Jew’s harp is a reed instrument, one of the oldest musical instruments. Its appearance has been recorded in different parts of the world. Each nation has given it its own name. Despite the similarity of the structure, the nations of the world could not come to a single name for this instrument. (More details in the article History of the Jew’s harp’s Origin.) This instrument has reached our days almost unchanged. Its structure remains the same across cultures, only its appearance changes.
Despite the simplicity of its structure, the jew’s harp is notable for the complexity of playing technique. It is necessary to make oscillatory movements of the reed so that the reed does not touch either other parts of the jew’s harp or teeth. The difficulty lies in reproducing a rhythmic melody, combining different timbres of both the jew’s harp and the natural human resonators that are used while playing. Directing the sound to the head, the performer can use the nasal resonator. With the addition of singing, the chest resonator will come into play. (For more information, see the Playing Technique article.)
In ancient times, jew’s harps were used for meditation and to purify human spirit. Nowadays it is also used for the aesthetic pleasure of melodies. Modern musicians are experimenting in search of new sounds. For example, some jew’s harp performers interpret famous tunes, improvisation with beatboxing (see video example). Or they improvise together with DJ’s at club parties. These combinations of ancient and modern trends allow us to call the jew’s harp a musical instrument of our century.
As for Glazyrin’s jew’s harps, they are a modern modification of ancient lamellar reed instruments. Master Glazyrin managed to embody the richness of sound timbre, simplicity of form and attractive appearance in one product. (article about us)
We present to your attention a creative photo session based on shamanic culture. In the photo, the new harp is a Red Indian. Photographer is Irina Voinkova.
"Big shamans" are shamans who have practical knowledge, experience, and influence of people. Thanks to his intelligence and strong character, the shaman could occupy a prominent social position. The shaman was also an expert in the culture of his people, a Keeper of traditions and folklore, and a master of the word. It was believed that his speech should please the ears of not only people, but also spirits. By the way, the shaman's poetic and oratorical talent served as a sure sign of his connection with spirits for others. According to the beliefs of many peoples, spirits love a bright and imaginative word, and therefore endow their chosen ones with eloquence. Combining the poetic gift with the knowledge of myths and legends, the shaman was essentially a folk storyteller, an artist in the broadest sense of the word. He was very good with a tambourine or other musical instrument. Shamanic rites were a kind of dramatic action that had a specific scenario.
For those who are acquiring this instrument for the first time, we offer a line of special jew’s harps for beginners to choose from. Firstly, these jew’s harps are smaller in size. Secondly, they are designed for practicing strikes, training hands and learning the basics of playing. The sound of these jew’s harps is soft, calm, suitable for meditation and relaxation, for example, when accompanying yoga classes. Jew’s harps with a small frame should be held by the base and only in this way. Compared with narrow-frame jew’s harps, exemplars with a wide frame can boast a number of options for holding; there are significantly more of them.
This line of jew’s harps is for people who already have an idea of such a wonderful instrument. These models are much larger in size and, as a result, they become more complicated as to the technique of playing them. Also, the number of possibilities and techniques for creating unique melodies and unusual sounds is expanded. A possibility for detailed sound elaboration emerges. You can experiment with improvisation using fast and intermittent rhythms. The wide frame of the jew’s harp allows you to hold it in various ways: by the frame decks, by the base with two fingers, by the base with three fingers or enfolding it with a hand. (See picture)
What does the jew’s harp consist of? First of all, to understand its structure, it is necessary to know the main components:
• Tongue – A plate between the decks of the frame, with the oscillation of which, a musical sound is created
• Frame – Jew’s harp’s metal base
• Gaps – The distance between the jew’s harp’s tongue and the decks (parallel frame sections). This is one of the most important parameters, responsible for the volume and width of the instrument’s spectrum. The smaller and smoother the gaps, the louder and richer the sound, and the easier it is to emit it (measurement in micrometers).
• Trigger – Part of the jew’s harp, with which the tongue is brought into a state of oscillation, due to which the sound is formed.
• Looper – Tip of the tongue that creates a certain tension. Most noteworthy, thanks to it, the necessary resistance is formed for the correct oscillation of the tongue. Also, this place can be hollow, when provided for increasing the weight. Consequently, in this cavity, you can insert a special weight ball, which comes in the kit with such models as Phantom and Phantom Mini.
• Connecting part – The place where the tongue is fixed to the base.
