Talk:Kazoo

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(untitled)[edit]

My issue with the history section is that it's missing the roots of the instrument. The Kazoo which Alabama Vest is credited for is a modern version of the African mirlitons's that date back to time immemorial. It's important to know that this ancient African instrument didn't start in 1840, and it didn't start in America. The history goes much farther back. - AnonaMan

You don't blow into a Kazoo when you play it, god damnit, the Playing section of this page is just fucking stupid. God damn.--83.252.170.236 (talk) 08:36, 27 August 2009 (UTC)


Removed link to the Electric Kazoo website because it was a advert. Uwilldrop 18:50, 7 September 2005 (UTC)


The following was removed as "highly dubious":

The kazoo is the only musical instrument developed in the United States and the only melodic instrument that anyone can play.

Please name another musical instrument developed in the United States. Please name another melodic instrument that anyone can play.

Ortolan88

OK: sousaphone and voice. Don't mean to be snide, but both fit.

--dreamword

You think anyone can play the sousaphone? Should I present myself as an example of someone who can't? KQ


Dreamword, It's a better challenge than you think. Not everyone can play the sousaphone, and the voice is an instrument only metaphorically. If only the theremin had been developed in the US.... -- Someone else 04:57 Jan 11, 2003 (UTC)

The theremin is damned hard to play (and you look most ungraceful doing it). My son was in a band with a theremin in it (even the Beach Boys couldn't manage it, that's a keyboard instrument on "Good Vibrations"). Ortolan88
What a bunch of cheaters! I feel thoroughly rooked. Can everyone play the Paul Tanner Electro-theremin? <G> -- Someone else
The theremin is actually quite difficult to play, as it requires rather precise & fluid movement, & the player has to stand perfectly still otherwise, else the instrument introduces unintended noise. KQ
Fair enough, I guess unintended noise is the opposite of melody! -- Someone else 05:06 Jan 11, 2003 (UTC)

How about the banjo? -- Zoe

The sentence said the kazoo was the only instrument developed in the US (but so was the sousaphone, or if you prefer, a hundred and one synthesisers - the Buchla, the Moog, the original RCA), and that it was the only melodic instrument that anyone can play, which isn't true because you have to be able to sing to play it, which not everyone is (people can be physically incapable of singing, I mean). Aside from which, you could say anyone can play the piano (not well, admittedly, but not everyone can play the kazoo well either). It was correct to remove the sentence, because it isn't true. --Camembert

Anyone with limbs and unrestricted movement can play the piano (and can play it in C major). Maybe we should stay away from "anyone" statements, just like the "everyone" ones, since one person alone could disprove them. :-) --KQ
I challenge anyone to find a person who can't play the lagerphone BryanJones
That depends what you mean by play. A certain amount of experience is neded to produce a good tone. -- Tarquin 17:33 Jan 11, 2003 (UTC)
Well, I just mean one could stick to the white keys (or the closer keys, if blind) and bang an ok tune in C maj. Not great, probably, but arguably as accomplished as anything Yanni's done. But now we're belaboring the point. :-) --KQ
yes, we are. But it wasn't a typo. tOne, not tUne. and "bang" was exactly my point. -- t
My number-two son, the one who played in a band with a theremin, can catch your attention playing a single chord on the piano (or a couple of notes on bass). There is a big difference between banging and playing, speaking as one who banged the drums in a rock and roll band with three real musicians. Ortolan88
Yes, I'll concede both those points, but really if Yanni plays music then anyone can sit at a piano & hit keys at random and call that music too. So we're back to tarquin's "That depends what you mean by play." Or, more fundamentally, that depends on what you mean by music. FWIW, I do think Yanni is music, just not good music. Now Davis/Coltrane/Monk: that's music. :-) KQ p.s. oh, and Brubeck bangs the hell out of the piano, but in his heyday he did indeed play.
but he bangs with style' ... ;-) - t
Of course, as a refined individual, I have never actually heard this Yanni you speak of. Ortolan88
Worse than that: Yanni <-- see? no article. ergo he doesn't exist! ;-) -- t
Great, now he goes on the most-wanted list. Ortolan88

The banjo is an African instrument, but otherwise you can consider me officially crushed like a bug. Ortolan88

