mbira, hosho>mbira dzavadzimu>Octave Relationships>Hosho>Lighting the way>Shona rhythm

Quelle: http://www.tinotenda.org/dzavadzimu.htm

The keys are mounted on three manuals, two on the left and one on the right.

For the most part, the mbira’s three manuals encompass distinct registers, each with a different range of pitches. The left bottom manual is the lowest register, the left upper manual contains pitches of a middle range, and the highest are played on the right manual.

images.png  .flv

There are some exceptions however. The middle range of pitches is not entirely located on the top left manual. Both the first note on the right manual and the leftmost note in the lower manual go with the upper left register’s “scale.”


With three registers of pitches, the mbira player has access to three octaves of each note. The what seems at first to be arbitrary arrangement of staggered keys makes certain melodic patterns easier to play.

Paul Berliner describes the layout of the mbira's keys (with R indicating the right manual, L the top left and B the bottom left):

The R manual contains a basic scale, the pitches of which have octave and unison counterparts in the L and B manuals. The arrangement of keys on the R manual facilitates the performance of the eight-pitch stepwise descending melodic pattern that is characteristic in the upper voice of music for the mbira dzavadzimu... The pattern of pitches on the L manual conveniently places in adjacent positions several keys that produce melodic leaps of approximately a fifth (L1-L2) and a third (L3-L4). These occur frequently in the middle pitch strata of many mbira pieces. The B manual employs an eqggly efficient arrangement: several keys are placed next to one another for playing melodic leaps of a third (B1-B2 and B6-B7) which commonly appear in the lower voice of mbira music, and most of the keys are placed in positions adjacent to their octave counterparts on the L manual, facilitating the performance of octave leaps in the left-hand parts of mbira pieces. Keys on both the L and B man uals are played by striking downward with the left thumb. Altogether the range of the mbira dzavadzimu encompasses three octaves from its lowest pitch (key Bl) to its highest pitch (key R9).

playing the mbira

Inserting the little finger of the right hand into the hole in the bottom-right of the soundboard helps keep the mbira upright and the right thumb and index finger free for playing the keys. The fingers other than the left hand thumb support the mbira as well.


The left thumb is used to play all the keys on the left side of the mbira. On the right the thumb strikes the first three keys downward while the index finger plucks the remaining keys upward.