To play the jew’s harp, the first thing to do is attach it to your teeth in the correct way. One has to attach the jew’s harp’s edges to the front teeth. Having opened them just enough for the tongue of the jew’s harp to freely go back and forth while playing. At the same time, the vibration from the plate will be transmitted through the jew’s harp to the teeth. After that to the rest of the resonators – nasal, pharyngeal, oral, thoracic. Accentuation of the extracted sound can be complemented by frontal and abdominal resonators.With the help of all these “assistants” in playing, the sound will spread and be enriched in timbre.
The instrument can be held with any hand, which is more convenient for you. With the other hand you need to vibrate the tongue with the touch of a finger. To create interesting and unique melodies, you can use the movement of the larynx, your tongue, ligaments and the upper palate.
Way of playing
Main ways: timbre arrangement, breathing, articulation, intonation. Breath is used in all its capabilities when playing. Also as a dynamic component. Inhaling and exhaling while playing is equally important for the formation of sound. Unusual sounds will occur by means of intermittent exhalations. Unexpected tricks and combinations will appear.
Melodization is limited to the overtone scale segment. These limits can be extended with the help of special tools, for example, as in our model Phantom. In this model, it is done thanks to a weighting ball for which there is a special place at the base of the tongue. The ball significantly lowers the original sound of the jew’s harp and creates new and incredible combinations.
For the correct and beautiful play you also need to observe the following prescriptions:
Restrictions on playing
Due to the structure of the jew’s harp and its use, there are some restrictions on the manipulation during the play. One should not open the jaw more than necessary and less than is necessary to keep the jew’s harp in the correct position and to maintain the quality of playing.
Experiments in making music
In the last five years, a new direction in the jew’s harp music making appeared. Experienced musicians combine their instrumental playing with simultaneous singing and beatboxing.
The jew’s harp is not only a musical instrument for extracting sound, but also an instrument that encapsulates the cultural heritage of the peoples of the world.
Its birth occurred about two thousand years ago in Europe and several thousand years ago in Asia.
The music of the jew’s harp did not have musical notes and was passed on from generations to generations only verbally. Because of that, the art of playing and the structure of the jew’s harps of those years came to us only partially.
This instrument has many names in different languages of the peoples of the world. The European name is the most common, at the moment, in English it sounds like jew’s harp. It first appeared in the 16th century and became widely used after the 18th century.
Initially, the instrument had the name trump (from the verb to play the trumpet, roar or trumpet). But the literal translation of the current title may mislead our reader, because it translates as a Jewish harp. Jew’s harp has nothing to do with the Jewish people; neither does it look like a harp in its structure and appearance.
Jew’s harp history
It can be assumed from its history of origin that the jew’s harp has absorbed a lot of different languages into its name. In French it was jeu trump, which translates as a trumpet for playing, which, in turn, was formed from the Danish jeudgtromp – child’s pipe. In German, it sounds as maultrommel – lip drum. In Estonia, parmupill. In Norwegian and Icelandic, munnharpa. The French version is guimbarde that translates as ridiculous, absurd person. In Latvia, vargas. The Italian version, scacciapensieri has spiritual connotations – to drive out, drive away the thought. In Lithuania, dambras, bandurelis. Bulgarian version is rumbazuk.
In America, tongue instruments appeared thanks to European merchants; they brought them together with silks and weapons. In this country, these instruments are called trompa, trompe, tyrimpa, and also jew’s harp.
According to most jew’s-harp experts, the jew’s harp takes its origin from southeast Asia. Then it spread to India and in Europe. Most of its Asian names are similar to the often used – Khomus. For example, komuz, comys, shankobyz, kobyz, gopuz, they all mean a musical instrument. It was also used as a musical instrument in shamanism during rituals. The Turkic people called it khomyhyn, which translates as sorcery, magic, enchantment, witchcraft. Its magical properties were used to banish evil spirits.
Now these instruments are mainly used to create ethnic music and for immersion in meditation while playing.
There are plate-like and ring-shaped jew’s harps.
A plate-like jew’s harp can be made of a metal plate or wood, and also of bone. This type is thin and narrow; the tongue is located in the center of the plate. Ring-shaped jew’s harps are made out of steel by forging, with rounding of the base. In the center of the base a metal tongue is attached. The tip of the tongue is rounded in a special way for the convenience of playing and getting the right sound. The sound of this type of jew’s harp is bright and deep. The appearance of the ring-shaped type of jew’s harps occurred much later than that of the plate-like ones.
Our company revived the production of this tongue instrument in the center of Russia and collected the best of the two types in one product. Glazyrin’s jew’s harps have – a firm metal body, a thin plate-like tongue, with a rounding at the end; the neatly made piece also boasts an impressive appearance, while the sound of our jew’s harps is clear and pronounced. With all these positive components, the price of the product is not high compared to its analogues.