Home - Current Projects - Thumb Piano
  Home Thumb Piano
  Site Index
  Current Projects
  Items for Sale
  Services Available
  Designer's Notebook
  Open Source Woodworking
  Related Links
  Additional Resources
  Privacy & Security
  Credits & Trademarks
  Contact Information
   Recently updated:
   Reading List

Valid XHTML 1.0!

A thumb piano is an easy and fun instrument to make. And an easy and fun instrument to play. I think it's called a "Kalimba" in Kenya.
It consists of a number of usually metal (although sometime wood or bamboo) keys bent over a pair of frets and under a bridge. It is tuned largely by varying the length of the key on one side of the bridge.
The neat thing is that it takes hardly any special materials at all. My materials (see end of page) are largely scavanged from the road or scraps here and there.
I think I'll end up trimming the longer keys and adding another one or two.
Tuning has presented an interesting debate in our house. Since it is mine, I've chosen to tune it until I'm happy with it. I don't think it is any sort of pentatonic scale or order. I just like the way it sounds.
I may make another that is less melancholy or another with a sounding box and a hole.
Here's my part list:
  • 1/2" x 5" x 6" spruce board (sound board)
  • a pair of 1" #8 machine screws (to hold the bridge down)
  • a pair of #8 nuts (counter-bored on the bottom, under the bridge)
  • a quartet of #8 washers (two for each machine screw)
  • 6" of 1/8" metal rod, cut into two 3" pieces (frets)
  • 3" of 1/8" x 1/2" steel bar (bridge)
  • some thin, narrow metal strips (keys)
It is important to remember that a thumb piano can largely be made with whatever you have on hand; tomorrow we're going to try with plastic spoons!

© 2001-2010 Jeffrey D Gifford