Skalen und Stimmungen

This is the range of notes that can be played on the 21 Kora strings.
The bridge shows the strings related to the notes in the notation.
(The x is not a string but a percussion effect.)
The green line in the bridge follows the ascending and descending scale.

Tonal Base

The absolute base pitch of traditional instruments may vary between about E (deepest guitar string) and the A above it.
However, F seems to become standard.

software can either use F as tonal base for the notations.
Here we use F, so the intervallic steps (given in Roman numbers) in the 4 octaves (deep, lower, upper, high) are:


deep octave (incomplete, 4 notes), played with left thumb
steps I, V, VI, VII

lower octave (complete, 7 notes), preferably played with thumbs
steps I, II, III, IV, V, VI, VII

upper octave (complete, 7 notes), preferably played with forefingers
steps I, II, III, IV, V, VI, VII

high octave (incomplete, 3 notes), played with right forefinger
steps I, II, III

This tuning schema is found where ever the Kora is played.

This is the assignment of the 21 Kora strings to the keyboard.
Dark colors means to be played with the thumbs, light with the index fingers.
Red colors are at the left hand, blue at the right hand.

The 23 string Kora has additional step IV and step II in the bass.
Also step VI is tuned down to step III.

A 22 string Kora normally has additional step IV.
Different ways of detuning step VI are used depending on the need:
most often to step II or step III.

Even on a 21 string Kora the step VI can be tuned to step IV or step III.

Traditional Tunings

The tunings have different relative distances between the tonal steps, other than on the just tempered Western scale:

step III (A) und step VII (E) can be rather major (Hardino)
or minor (Tomora Mesengo) or in between (Tomora Ba, Silaba),
step IV (Bb or "German"-B) can be augmented (B or "German"-H) in Sauta tuning,
even step II and VI can differ from a just interval,
only step I and step V are always one fifth apart.

For Sauta tuning the step IV in the scale is tuned up by one halftone.

There are 4 traditional heptatonic tunings with microtonal intervals.
The scales given below in Cents (1 halftone = 100 Cents, 1 octave = 1200 Cents) have been measured and generalized by R. King.

Zum Vergleich die Intervalle der temperierten Stimmung von F-Dur in Cents:

F 200 G 200 A 100 B 200 C 200 D 200 E 100 f

Die Zeichen - und + unter den Noten kennzeichnen die Differenz zur temperierten Stimmung.

Tomora Ba auch genannt Silaba

Hauptsächlich für Tiliji (westliches, Gambia) Repertoire verwendet.
Gilt als die charakteristische Kora-Stimmung im Gegensatz zu den anderen, die von Balo (Balafon) und Kontingo (Ngoni) abgeleitet sind.
Ähnlich der westlichen Durtonart, aber mit leicht erniedrigter Terz und Septime.
Intervalle in Cents:

F 200 G 185 A 115 B 200 C 200 D 185 E 115 f
           -                       -

Tomora Mesengo auch genannt Tomora

Häufig für Tilibo (östliches, Mali) und Casamance Repertoire verwendet.
Stark erniedrigte Terz und Septime (zwischen groß und klein), leicht erhöhte Sekund und Sext.
Intervalle in Cents:

F 230 G 95 A 175 B 200 C 230 D 95 E 175 f
     +    -                 +    -


Häufig für Tilibo (östliches) Repertoire verwendet.
Wie die westliche Durtonart, mit leicht erhöhter Terz und Septime, sowie leicht erniedrigter Sekund und Sext.
Intervalle in Cents:>

F 185 G 220 E 95 B 200 C 185 D 220 E 95 f
     -     +                -     +


Häufig für Tilibo (östliches) Repertoire verwendet.
Wie Hardino, aber mit um 1 Halbton erhöhter Quart, entspricht dem lydischen Modus.
In Gambia und Casamance wird manchmal ein "Halb-Sauta" verwendet:
dabei wird nur Stufe IV in der oberen Oktave auf Sauta hinaufgestimmt, die untere Oktave bleibt auf Hardino.

Intervalle in Cents:

F 185 G 220 A 200 B 95 C 185 D 220 E 95 f
     -     +     ++         -     +

Mikrotonale Stimmungen

Software ist mit einem Wave-Player ausgestattet,
der gesampelte Sounds der Korasaiten mit beliebiger Samplerate (Frequenz) abspielen kann.
Damit kann das ganze Instrument oder jede einzelne Saite mikrotonal gestimmt werden.

Praxis of Tunings

African Korafola (Kora players) normally are not concerned with absolute pitches,
this question arises only when they play together with keyboards or other Western tuned instruments.

If they play with a second Kora or with a Balafon, Ngoni they just match to a common base pitch
that is ok for both players and for the singing voice.

If they play alone they don't care too much about pitches and sometimes not even about tunings
- there are all kinds of microtonal variations to be heard for the step II and VII between major and minor,
more to minor when using Tomora tuning, more to major when using Hardino.
The tunings are learned by ear, therefore there are considerable regional and individual differences.

Most music pieces are thought to be played in a certain tuning, though this is not obligatory.
Some Hardino-songs may also be played in Sauta and reversely.
Some songs played normally in Tomora Ba can also be heard in Tomora Mesengo.

However, younger Korafola tend to play in bands together with Western instruments where they need to tune to them.
So it is very common to tune the Kora to a just Western F-major scale. This standard tuning is usually called Silaba.