Today is National Kazoo Day. The Kazoo is an annoying American instrument that just about anyone can play. If you don’t know what a kazoo is, it is a plastic or metal cylinder – open on both ends with a central hole covered by a wax membrane. You don’t need to be a musician to play, you just have to be able to hum a tune. Here are five facts about the Kazoo for National Kazoo Day.
Where it all began.
The Kazoo was invented in the 1840s a German clockmaker named Thaddeus Von Clegg, who made it to specifications provided by Alabama Vest of Macon, Georgia. The instrument didn’t go into production until 1912 when a manufacturer named Emil Sorg, teamed up with a tool and die maker in Eden, New York.
Home of the Kazoo.
The American Kazoo Company, Sorg’s original business, still makes Kazoos, and is the solo maker of metal kazoos in the entire world. While based off of an African instrument, the kazoo as we know it today, is fully an American instrument.
An instrument for anyone.
The kazoo is a wholly non-biased instrument. You play it by humming or singing into the large end of the instrument, which introduces air through the tube and vibrates the wax membrane to create a nasal sounding tone. The membrane can be partially covered to create additional sounds.
I don’t want to play this kazoo!
Some instruments are considered percussion, brass, or woodwind instruments. The kazoo is classified as a “mirliton” – or vibrating membrane instrument (bet they didn’t teach you that in high school band). The kazoos closest instrument is an African horn-mirliton. It consisted of a cow’s horn with the membrane made of spider egg shells.
A Kazoo for all occassions.
You can get a kazoo in many different varieties. The most common kazoo is the Soprano kazoo, which is the most noticeable form of the instrument. There are also alto, tenor, baritone, and Kaboom kazoos (the largest of which sounds like a tuba). You can find kazoos used in American folk music, blues, and jazz. There is even an Eric Clapton tune – San Francisco Bay Blues – played on his “Unplugged” album in 1991!