“Why do many kalimbas have colored tines?” We have received many questions regarding this subject. Many assume it is like white notes and black notes on the piano, in fact, this is what I thought before doing more research into Hugh Tracey's kalimba. That’s not it, since most kalimbas are diatonic and have only piano’s “white notes”. Painted tines on the kalimba have different meanings that are unrelated to chromatic notes. There are many advantages to having colored tines if applied in the correct manner. Many avid kalimba players should consider applying the colored stickers to the low octave D and E, mid octave C and D, and the high octave B and C.
One of the main reasons why some of the tines are painted or have a sticker on them is for basic navigation. The original Hugh Tracey kalimba, which is what each of Bold Musik's kalimbas are based on, came with 17 silver tines. This is a lot of tines with many opportunities to make mistakes while playing a song with quicker rhythms. By coloring every third tine, it creates obvious landmarks to reference while playing or practicing rather than relying on the engraved numbers and letters. If a song starts on a colored tine, remember that. If a phrase begins one tine above the second colored tine on the left, use the colored tine as a reference and remember that.
Another reason many of the tines are painted or stickered is for reference to which note each tine plays. Every painted tine on the left has a painted counterpart on the right, one degree higher in the scale. The lowest painted tine, D, on the left, has a corresponding painted tine, E, one step higher in the scale, on the right. This applies for each other sets of tines reflected across the lowest tine, C.