5-tone Jew’s Harp
5-tone Jew’s Harp
The multi-tone jew’s harp is a unique new instrument. Like a regular jew’s harp, you shape the overtones with your mouth. But instead of one single drone tone, it has 5 different fundamental tones, each with their own series of overtones.
The instrument has 5 differently tuned tines made of tempered spring steel, mounted on a brass frame. The tips of the tines are placed close to each other, so you can alternate between the tones quickly and easily. The size of the instrument is ca. 20 x 8 cm (8″ by 3.2″ ).
The instrument is held against, or just in front of the lips. With the index- and middle finger of the right hand you can pluck the different tines.
By by changing the shape of your mouth, the tone is varied and you play through the overtones of each tine over a range of more than 2 octaves.
As you pluck different tines, you move the instrument so your mouth stays right behind the tine being played. This takes some practising.
With 5 tones there are lots of tunings possible for the fundamental tones. I found that a basic pentatonic scale makes the most sense musically.
The standard tuning is: C – D – F – G – A (C2 to A2)
Not only are the fundamental tones tuned (and re-tuneable!), also I tune the first and most prominent overtone of each tine, to get an even and full sound.
Pocket 5-tone synthesizer
I always loved the sonic possibilities of the jew’s harp, but felt limited by its single drone tone. My first experiments showed that even with just 3 tones, there is already a lot of tonal interaction and harmonic rhythm possible that is absent in the ordinary harp. And with 5 tones, there are many more musical relations to explore between the tones.
With the fingers, you can play basic melodies and bass lines, while filtering the overtones of each note with your mouth. It is like playing 2 instruments simultaneously, and it is great fun.
Additionally, you can dampen the tones by touching the tines lightly with your fingers. This changes the the envelope of the tone. The 5-tone Jew’s Harp turns out to be a versatile little instrument.