Thumb Pianos

  • Advertise with us
Project by whitedog posted 05-20-2011 09:51 PM 1947 views 11 times favorited 12 comments Add to Favorites Watch

I made a couple of Thumb Pianos for the kids. But being a non- musical guy I now have to figure out how to tune them , not that they care. They are easy to make just a box with some hardware on top.

One is Walnut with Oak sides and Cypress on top , its 5 1/2×7 x 1 1/2 , this one has a nice deep tone to it.

More like what I thought they would sound like.

The other one is Walnut with western cedar side , it’s a little smaller with a bit of a tapper. This one doesn’t

have as nice of sound to it , maybe I will be able to help it by playing with the tuning .

The metal key things are from an old lawn rake , after I’m done trying to tune them I’ll cut them to look a little better.

Please comment even if I did it wrong.

-- Paul , Calfornia

12 comments so far

View Grandpa's profile


3244 posts in 1711 days

#1 posted 05-20-2011 10:26 PM

First one that I have ever seen. They are interesting looking devices. I would think you would tune one by adjusting the length of the keys wouldn’t you. what do they sound like when you play them? I might need to make some of these. Tell us more about them. What is the metal you used? those look like a leaf rake tine. Play us a tune. ha ha Thanks for the post.

View rance's profile


4196 posts in 2196 days

#2 posted 05-20-2011 10:43 PM

Paul, Very nice looking pieces. BTW, your photography is superb. I have no idea but there is a possibility that trimming off the back sides may affect the tuning so it may be a multi-step process. Also, I’ve heard that you can tune a piano, but you can’t tuna fish. Again, nice job.

-- Backer boards, stop blocks, build oversized, and never buy a hand plane--

View Brit's profile


5711 posts in 1879 days

#3 posted 05-20-2011 11:41 PM

Nice one Rance.

Paul, the only thing that will affect the pitch is the length of the fingers on the hole side. In other words the distance from the metal bar underneath them to the end. If anyone in your family plays guitar and has a chromatic tuner, you can use that to see what notes are sounding when you flick each finger and adjust the length until the correct tones are heard. It might be a bit hit and miss (pun intended) though.

-- Andy -- Old Chinese proverb say: "If you think something can't be done, don't interrupt man who is doing it."

View amagineer's profile


1399 posts in 1633 days

#4 posted 05-21-2011 03:37 AM

Paul, the Kalimba looks great. If you want to change the sound tone you can also add two 1/2 holes on the underside. Located about where your index fingers are when your are playing the instrument. Something like opening and closing a hole in a flute but not required to play.

-- Flaws are only in the eye of the artisan!

View HallTree's profile


5662 posts in 2803 days

#5 posted 05-21-2011 03:41 AM

Very nice job and very interresting. ‘Thumb Pianos’, I have got to check those out on the internet. Where did you get the info to make them?

-- "Hold on to instruction, do not let it go; guard it well, for it is your life" Solomon

View Bearpie's profile


2597 posts in 2054 days

#6 posted 05-21-2011 04:23 AM

I like this and it sounds like fun to make(pun intended) I will attempt to make one as soon as my workshop work is finished. Thanks for posting this and stirring my interest.

Erwin, Jacksonville, FL

-- Erwin, Jacksonville, FL

View Jimthecarver's profile


1123 posts in 2821 days

#7 posted 05-21-2011 04:24 AM

very cool….....if you use a droid type phone they havean app to tune them rite up.

-- Can't never could do anything, to try is to advance.

View whitedog's profile


651 posts in 2493 days

#8 posted 05-21-2011 04:40 AM

Thanks everyone…
I just did a google search for Kalimba / thumb piano to find out how to make one.

I do know how to change the tune , I just don’t know what a G or any other note sounds like .

amagineer.. I think I might try the holes in the bottom.

Jim I’ll look into that app I think that is what I need.

-- Paul , Calfornia

View HallTree's profile


5662 posts in 2803 days

#9 posted 05-21-2011 04:43 PM

I just found a ‘on line tuner’ that might be helpful:

-- "Hold on to instruction, do not let it go; guard it well, for it is your life" Solomon

View whitedog's profile


651 posts in 2493 days

#10 posted 05-21-2011 07:22 PM

Ron that looks perfect.

I have a couple of other instruments in mind to make that will need to be tuned also.

-- Paul , Calfornia

View Bertha's profile


12981 posts in 1729 days

#11 posted 05-21-2011 07:23 PM

They’re wonderful. Did you build the mechanism or purchase it? If purchased, I’m dying to learn of the supplier. Nice work!

-- My dad and I built a 65 chev pick up.I killed trannys in that thing for some reason-Hog

View learnin2do's profile


878 posts in 1888 days

#12 posted 05-22-2011 08:47 AM

Those are marvelous; they look like fun!
-I know what you mean -i want to make a giant marimba for the playground at the Montessori, but i don’t know how to make it functional, since i’m tone-deaf!

-- christine

Have your say...

You must be signed in to post the comments.

DISCLAIMER: Any posts on LJ are posted by individuals acting in their own right and do not necessarily reflect the views of LJ. LJ will not be held liable for the actions of any user.

Latest Projects | Latest Blog Entries | Latest Forum Topics