A Jew’s harp

Amongst the more amusing metal detector finds recently given to us at Market Lavington Museum is this piece of slightly mangled metal.

Remains of a Jew's harp found in Market Lavington

Remains of a Jew’s harp found in Market Lavington

This is what remains of a Jew’s harp. We should say that these rather basic instruments are not harps or Jewish in origin. Actually, origins are lost in the depths of time and as a musical device they are truly worldwide.

There should be a twangy strip of metal attached at the left hand end and passing between the two points at the open end. Our metal detector find is mis-shapen.

The idea is that the two pointed ends are held between front teeth and the twangy strip (known as the reed) is flicked with fingers so it passes between the teeth. The player’s mouth acts as a sound box and by altering the shape of the mouth and the tongue position the tone, and to some extent the note, can be altered.

The fact that jaws are used to hold the device leads to its alternative and more sensible name of a jaws harp.

We don’t have this item dated but it looks in pretty good condition so is probably 20th century. It may have been a piece of litter. Once the reed breaks off it is useless and a careless youngster may have discarded the rest of it. It was found on what used to be the village recreation ground.

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