jew's harp

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(Fr. rebube, guimbarde; Ger. Trumpel; It. scacciapensieri).

One of the simplest and most widely distributed instr., being found throughout Europe and Asia. It consists of a tiny iron frame, open at one end, in which end a single strip of metal vibrates. The frame is held between the teeth, and the strip then twanged by the finger. The strip, in itself, is obviously capable of producing only one note, but the harmonics of this note become available by resonance, through various shapings of the cavity of the mouth. Thus tunes can be played.

The origin of the name is unknown and seems to be unconnected with Jewry. The name ‘Jew's trump’ was recorded in 1545.

Subjects: Music.

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