I recently received a shipment of Jew’s Harps made by master maker Zoltan Szilagyi of Hungary and I could not be more pleased with them. I ordered several of the instruments but the one I have been enjoying playing most is this one:
Zoltan Szilagyi’s Consul in C.
To hear me play this amazing instrument a bit check this out:
The Jew’s Harp is simple instrument is made from a metal frame with a metal tongue that is pressed against the teeth held slightly open. Then the instruments tongue is plucked producing a sound. This sound is amplified by the vocal cavity of the player. The player then manipulates his breath, tongue and throat muscles to change the tonal characteristics of the inside of the vocal cavity which makes an incredible variety of sounds from the instrument.
The Jew’s harp has over 1000 documented names from different countries all over the world. It is likely that it originated in Central Asia near what is now Mongolia. It is found in as different cultures as Bali where it is referred to as genggong and Germany where it is called a Maultrommel (literally mouth drum). Samples more that 1000 years old have been discovered in Japan and early examples in Europe date from 1400. The origin of the name Jew’s Harp in English is a mystery and this is the only language that connects the instrument to a particular language or culture.
More on the History of the Jew’s Harp here.
More on the origin of the name Jew’s Harp here.