I wrote the offending sentences in the exhilaration of writing about the kazoo and got carried away. Not only should writers avoid "anyone" and "everyone", but also "first". After all, Cortez, the "first explorer in Mexico" hooked up with Malinche, a Spanish speaking native who had been taught the language by previous visitors from Spain. And Thomas Edison didn't invent the phonograph. As I say, carried away by exuberance, the opposite of being a troll. Ortolan88

Ah, don't worry about it Orto - anyone would have got excited writing about the kazoo ;) (seriously, it's a great instrument - I own four). Something like "The kazoo is one of the few acoustic instruments to be developed in the United States and one of the easiest melodic instruments to play, requiring only the ability to hum" would OK, I think (in fact, I think I'll add it now). I'm a real pedant when it comes to these things, I'm afraid :) --Camembert

In the song Abcdefghijklmnopqrstuvwxyz, Sesame Street character Big Bird ponders if Abcdefghijklmnopqrstuvwxyz is a "strange type of kazoo".

Is this really useful? We could, I suppose, note every time the word "kazoo" has been used in television, films, radio, books and so on, but I don't think it would be much use to anybody. --Camembert

Is Kazoo an instrument?[edit]

"...it should be noted that to call the kazoo (which merely distorts and amplifies the sound of ones hum) an instrument would require one to call the distortion pedal used for guitar an instrument.". Well, I am a proud musician, and I play several instruments, kazoo included; and sincerely I don't agree at all about this phrase. All woodwind instruments are based on someone's mouthpieces. Kazoo is not less honourable than other instruments like saxophone, flutes and others, in my opinion, thus I guess that affirmation should be removed, also because that metaphor doesn't work (I have a distortion pedal, and it is quite useless without a guitar). --Angelo 23:05, 7 January 2006 (UTC)


I agree. The comparison to a guitar pedal is inaccurate, as the pedal requires input from the guitar. --Umma Kynes 08:36, 20 May 2006 (UTC)

Just as a distortion pedal requires input from a guitar, the kazoo requires you to hum into it. It isn't an instrument. All true woodwind instruments produce the vibrations somewhere in the instrument, the vibrations from a kazoo are produced in your vocal chords. You don't play a kazoo, you hum into it. You don't play a distortion pedal, you play the guitar through it. This has nothing to do with snobbery and whether the kazoo is "less honourable". eyeball226 (talk) 19:15, 28 November 2012 (UTC)

I disagree.

The kazoo is as much a musical instrument as the trumpet. The trumpet amplifies and filters the sound made by the "brr" sound combined with pressure made by the lips, in much the same way the kazoo filters and amplifies the sound. It could also be argued that an extension of a musical instrument might be considered a variation on a musical instrument, like how a cornet is as much a musical instrument as the trumpet, compared to how the kazoo is an instrument just as well as the human voice is. — Preceding unsigned comment added by 90.149.169.164 (talk) 00:15, 11 April 2013 (UTC)

The kazoo may very rarely be used in classical bands and orchestras, but it is still a musical intstrument. I think that the article could benefit from information about the etymology of the word "kazoo". ACEOREVIVED (talk) 16:07, 17 April 2013 (UTC)

