Making My Mbira (Thumb Piano)




Introduction: Making My Mbira (Thumb Piano)

This was an experiment I conducted - making a Mbira or Thumb Piano out of some things I picked up at the thrift store.

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Step 1: Step One - Gathering My Materials

First I went to the store and here's what I picked up:

        A solid wood salad bowl $2.00  

        An incense burner (for a shim to leave more room for the tines to resinate) $.75

        A decorative wire and sheet metal peacock $2.00

        A wire memo stand $1.00

Then I went to the Hardware store and picked up:

         A grounding strip (about 4 1/2" long) $4.68

         Screws $0.98

Step 2: Step 2: Attach Grounding Bar

So I didn't take a separate picture of this, but essentially you just drive the screws through the 3 empty slots in the grounding bar and send them straight through the shim (in this case incense burner) and body (salad bowl).

Step 3: Cut Tines to Desired Length

I cut up my memo stand and peacock using pliers, wire cutters and a metal grinder/chop saw.

Step 4: Insert Tines

The last step was just to insert the tines into the grounding bar - one tine per screw and tighten down the screws. I bent some of the tines upward so that they had more room to vibrate and left more room underneath for the bottom wires to vibrate as well.

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    3 Discussions


    Were you able to tune this to a chromatic tuning or does it just make random sounds?


    Reply 5 years ago on Introduction

    I didn't make this one chromatic. It just makes random sounds. You could do it, but when you're using more than one material it would take some time to really tune each piece.


    8 years ago on Introduction

    These are instresting things, I bought one from Mozambique and it was similar but only had flat keys of diffring lenths instead of funny part

    Well Done 5 Stars