The Mudcat Café TM
Thread #3318   Message #773726
Posted By: GUEST,Songster Bob
29-Aug-02 - 01:06 PM
Thread Name: Attn: Jews Harp Players
Subject: RE: Attn: Jews Harp Players
Well, the "trump" calls to mind another name for it, in German, something like (my German spelling is atrocious) Jugdetromp, meaning "youth trumpet" or something similar.

Someone asked how they can play tunes on one note. Well, it has to do with overtones. That one note has harmonics, and you change the position of your tongue (and therefore the size of the cavity within the mouth) to catch, reinforce, produce, notes based on the harmonics. For that reason, some notes are easier to produce than others, since some harmonics are stronger than others (Octaves, then fifths, then what -- fifths of fifths, or fourths? Someone with scary knowledge of music theory can enlighten us.), and truly complex tunes are rarely done well except by the best players. You can try something similar with the old pounding-on-the-cheeks or pencil-on-the-teeth technique.

There have been some very good Jew's harp players around. Right now, there's a 78-rpm record of Jew's harp playing being auctioned on Ebay. Jon Wright, of England, a few years back produced a record on a French label called "La Guimbard," featuring himself and his wife, who's a singer. Incredible playing.

There have also been some good makers, in particular the Smith brothers of Renssalear(sp?), NY. Harps marked "I.R. Smith" or "J.R. Smith" are prized by players and collectors. I have harps from Nigeria, Afghanistan, Laos (bamboo!) and Siberia among mine, and am lucky enough to have about four Smiths in playing condition, plus one with (sigh) a broken tongue.

The instruction someone gave to hold the harp tight against the teeth is essential. You want the harp's tongue to vibrate cleanly, and if the frame is bouncing against your teeth, the tongue loses some sound at the same time your dentist is getting richer.

Bob Clayton