Finding the best Best Jaw Harp For Beginners and best jaw harp player can be hard if you’re unaware of what features to look for especially that there are so many of them to find around. For this reason, we’ve put up a guide highlighting the top jaw harp for sale models in the category.
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Jews harps (or jaw harps) are very under-valued small instruments!
Best Jaw Harp For Beginners
They are relatively easy to play and are a sure-fire way to get some attention at any musical gathering.
There are two basic types of jews harp, as shown in the picture below:
The top harp is made of one piece and these get called ‘dan moi’. They are playing in front of the mouth and do not need to touch the teeth.
They have great sound and harmonics and come in many sizes and varieties. Usually the smaller they are the higher the pitch, some of the larger ones can have great sustain.
The harp underneath is a more Western style 2-part harp. This one is made from brass. These style of harps need to be played with the harp pressed against the front teeth (never between them!). Many folks prefer the direct sound and volume they get from this style and harmonics can be amazing on better quality harps. See image below for correct playing position:
Choosing a harp:
Many folks start off with a cheaper dan moi. This is a good option if you want something quick and simple and do not need to play with others in key.
Dan moi can be great for ‘techno’ sounding fast rhythms and sound almost electronic. Larger ones can have great sustain and deeper tones.
I personally prefer to play western style harps against my teeth as I think I get much more control of the sound and harmonics. I also now prefer to play higher quality tuned harps that are available in most keys (notes) including sharps and flats. This really opens up the possibilities and means I can play along with just about any other instrument or a band and be in tune!
Some trumps are more difficult for the beginner to play than others. Usually the frame/tongue spacing is smaller on higher quality instruments and the beginner may have trouble plucking without the tongue striking the frame. If you are new to the instrument, we might suggest you start off with a Kubing or Cambodian bamboo harp, which is held against the lips rather than the teeth. By playing the Kubing, you’ll learn the basics of breath and pitch control, and develop a feel for plucking.
A good next step may be to move up to an inexpensive steel-trump such as our Chancellor. This untuned trump has a full steel-trump sound but its frame/tongue spacing is still loose enough not to discourage the new player. With practice, you’ll eventually learn to pluck straight-and-true, and enhance your breath control skills. Once you’ve mastered these basic techniques you’ll be ready to move up to higher quality instruments and the joys they bring. The only disadvantage to the Chancellor is the the trigger is a small bend or ball rather than a loop
For an inexpensive tuned trump, I usually suggest the HÃ¶rzing Coal Black. It has a looped trigger and is fairly easy to play. However the higher the pitch, the smaller the trump, which may discourge some beginners… but the smaller size may suit folks with smaller hands.
What types of music do I generally play? What are the most common keys used?
- Do I generally play with other instruments? If so, what kinds, and what are the most common keys they use?
These two questions have a similar response and require a basic knowledge of music. If you’re unsure what the common keys are for the type of music or instruments, ask your playing partners and select the key or keys they point out. We might suggest the keys of ‘C’, ‘D’ or ‘G’ as a starting point for use with many “western” types of music or instruments (such as guitar).
- What other trumps do I have in my collection?
What keys? What keys do I need?
What different sounds do I need?
Unlike many other musicians that can play in a variety of keys on the same instrument, the Trumpist often must select a different instrument to play in a new key. As a result, many Trumpists carry a “kit” which contains a variety of trumps in different keys. These kits are sometimes quite elaborate and represent the players’ entire collection. Other times you’ll see “gig kits” that hold only select trumps for the situation.
Wayland’s old “Trump Kit”
– of course he carries a lot of Clackamores too!
Every type of trump has different qualities and characteristics: tuned or untuned; harsh or sweet; loud or not-so-loud; lots of overtones, or fewer, more prominent overtones. Consider the type of sound you want and look for trumps that fit the bill. For example, if you like to play bass lines along with a guitarist, a low ‘A’ SzilÃ¡gyi Black Fire may be perfect. If you play traditional European folk songs, a high ‘A’ HÃ¶rzing is a good choice. For “Country, Western or Bluegrass” music a Whitlow in ‘D’ or ‘G’ may work well. Two trumps an octave apart is also a good idea.
Not all Trumpists favor common “styles” of music but prefer instead to concentrate on more esoteric qualities of the sound. Maybe a harsh dissonant highlight is just what they want to hear… or perhaps a low meditative rumble. Whatever the situation, having a selection of trumps makes it more likely to find the “right tool for the job.”
- Do I play with other trumpists? If so,
What keys and types do they have?
What trumps and keys work with theirs?
Do you want to try to play chords together?
When several Trumpist get together, anything is likely to happen. You’ll see them digging through each other’s kits with near “Christmas morning” excitement and trying all sorts of combinations… “my low untuned Siberian works with your old Morsing…” If you play with the same group often, it’s a good idea to keep a small notebook in your kits and log the successful combinations for future reference. You may even want to acquire a new trump that you think will work well with one of theirs.
A group of Trumpist can explore the opportunity of creating “trump chords.” Select a number of trumps in keys that make up a chord (i.e. high or low ‘C’, ‘E’ & ‘G’) and try playing them together… or one at a time on different beats. Same model trumps work great but peculiar combinations may yield startling results.
- Do I need a set of Trumps?
Having a entire set of trumps of the same maker and model has certain advantages. It is not uncommon in Europe for a Trumpist to hold and play several trumps at (nearly) the same time. Since the same model is used, changing from trump to trump alters only the key, not other characteristics.
Most makers offer sets of trumps. Chromatic sets usually include a low fundamental, a high fundamental, and all the half steps in between… totaling 13 trumps. Diatonic sets don’t contain any sharps or flats and total 8 trumps. Buying a set can also save you money as a set price is usually less than sum of individual trumps bought separately.