Well this is frustrating. The kazoo is clearly not an instrument - it is a voice modulator. It changes the sound of your voice. When you listen to somebody playing kazoo, the instrument you are hearing is their voice. The human voice creates the pitches. When the sound of your voice goes through your kazoo, no new pitches are introduced, the signal is merely distorted, just like a guitar pedal. Your comparison of the kazoo with the trumpet doesn't make sense - when playing trumpet, the pitches are created by the trumpet itself.
No, actually they are not. The buzzing of the player's lips modulate the air column at various frequencies, some of which are selectively reinforced by the length of trumpet tubing applied at any given moment. The sound is coming from the vibrating air column. The trumpet does not "create" any pitches -- if you take the trumpet away from the trumpeter, the sound will stop. If you put the trumpet and the trumpeter in a vacuum, the sound will stop.
Mirliton instruments are numerous, popular, and are considered musical instruments in major works of organology, inlcuding those by Marcuse, Sachs, and the New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians. If your suggested basis for disallowing the kazoo were used, you would also have to disallow instruments like the Jew's harp and the didgeridoo, both of which have extensive repertory and ethnic traditions.
The player must make a buzzing sound with their lips for the trumpet to work, in the same way a guitar player must apply pressure to their guitar strings, but without the instrument in hand, their would be no music. If you walked up to a trumpet player and grabbed their trumpet out of their hands while they were playing it, you wouldn't hear any music, because the musical notes are made by the trumpet itself.
You just contradicted yourself there. If the notes were being made by the trumpet itself, then the music wouldn't stop when you took it away from the trumpeter. The trumpet requires input from the trumpeter to make music; likewise with the kazoo.
The same applies to anything which can be considered an instrument - guitar, piano, saxophone, harmonica.... but obviously not the kazoo - if you walked up to a kazoo player and snatched their kazoo out of their hands while they were playing it, you would still hear the musical notes they would have been playing through their kazoo, because (here is the important bit) the musical notes were being created by their voice. Kazoo 'players' are in fact vocalists.
Plenty of acousticians and musicologists assert -- and support -- the theory that most, if not all musical instruments evolved from attempts to imitate and extend the human voice. Many, in fact, consider the voice itself an instrument; as do many musicians.
They are still definitely valid musicians, just not instrumentalists. Vocalists use many effects to enhance the sound of their voice - they may apply reverb, delay or distortion, or they may direct their sound through a kazoo, just like a a guitarist would direct their sound through an overdrive pedal, and not at all like how one would play the trumpet. So there you have it - the kazoo is not an instrument, but rather a tool vocalists use to modify the sound of the real instrument at work - the human voice. - Wiki-Edit-Maker 24 August 2019
You are attempting to apply a definition which is far too rigid to be useful. Taking your thesis to the logical extreme, synthesizers are not musical instruments. They produce no sounds, only electrical currents. Speakers are an effect which renders some of those currents into vibrations in the air which we are able to perceive as sounds. Take the speaker away, and there is no sound. Is a synthesizer not an instrument because the sound comes from a speaker, and not from the synthesizer?
"Musical instrument" is defined not as something that produces sound in a particular way, but by the use to which those sounds are put. You might want to check out the Wikipedia article on musical instruments: " In principle, any object that produces sound can be considered a musical instrument—it is through purpose that the object becomes a musical instrument."
70.89.176.249 (talk) 00:37, 21 September 2019 (UTC)

Playing the kazoo[edit]

Ok, first time edit after discovering the Wikipedia world and my entire section was deleted by an administrator with no explanation. What did I do wrong? My addition was intended to enlighten those newcomers to a kazoo (there are more than you might think) on how to get it to make any sound. There is nothing inaccurate or argumentative that I can see in my edit. I hunted down the administrator's email address from her web site and asked this question, but in the mean time, can anyone else offer any advise or explanation? Thanks much.

The deleted section: Notes on Playing the Kazoo: While humming is typically used as the technique required to play a kazoo, a more accurate term would be singing into the kazoo. A person can hum with their lips completely closed. Humming with your lips closed around the mouthpiece of the kazoo will not change the sound - you must vocalize or "sing" in order for the kazoo to make any sound. Many people will stuggle with getting any sound from a kazoo when instructed to hum. But when instructed to speak "do, do, do..." into the kazoo mouthpiece, viola! Music for all to enjoy. Bellzerr

Since I've seen no further discussion on "Notes on Playing the kazoo" and have received no reply to my personal email to Ms. Martin concerning the deletion of this section, I've inserted it back into place. Bellzerr 20:16, 7 July 2006 (UTC)

I found Bellzerr's comment helpful. I suggest that it be kept. Typofixer76 15:17, 26 August 2006 (UTC)

Where else can kazoos be heard?[edit]

I am certain that I have heard a rendition of "Whole Lotta Love" by Led Zeppelin, with all instrumentation performed on a set of kazoos. However I cannot identify the performers, only that it likely has been around since the late 1970s. I suggest adding this to the Pop Culture section if proper attribution can be obtained. Typofixer76 15:23, 26 August 2006 (UTC)

