Jew’s Harp: A Magical, Musical Instrument
Playing a musical instrument can be exciting, especially when its as small as your forefinger and it resonates sound that is melodious and rhythmic. Jew’s harp also known as jaw’s harp or mouth harp is known to be the oldest instrument in the world. I had never heard about this instrument until recently when I got a chance to play it.
It is made of metal (you also get harps made of bamboo), that vibrates as air is passed over it and its fully controlled by your mouth, which acts like a sound box. There are various styles and shapes of jew’s harp, and its held against your teeth or lips depending on the shape of the harp. Some harps are bow-shaped, those are the ones to be placed between the teeth, and the one we used was a long metal plate cut length wise in the center with a thin strip tapering out.
Here’s how to play the jew’s harp:
- You have to place the jew’s harp against the front teeth, which must be slightly apart in a way that your upper and lower lips should rest on top and bottom of the frame.
- With your forefinger, flick the tongue of the Jew’s Harp (the thin metal strip which is juts out) either by pushing or pulling. While the harp’s tongue is in motion, silently pronounce the vowels (A-E-I-O-U). This is an easy way to learn how to produce sounds, which occur by altering the size of the mouth cavity.
- Using small amounts of air (either inhaling or exhaling) will alter the sound quality and volume. Moving your tongue (thus changing the size of the mouth cavity) and using small amounts of air will, in no time at all, produce many different tones.
The video below will give you an idea of how it works.
It sounds pretty simple, but takes some time to get more fluent with it. When you combine the sound with a singing bowl, thats what we did, its beautiful, very soothing and relaxing.
Jew’s Harp is used as a percussion instrument in India, and is also called by different names in different parts. In Karnataka & Andhra Pradesh its known as ‘morsing’, in Rajasthan its called ‘morchang’, in Assam – ‘gogona’. This amazing instrument is known in many different cultures by several different names. Since droning sounds can get a human in a state of trance, the Jew’s harp has been a common instrument in shamanic rituals. Its one of the most original instruments in the world.
To sum it up, Hawk’s Eye newspaper, Iowa, June 6, 1844, said – “Woman is said to be like a Jew’s Harp because she is nothing without a tongue and must be pressed to the lips. Then she is music for the soul.”
Get your hands on it, am sure you won’t regret it. Its not easily available in Mumbai, if you need more information on it, please drop a comment.
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