Array mbiras are available in two distinctly different body styles, the hollow body acoustics and the solid body electrics. The tine assembly, note range and pickup system are exactly the same on both models.
Solid body instruments are smaller than the hollow bodies but weigh more. They have a lot less volume acoustically but are still audible enough to practice when "unplugged" and they're much less prone to feedback problems when amplified.
Hollow body instruments have a rich natural tone that varies considerably depending on the types of wood used. The primary influence on the overall sound characteristics comes from the "anchor board" which is on the inside of the instrument. The entire tine assembly is bolted to it and it in turn transfers the vibrational energy into the hollow body where it's naturally amplified. The volume level of a HB Array mbira is similar to that of a classical, nylon string guitar. We generally use medium hard, heavy and dense woods for the anchor board which produce a good balance between the high and low notes and medium amount of sustain. Softer and lighter wood will produce more bass, less treble and less sustain where harder, heavier and denser wood will produce more treble, less bass and more sustain.
All Array Mbiras come with an in-house custom made 2 channel stereo piezo cable pickup system.The pickups are very accurate in their ability to reproduce the sound of the Array Mbira and can be plugged directly into a recording system or amplifier. A preamp is sometimes needed depending on the system. The pickup system consists of two pickups that are placed under the full length of the compression bar, one on the left side and one on the right side so that every note is fully picked up. The resulting stereo field can be very mesmerizing and hypnotic when recorded or it can be mixed all into a mono signal.
Array Mbiras are carefully and lovingly handcrafted by a small team of dedicated craftsmen and musicians living in the San Diego area of southern California, USA. The climate is very moderate year round and the humidity levels are perfect for building fine quality instruments that are intended to last for many generations.
3 octave ___ C2 to B4
4 octave ___ C2 to B5
5 octave ___ C1 to B5
Note range modifications are available on request. For instance, a four octave instrument could be made with the note range of C1 to B4 or C3 to B6. We've also created a few custom 2 and 6 octave Mbiras, only available for custom orders.
Non-standard specialized tunings are available by master tuner Bill Wesley. Please see the Array System for the standard tuning system.
All prices for shipping are for Continental US only. For Alaska/Hawaii or International please contact us before placing an order to get a quote.
Any Array Mbira can be ordered with a custom case for traveling, and or shipping. Cases start at $350 and have several options for handles and wheels.