BBC lists an example: Goldfrapp handed out kazoos to accompany them while playing the Royal Albert Hall, http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/entertainment/8543467.stm 94.169.249.202 (talk) 11:46, 9 March 2010 (UTC)

Barbara Stewart[edit]

I replaced the one guy with Barbara Stewart as she seems to be more notable. Also I just saw her on Conan. I'm not trying to tick anyone off, I just couldn't find much on this BrianApocalypse if that it is his real name. (Which I somehow doubt) Also I didn't put her name in brackets because at present Barbara Stewart leads to a politician from New Zealand.--T. Anthony 06:01, 18 October 2006 (UTC)

I hear T. Anthony's point, but Barbara Stewart is an awful Kazoo player, so awful that including her name really hurts the field. She has no idea what she's doing. She was on Conan once and made a complete fool of herself and the Kazoo, and the sad part was that it was done unintentionally.98.4.103.242 (talk) 01:31, 12 November 2018 (UTC)

Tampa Red[edit]

If anyone wants to hear some REALLY GREAT kazoo playing (as opposed to its usual appearance as a "gag" instrument), check out the work of bluesman Tampa Red. He gets a wonderful trumpet-harmonica sound out of it, with interesting vocalization and wah effects. He's mostly known as a guitarist and singer, and he only breaks out the kazoo occasionally-- you can hear some excellent playing on a few old Ma Rainey records in addition to his solo work. It's a shame that the expressive possibilities of this instrument have not been explored further. —The preceding unsigned comment was added by Paulybrooklyn (talkcontribs) 08:05, 13 February 2007 (UTC).

History of Name?[edit]

is there any information on where the strange name comes from --voodoom 09:44, 16 March 2007 (UTC)

The "kazoo" was what Warren Herbert Frost named his invention in Patent #270,543 issued on January 9, 1883. In the text of the patent he refers to it as "This instrument or toy, to which I propose to give the name "kazoo"," Motleyjust (talk) 13:39, 30 July 2011 (UTC)

I have added that information to the article. Motleyjust (talk) 17:35, 30 July 2011 (UTC)

Request for phraseology fix[edit]

"In North East England and South Wales, kazoos play an important role in so-called jazz bands (really children's marching bands)."

This sentence is pretty unintelligable - I'd correct it myself but I have no idea what it's on about. Thanks 82.20.14.88 (talk) 07:59, 21 January 2008 (UTC)

Removed trivial list[edit]

I have removed almost the entire section listing recordings with kazoos - more than 20 different items, none with references, and none with much point except to say "hey, I heard a kazoo on this record!" It could use some expansion about when/if/why kazoos are used in recordings today, but that wasn't it. - DavidWBrooks (talk) 22:36, 28 May 2008 (UTC)

Fix Please[edit]

Okay, sorry for the lack of editing on this post, I rarely edit articles and would rather have someone else more knowledgeable fix the problems unless they are blatant. There's an incredible fact that involves The Beatles, combs, and toilet paper on this page. Now I don't know for sure but I don't think toilet paper can be used to make a kazoo. It's too soft. Sure, there are kazoos in, “Lovely Rita,” but I don't think they involved toilet paper. I didn't even check the rest of the one-sentenced-paragraph statements in this article. Could someone that knows this stuff please check into it? --WerewNC, 2/10/2011 —Preceding unsigned comment added by 67.162.221.199 (talk) 22:07, 10 February 2011 (UTC)

That song was recorded in 1967. At that time, some toilet paper (especially that in public facilities) was thinner, harder and much less absorbent than most toilet paper available today. Not really pleasant for it's usual purpose, but quite possibly it could have been used for comb kazoos. (Not having any samples of 1967 toilet paper on hand, I can not say for sure.) Motleyjust (talk) 15:19, 7 August 2011 (UTC)

I think the identification of it as toilet paper is due to confusion regarding the term tissue paper. As well as sometimes referring to toilet paper, tissue paper is a thin, brittle and translucent paper which is what is referred to in the "comb and tissue paper" combination. At some point someone has obviously misunderstood that term and then described it as comb and toilet paper. eyeball226 (talk) 19:19, 28 November 2012 (UTC)

"Professional usage" section[edit]

That's quite the example farm there, many of them kinda trivial. It could use a trim, or at least converted into a bulleted list form. -- œ 15:56, 15 May 2011 (UTC)

J.P. Kalaam ?[edit]

I am requesting information on this statement: "The kazoo was first brought into the public by a magician named J.P. Kalaam. He was "fascinated" by strange instruments and encountered the kazoo while in Africa. His kazoos were all made of wood."

