The mouth harp, also known in English as “Jew's harp”, is a simple instrument that dates back to the 4th century BC. Playing the mouth harp requires a lot of practice and dedication. This instrument is used in many types of popular music, but it can also be used in experimental projects.
Method 1 of 3: Holding a Mouth Harp
Step 1. Position your hand
Use your non-dominant hand (left-handed right hand) to hold the mouth harp. Make a "C" shape with your thumb and forefinger. Here you should hold the frame of the harp. Line up the circular part of the mouth harp with the "C" in your hand.
The harp consists of a circular frame and two long arms that secure the reed
Step 2. Hold the harp
Hold it with your thumb and forefinger around the frame lightly. Make sure the lever is away from your face. The lever is the part of the harp that protrudes from the reed in the center.
If the harp is rounder than your grip, use your middle and index fingers to hold the handle. Then hold the frame securely with your thumb
Step 3. Put it in your mouth
Open your teeth about 4 inches and place your arms against your teeth. Don't forget to position the harp so that the reed lever is away from your face. The key is to rest the beveled edge of the harp firmly against your teeth. Do not place your teeth on the beveled edge. Press the mouth harp firmly against your teeth. For the sake of your teeth, it is important that you apply firm pressure.
If you don't put the harp in the correct position, you could break your tooth
Step 4. Curl the lips
For a good sound to come out, it must touch your teeth. The opening must be clear for the reed to produce tones. Curve your lips a little over the teeth and over the frame. Make sure to keep the lever path clear.
Method 2 of 3: Play a Mouth Harp
Step 1. Practice plucking
Use your dominant hand to pull the lever a little. It is essential that you do not pick too hard at first, as you run a greater risk of chipping a tooth. To avoid damaging them, keep firm pressure between the harp and your teeth. Pull the lever in or out depending on your preference.
- An inward tapping is when you pull the lever toward your mouth.
- An outward tapping is when you pull the lever away from your mouth.
- Find a comfortable pick. Some mouth harpists use their index finger to play, while others use their entire hand. Find out what you feel most comfortable with. Try to play a rhythm and repeat it. This will help you feel more comfortable with picking.
Step 2. Open your throat
For the sound to come out more amplified from the mouth harp, you must open the throat. It is common to open the throat when we drink any liquid. Perform this same technique with your throat while playing the mouth harp.
Step 3. Change the shape of the mouth
Try modifying the shape of the throat. We always do it when we speak. Imagine that you are saying the vowels: a, e, i, o and u. These shapes will give you different shades. Practice consistent plucking while changing the shape of the mouth
If you open your mouth wider, you can reach a higher pitch. Similarly, you can reach a lower pitch if you close it
Step 4. Move your tongue
The tongue also helps modify the sound of the mouth harp. Experiment with different positions. Try moving your tongue towards the back of your throat for a nice effect.
Step 5. Modify your breathing
The different respiratory variations will modify your tone. Breathing out while playing the harp will create a loud, vibrant sound. Breathing will create a softer hum. Use these techniques as tunes. Breathe through your nose while playing normally.
Step 6. Practice your repertoire of sounds
Keep experimenting with different combinations of the above techniques. Once you get comfortable with different sounds, try developing a melody. It takes a lot of practice to play cohesive melodies with the mouth harp.
- You won't be able to play different melodies until you've mastered all the basics.
- Try something experimental with the mouth harp. Try whispering words while playing. Play and try to have fun with it.
Step 7. Play notes on the harp
Differentiating notes conscientiously is just as difficult for harpists as it is for listeners. The particular note it produces depends on the quality and brand of the instrument. Play notes while making open and closed sounds. Open sounds are all the sounds you have produced so far. Closing sounds are produced by closing the throat or glottis. Then use air pressure to open your glottis and say "A".
- This will produce a harmonic sound that is essential for playing different notes.
- Use a tuner while you practice to see if you can hit a perfect note. Then practice the other techniques and adjust your mouth until those sounds create a different note.
- Remember that it is difficult to play intentional notes with the mouth harp.
Method 3 of 3: Improve Your Skill
Step 1. Search for recordings
There are many recordings where you can hear the harp by mouth. It was generally used in old time folk and country music; however, it is native to the traditional music of Eastern Europe. Listen to these popular recordings where you can hear the mouth harp:
- We're Allowed by The Odd Tones
- Bumblebees Can Fly by Gorgon Frazier
- Mouthing Off by Wayland Harman
Step 2. Watch videos
Search the Internet and you will find a wide variety of harpists with unique styles. Keep your mouth harp handy while you watch the videos to try out new techniques. Videos of other harpists can inspire you to be a better harpist.
Youtube.com has many videos of professional and amateur harpists. There are even videos on how to play the mouth harp that can help you improve your sound
Step 3. Buy a good mouth harp
A common reason people often lose interest in playing this instrument is having to play a cheap harp. Snoopy mouth harps are popular, and while they may be cheap and the most accessible, they don't sound good. With ten dollars more, you can buy a better mouth harp.