Unlike many others, this old Jew's Harp is all brass, including the sweetly turned tongue with a loop at its very end. It is a larger size, approximately 4 inches long. Flat on the underside, it was made with an attractive curled design.
There are no maker markings, but it has been in the family for many years. I remember it as a very young child in the 1950s, when I would sneak into the parlor and investigate the old souvenirs and other things kept on the what-not in the corner.
Condition is extremely nice - the brass is a beautiful color with superb patina. The instrument performs beautifully for anyone who knows how to play one of these. The tongue is as firmly attached to the frame as ever, and retains its original spring.
According to Wikipedia, the Jew's Harp originated in Asia, and is considered to be one of the oldest musical instruments in the world. A musician apparently playing it can be seen in a Chinese drawing from the 4th century BC. Despite its common English name, it has no connection with Jews or Judaism. It is classed as a lamellophone instrument, which consists of a flexible metal or bamboo tongue or reed attached to a frame. The tongue/reed is placed in the performer's mouth and plucked with the finger to produce a note. Each instrument produces one pitch only, with its multiples (overtones), though different sized instruments provide different pitches.
To play it, the Jew's Harp frame, depending on its type, is held firmly against the performer's parted teeth or lips. The jaw and mouth serve as a resonator, greatly increasing the volume of the instrument. The teeth must be parted sufficiently for the reed to vibrate freely, and the fleshy parts of the mouth should not come into contact with the reed, to prevent damping of the vibrations and possible pain. The note or tone thus produced is constant in pitch, though by changing the shape of the mouth, and the amount of air contained in it, the performer can cause different overtones to sound and thus create melodies. and sound volume can be varied by breathing in and out.
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