The only information I can find on J.P. Kalaam is that exact statement. It is used over and over. I suspect someone used it, and everyone else copied it from that source or one of the parroted statements.

It says "The kazoo was first brought into the public" but it doesn't say when. If it doesn't say when that happened, how can you tell it was the first? Motleyjust (talk) 14:08, 30 July 2011 (UTC)

Questionable Reference[edit]

The book Kassinger, Ruth, 2002, Build a Better Mousetrap: Make Classic Inventions, Discover Your Problem-Solving Genius, and Take the Inventor's Challenge, John Wiley and Sons, ISBN 0471395382 is cited as support for the statement "It was on such an instrument that the kazoo, invented in the 19th century by an African American named Alabama Vest in Macon, Georgia, United States, is based. The first kazoo was manufactured to Vest's specifications by Thaddeus Von Clegg, a German clockmaker in Macon. The kazoo was first publicized at the Georgia State Fair in 1852, where it was presented as the "Down-South Submarine".[2]"

Kassinger apparently took her "facts" from information distributed by one of the kazoo manufacturers, which is quoted verbatim on many web sites, but is never supported with facts.

I do not feel that this should be used as a reference in this case. This leaves this statement with no citation. I would really like to know if anyone has any proof for any of the Alabama Vest Legend.

I have contacted the book publishers regarding this, and hope to hear something from them in a few days. — Preceding unsigned comment added by Motleyjust (talkcontribs) 15:26, 5 August 2011 (UTC)

First metal kazoos ?[edit]

The statement "The first metal kazoos were manufactured and patented in Eden, New York, " has no reference and no date or patent # or who it was issued to.

Can anyone clarify this?


The first metal kazoo I have found to be patented in Eden NY was US Pat. D53470 - Filed Feb 3, 1919 - Issued Jun 17, 1919 EMIL G. SORG, OF BUFFALO, AND HAEKT E. RICHARDSON, OF EDEN, NEW YORK. This was 17 years after the patent for a metal kazoo issued to George D. Smith 1902

Motleyjust (talk) 02:04, 3 September 2011 (UTC)

Umm....[edit]

"The kazoo is a quasi-musical instrument"

Contained in the first sentence, doesn't this seem a bit judgmental? And not necessarily correct nonwithstanding any citations. By the same argument, the jews harp and digeridoo might not be considered musical instruments, since they depend on mouth shape and sometimes voice.--♦♦♦Vlmastra♦♦♦ (talk) 04:44, 27 December 2012 (UTC)

Batman Animated Series Funeral scene kazoo[edit]

There's a scene in Batman: The Animated Series where the Joker believes Batman to be dead and holds a mock funeral for him, which includes a pretty infamous kazoo version of Amazing Grace. Considering you guys have Yoshi's New Island on here I think this is noteworthy enough to go onto this page. — Preceding unsigned comment added by 2605:A000:C308:FA00:64B4:83CC:743C:2B77 (talk) 23:27, 24 August 2017 (UTC)

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Quibble[edit]

Second sentence of the lede uses the linked term mirliton, however the link currently redirects to the Eunuch flute article.

While the Eunuch flute is sometimes referred to as a "mirlition", the term mirlition is actually the generic name for the vibrating membrane which produces the buzzing sound in the kazoo, the eunuch flute, African marimbas, and in several other instruments. (See, for example, The Harvard Dictionary of Music: "Mirliton: A vibrating membrane that modifies a sound produced in some other way..."; also The Oxford Companion to Music: "Mirliton: A generic term of French origin for voice-changing ‘singing membranes’. Many instruments incorporate mirlitons to impart a buzzing quality to the sound,...", &etc.)

The redirect is, therefore, incorrect. "Mirliton" should be linked to an article titled "Mirliton" which defines/explains the device/object, and not to the eunuch flute which, despite the slang name, merely uses a mirliton to achieve its distinctive sound.