It isn’t my intention to make Acrylic Kalimbas seem like a poor choice. I actually prefer my acrylic kalimba over my wooden ones, just because the sound is so beautiful to me.
Other than the sound, some people prefer the aesthetic as well. Ultimately, this comes down to a personal preference. You certainly won’t regret choosing acrylic – it’s still a fantastic instrument. If you don’t care either way however, I generally recommend wooden kalimbas – especially to beginners.
If you have the money, there’s no reason you couldn’t get both!
Is it worth getting both a wood and and an acrylic kalimba?
The advantages here come from a more diverse set of tone options. As a guitar player as well, it is believed that you can never own enough guitars – there will always be one that’s better suited for a specific song or playing style. Fortunately with kalimbas, your options are much more limited, so you can take care of your needs with only 2 kalimbas – a wooden and an acrylic.
I’ve found that I prefer the sound of an Acrylic Kalimba for soft, emotional, or lullaby-type music, for example.
If you are purchasing your first kalimba, I recommend only purchasing one until you’re absolutely sure you’ll be sticking with it. If you already own a kalimba, it may be worth it to buy the other type.
When choosing a wooden kalimba, should I pick a hollow kalimba or a flat kalimba?
It’s a little bit easier to play the higher notes on flatboard kalimbas, as they tend to resonate a bit better. However, I recommend hollow kalimbas to beginners.
Is there such thing as a glass kalimba? What about crystal kalimbas?
Acrylic Kalimbas are commonly mistaken for glass because well, they certainly like glass if you’ve never researched them before! There doesn’t seem to be any glass kalimbas for sale that I’ve been able to find. The same can be said for crystal kalimbas.
Is there anything else I should buy along with my kalimba?
Yes! Many kalimbas come with a tuning hammer and case, so you (usually) won’t need to worry about that. However, if you don’t have long nails, I highly recommend picking up a package of Alaska picks. These slip on over your thumbs and can help you play without hurting them, while also providing maximum resonance. At the very least, you could slip them on when you fingers begin to hurt.
Overall, when comparing wooden vs Acrylic Kalimbas, the choice largely comes down to personal preference. Sound is probably the most important aspect to most people, so this is the factor I would consider the most when making your decision.
If you don’t care so much about this or you aren’t sure, I would encourage you to purchase a hollow wooden kalimba first, as there are noticeable benefits vs acrylic. After you get used to playing, you could always purchase another kalimba later on!