Fingering Chart – Bulgarian Kaval in D by Zhivko Vasilev

Many people ask me about a fingering chart for the Bulgarian Kaval. I researched a lot about that topic offline – books about the kaval and online – different articles, pdf books, uploaded on various websites from different people. To be honest a never found anything that I would recommend to my students and to people that want to learn how to play the kaval in general. So I decided to make a new, better fingering chart for the Bulgarian Kaval. Again, a lot of the stuff that you would find in this article are taken from my personal practice and many kaval players might disagree with me on some of the stuff. Some of the techniques were invented by me and you will not be able to find them anywhere else.

Let’s first start with what a Fingering Chart is. The Fingering Chart is a diagram that shows which holes you need to cover, in order to produce a certain note. The circles colored in black represent the covered holes, the ones in blue are located on the back of the kaval and are covered by your thumb, the ones in white are not covered and the grey ones can be covered to help you balance and hold on to the kaval. Spend as much time as you need so that you fully understand and learn the fingering chart because it’s very important for you to start playing. A lot of the things in that fingering chart are from my own practice, most of the workarounds I found myself and they don’t necessarily coincide with the stuff that you can find in other handbooks or lessons. Take a look at the chart attached here. 

Click on the illustration to enlarge.

On the Fingering Chart above you will see 4 sections. They represent the five basic registers of the Bulgarian kaval – Kaba, Low Register, Low-Middle Register, High-Middle Register and High Register. The reason the sections are just four is that the fingering for the Low Registester and the Kaba are identical. The Bulgarian Kaval is a semi-chromatic instrument. This means that almost the entire chromatic scale can be played on it but there are a few missing notes. I don’t like to refer to those notes as missing notes, because they are not really missing. They just require extended techniques and knowledge to be played. Those notes are: B4, C5, C#5/Db5 and D#5/Eb5. I’ve covered them partly in the fingering chart but keep in mind even if you cover the holes as indicated on the chart you still might not be able to play the “tricky” notes. The reason for that is that it’s not just the fingers but also the embouchure that needs to be adjusted a little bit. 

You probably saw the note symbols followed by a digit, for instance – D4. This is the American Pitch Notation System. That’s the system that I use for my lessons and for the fingerin chart provided above. To learn more about the registers of the kaval and the pitch notation system check out this article – LINK.

The only missing note in the chart is C#/Db between the first and the second register. I mentioned in the previous article that there are a few very cool techniques that would allow you to play completely chromatically. They are out of the scope of this article but if you’re interested in how to play those feel free to contact me or book a lesson with me. You can do that HERE.

Overblowing

I am not a huge fan of this term because it is not completely correct. When I say “overblowing” I basically refer to getting up to the next octave, fifth or fourth of the kaval (next harmonic). While technically it’s true that increasing the airstream will accomplish the task, it’s much more than just that. Again, it’s more about getting the right technique rather than blowing more air, but for the purpose of that lesson, I’ll use that term. You might have noticed already, while practicing your sound, that increasing the amount of air might result in changing the register. As you continue practicing you will see that it’s a lot more than just that. In fact, I almost don’t change anything in my airstream when changing the registers. So, start by blowing more air and the farther you go the more you will find your way of doing it.

How does “overblowing” actually work? 

Overblowing example

What we’re doing with this “overblowing” is: using the harmonics of the kaval. Take a look at the example to the right. If you play the lowest A on the kaval (A4), “overblow” once you will produce a note an octave higher – A5, then you overblow again, this time the note will be a fifth higher – E6, which is the next harmonic, and then once more – you will get A6 which is a fourth higher (again, the next harmonic). This formula is the same for each note of the kaval. If you apply it for each note you will find some of the alternate fingerings that are not listed in the chart above. The reason they’re not there is, because sometimes the alternate fingerings won’t produce a clear enough sound or the pitch would not be great. It’s different for every kaval. That’s why I suggest that you stick to the fingerings in the chart that I’ve provided. Eventually when you get better you can experiment and try to find alternate fingerings that might fit your playing, sound or instrument better. 

The techniques mentioned above require a lot of time, practice and patience. Don’t lose hope and motivation! Keep working until you make it. If you find it too difficult don’t hesitate to book a private lesson with me. You can easily do that HERE.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.