How To Tune Your Kora

  • The diagram below shows the bridge of a kora as viewed from above, i.e. when the instrument is held in the playing position.
  • This is the tuning known as Silaba which is similar to a Western Major scale*
    Another common tuning is Suarta (you will see various spellings) where the 4th in the scale is sharpened, so in the example below all the B flats would become naturals.
  • The pitches are shown using western music notation, starting on F (tonic soh-fah) in this example but any other pitch can be used.  
  • Each note can also be heard by clicking on it (the mouse arrow turns to a hand)
  • The lowest note is the one nearest the player on the left hand side.
  • The notes then rise in pitch as indicated by following the red arrows.  You will notice that the second third and fourth notes of the scale (rah, me, fahG°, A°, Bflat°) are missing in the first part of the scale on the left hand side.  Some players add some of these notes with extra strings, e.g. a 22 string kora will usually have a Bflat.
  • Here is a document that shows the gauges we usually use on our koras.  There is no hard and fast rule, but this is a good starting point for many people.   The tension and therefore the gauge used is a matter for personal preference and experience.  Note: we are starting to use 1.8mm diameter for the second note, the C and it would also be used on the extra B flat on a 22 string kora.

Silaba Tuning with weights/gauges

F0 doh C0 soh D0 lah E0 teh G1 rah Bb1 fah D1 lah F2 doh A2 me C2 soh E2 teh F1 doh A1 me C1 soh E1 teh G2 rah Bb2 fah D2 lah F3 doh G3 rah A3 me