that vibrato effect. Also, use the tuning hammer to change the tuning if you need to.

What is the best wood for the Kalimba?

For more durability and good sound, the best option is mahogany, followed closely by Maplewood. Mahogany will make sure that the wood doesn’t chip especially around the south holes.

What number of tunes of a Kalimba is the best?

It depends on what works for you. However, even if you need just five tunes to make music, it would be easier if you had them on different pitches. 17 keys give you better options, you can play almost any song with those.

How to tune a Kalimba?

Most kalimbas come with tuning hammers. To tune the kalimba, use the hammer to adjust the position of the tunes. It’s better to do this with a tuner, either a hardware tuner or a tuner app on your phone.

Conclusion

A lot of kalimbas have similar features, so it may be hard to pick one over the other. However, there are a few subtle differences that make me choose some over others.

My best 3 picks are Gecko, JDR, and Unokki.

One thing that makes these three different, is their carrying case. A waterproof, hardback case does a whole oot to improve the durability of the Kalimba.

Jennifer Max

Jws

Hi, I’m Jennifer I’m a passionate singer and an audiophile from Detroit, MI. 

I’m on a mission to help music creators to create fine music that help them position uniquely in the saturated music space.

Follow my blog for regular content :-)

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