Kazoo

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The kazoo is a wind instrument which adds a "buzzing" timbral quality to a player's voice when one vocalizes into it. The kazoo is a type of mirliton which is a membranophone – a device which modifies the sound of a person's voice by way of a vibrating membrane.

Contents

Playing

While blowing is the term typically used to describe the technique required to play a kazoo, a more accurate term would be humming into the kazoo. Blowing with the lips closed around the mouthpiece of the kazoo will not make sound – one must vibrate air from his or her lungs by humming into the instrument in order for the kazoo to make any sound. Increased air flow and harder blowing will result in a more effective and authoritative sound.

History

Such instruments have been used in Africa for hundreds of years, to disguise the sound of somebody's voice or to imitate animals, often for various ceremonial purposes. It was on such an instrument that the kazoo, invented in the 19th century by an African American named Alabama Vest in Macon, Georgia, United States, is based. The first kazoo was manufactured to Vest's specifications by Thaddeus Von Clegg, a German clockmaker in Macon. The kazoo was first publicized at the Georgia State Fair in 1852. The first metal kazoos were manufactured and patented in Eden, New York, where they are still made in the original factory. In 2010 a museum dedicated to the history of the kazoo, The Kazoo Museum, was opened in Beaufort, South Carolina.[1]

Professional usage

The kazoo was first brought into the public eye by a magician named J P Kalaam. He was fascinated by strange instruments and encountered the kazoo while in Africa. His kazoos were all made of wood. The kazoo is played professionally in jug bands and comedy music, and by amateurs everywhere. It is one of the few acoustic instruments to be developed in the United States and one of the easiest melodic instruments to play well, requiring only the ability to vocalize in tune. In North East England and South Wales, kazoos play an important role in so-called juvenile jazz bands. During Carnival the kazoo is routinely used in the Carnival of Cádiz and the Murga in Uruguay.

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