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What is Nyamaropa tuning?

An mbira tuning is the set of relationships between the notes of an mbira. Each mbira instrument typically has one tuning for its lifetime, set by the lengths, thicknesses, and positions of the keys held down on the bridge by the pressure bar. We tune an mbira by tapping the out of tune key from one end or the other.

There are many standard tunings and any number of idiosyncratic variations set by individual musicians and groups. Nyamaropa tuning is the most common tuning, but is found in infinite different pitches around Zimbabwe. The intervals on a nyamaropa, or “straight,” tuning mbira, are similar to Mixolydian mode in Western music, but have many slight variations as they are not tuned to Western half and whole steps in most cases.

You can read more about mbira tunings and listen to examples at Tune Your Mbira.

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