Investigating the sound of an African thumb piano (kalimba)


  • David M. F. Chapman Scientific Consultant, 8 Lakeview Avenue, Dartmouth, NS B3A 3S7


Acoustics, Analog to digital conversion, Computer software, Fourier transforms, Microphones, Waveform analysis, Fourier function, Freeware audio software, Thumb piano


A study was conducted to investigate the overtone structure of the notes of the Kalimba, an American thumb piano and to understand the effect of key-mounting method on f1l and f0 ratio. It was found that the overtone structure on the Kalimba was sensitive to the details of the mounting geometry. The Kalimba notes were individually recorded and analyzed on an Apple Machintosh iMAC Intel Core Duo computer, using the built-in microphone and A/D converter, controlled by the freeware audio software, AUDACITY. Some care was also taken to produce uniformly loud notes with the thumbs, similar to a performance. The files produces were common .wav audio files, which were transferred into MATHEMATICA 5.2 for analysis. The waveforms were plotted and replayed, using standard functions and the spectra of the waveforms were computed, using Fourier function.




How to Cite

Chapman DMF. Investigating the sound of an African thumb piano (kalimba). Canadian Acoustics [Internet]. 2006 Sep. 1 [cited 2023 Oct. 4];34(3):26-7. Available from:



Proceedings of the Acoustics Week in Canada