Listen Up! “J” is for Jaw Harp


Mouth harp, Ozark harp, Jew’s harp, trump, juice harp. All names for the jaw harp, which falls into the category of plucked idiophones. It’s considered to be one of the oldest instruments in the world, depicted in a Chinese drawing dating back to 4 BC. And despite its name, it has no connection to Jews or Judaism. So why the name? Some say it derived from the word ‘jaw,’ others from a French term: ‘jeu-trompe’ (toy trumpet), and still others claim it was the Jews who first sold these mouth harps in England. For whatever the reason, the jaw harp is played all over the world, like the Austrian jaw harp featured here: