Kalimba buzz is one of the most common complaints for kalimba players, both new and experienced. It can affect the sound and tones of your kalimba and if you don’t know how to fix kalimba buzz, it can ruin your enjoyment of the instrument altogether!
So how do you fix kalimba buzz?
There are three ways to fix kalimba buzz:
- Clean under the tines to remove any dirt or debris that may be preventing the tine from ringing true.
- Manipulate the tines to loosen them off.
- Replace the faulty tine with a new one.
In this article we will take a deep dive into what kalimba buzz is and how to fix it.
Let’s get started!
What is Kalimba Buzz?
Before we can get to fixing kalimba buzz, it’s first important to understand what it is and why it happens.
Kalimba buzz is a noise that sometimes sounds when a kalimba tine is struck or plucked.
The sound is often viewed as unpleasant by many players as, rather than a clear resonant tone, the tine produces a short vibration much like a buzz or rattle.
There are a few causes of kalimba buzz, namely dirt or debris underneath the tines, however it can also be caused by stiff or dead tines.
Fixing Kalimba Buzz
Regardless of the underlying cause, the first step is to determine which tine (or tines) is the culprit of your kalimba buzz.
This is a simple task, just play each tine individually listening carefully for that dreaded buzzing sound.
Once you’ve found the tine in question we can get to work in fixing the kalimba buzz.
Let’s look at each of these causes individually and find out what can be done to improve your kalimba buzz.
Kalimba Buzz Caused by Dirt and Debris
The first thing you should try when fixing kalimba buzz is to clean under the tine(s). Sometimes this can be as easy as wiggling the tine side to side to loosen anything that is stuck between the tine and the bridge.
If this doesn’t solve the buzz, you can also try running something under the tine, such as dental floss. Similar to cleaning between your teeth, the floss should catch anything between the tine and the bridge that may be affecting the sound.
Still not solved it? You can also try a can of compressed air. Gently lift the tine so there is space between it and the bridge and give a quick blast of compressed air to dislodge any dirt or debris that might be under there.
If you don’t have a can of compressed air, a gentle blow should also do the trick.
Kalimba Buzz Caused by Stiff Tines
If cleaning out your tine(s) didn’t fix the issue, the next cause to look at could be to do with stiff tines.
This problem is more common on the shorter tines at the ends of the kalimba. Given their length, it takes more effort to cause them to resonate and this can manifest as the dreaded kalimba buzz.
The first fix you can try is to manipulate the tine. Wiggle it side to side, raise it up and press down on it. We don’t want to use too much pressure when doing this, as this could break the tine, but just enough to ‘work’ it.
With any luck, this should loosen up the tine a bit and improve the sound.
Another step to make this easier is to tune the tine down a few steps, this will make the tine’s effective length a little longer and make it easier to manipulate and move.
Kalimba Buzz Caused by Dead Tines
If none of the above fixes have helped, this likely means that you have a dead tine. Unfortunately, there is no easy fix in this case other than replacing the tine or getting a new kalimba altogether!
That said there is one final option you can try.
If you tried tuning your tine down previously, pluck the tine at this new lower note and see if the sound quality has improved.
If the buzzing has stopped, you can try tuning the tine back to its original note and this may solve the issue, however, if the buzzing has returned then your last option would be to tune down your entire kalimba to a new lower key.
This solution obviously comes at a price as your kalimba will now be in a completely different tuning and you may not be able to play along with some songs for example, but if you’ve exhausted every other option then this will at least get your kalimba sounding good again!
Kalimba buzz can be a discouraging experience for kalimba players all over the world but thankfully there are a few steps we can take to alleviate the problem.
The buzz may be down to dirt under the tines but could also be due to stiff or dead tines.
Follow the steps in this article and you should see an improvement in the sound of your kalimba, however, unfortunately when dead tines are involved, sometimes the only solution is a complete replacement.
Hopefully this article has helped you get to the bottom of your kalimba buzz and maybe even fix it altogether!