Jew's harp

(sometimes l.c.) a small, simple musical instrument consisting of a lyre-shaped metal frame containing a metal tongue, which is plucked while the frame is held in the teeth, the vibrations causing twanging tones.
Also, Jews' harp.
[1585-95; perh. jocular; earlier called Jew's trump]

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also called  jaw's harp  or  guimbard  
 musical instrument consisting of a thin wood or metal tongue fixed at one end to the base of a two-pronged frame. The player holds the frame to his mouth, which forms a resonance cavity, and activates the instrument's tongue by either plucking it with the fingers or jerking a string attached to the end of the instrument. The notes produced are limited to the fourth through tenth tones of the harmonic series (in relative pitch, c–e–g–b♭ [approximately]–c′–d′–e′). The tongue produces only one pitch; altering the shape of the mouth cavity isolates the individual harmonics that are components of the tongue's sound. In 18th-century Europe virtuoso players used instruments with two or more tongues of different pitch, thus allowing a complete musical scale.

      Jew's harps are widely distributed in Oceania and Asia, especially in tribal cultures, and in Europe, where they were introduced from Asia by the 14th century. The characteristic European form, also found elsewhere, is a pear-shaped metal frame with a metal tongue affixed. Many non-European forms are narrow instruments cut from a single piece of bamboo or wood.

      The delicate, barely audible sound of the Jew's harp led in Asia to its frequent association with contemplation and to its use in Thailand and 19th-century Austria as an instrument for lover's serenades. The Jew's harp is one of several idiophones (instruments whose sounding parts are resonant solids) vibrated by plucking rather than by percussion.

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Universalium. 2010.

Look at other dictionaries:

  • Jew's harp — A modern Jew s harp …   Wikipedia

  • Jew's-harp — n. [Jew + harp; or possibly a corrupt. of jaw s harp; cf. G. maultrommel, lit., mouthdrum.] 1. An instrument of music, which, when placed between the teeth, gives, by means of a bent metal tongue struck by the finger, a sound which is modulated …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • Jew's-harp — Jew s harpˈ or Jews harpˈ or Jew s trumpˈ or Jews trumpˈ noun (also without cap) a small lyre shaped instrument played against the teeth by plucking a metal tongue with the finger • • • Main Entry: ↑Jew * * * jew s harp or jews harp «JOOZ HAHRP» …   Useful english dictionary

  • jew's-harp — or jews harp [jo͞oz′härp΄] n. 〚earlier Jew s trump, altered (by assoc. with JEW) < Du jeugdtromp, child s trumpet < jeugd,YOUTH (confused in Eng with ME Judeu, Jew) + tromp, trumpet < OFr trompe: see …   Universalium

  • jew's-harp — or jews harp [jo͞oz′härp΄] n. [earlier Jew s trump, altered (by assoc. with JEW) < Du jeugdtromp, child s trumpet < jeugd,YOUTH (confused in Eng with ME Judeu, Jew) + tromp, trumpet < OFr trompe: see TRUMP2] a small musical instrument… …   English World dictionary

  • Jew's harp — ► NOUN ▪ a small lyre shaped musical instrument held between the teeth and struck with a finger …   English terms dictionary

  • jew's harp — noun a small lyre shaped musical instrument that is placed between the teeth and played by twanging a wire tongue while changing the shape of the mouth cavity • Syn: ↑jews harp, ↑mouth bow • Hypernyms: ↑musical instrument, ↑instrument * * * ˈjüz… …   Useful english dictionary

  • Jew's harp — Jew s′ (or Jews ′) harp n. mad (sometimes l.c.) a small, simple musical instrument consisting of a lyre shaped metal frame containing a metal tongue, which is plucked while the frame is held in the teeth, the vibrations causing twanging tones •… …   From formal English to slang

  • jew's harp — /ˈdʒuz hap/ (say joohz hahp) noun a musical instrument consisting of a circular metal frame with a metal tongue which is plucked while the frame is held between the teeth, the varying position of the mouth changing the tone. Also, jaw harp.… …   Australian English dictionary

  • Jew's harp — or Jews harp noun Date: 1595 a small lyre shaped instrument that when held between the teeth gives tones from a metal tongue struck by the finger …   New Collegiate Dictionary

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