A comb is a toothed device used for styling, cleaning and managing hair and scalp. Combs are among the oldest tools found by archaeologists, having been discovered in very refined forms from settlements dating back to 5,000 years ago in Persia. This is to say that the comb has always been among the most important tools of human civilization.
Stringing a plant's leaf or a piece of paper over one side of the comb and humming with cropped lips on the opposite side dramatically increases the high-frequency harmonic content of the hum produced by the human voice box, and the resulting spread sound spectrum can be modulated by changing the resonating frequency of the oral cavity.
This was the inspiration for the kazoo. Moreover, the comb is also a lamellophone. Comb teeth have harmonic qualities of their own, determined by their shape, length, and material.
The kazoo is a musical instrument that adds a "buzzing" timbral quality to a player's voice when the player vocalizes into it. The kazoo is a type of mirliton, which is a membranophone, one of a class of instruments which modifies its player's voice by way of a vibrating membrane.
As children, many of us have placed a piece of waxed paper on the comb to make this musical instrument, but I, as a child, discovered that the waxed paper eventually got wet and fell apart. I came up with the idea of using aluminum foil instead, circa 1960.
How to make a "Comb-zoo" -
One standard flat plastic comb. Nearly any size or configuration will work (exclude the "pick" style, or "mustache" (mini) combs).
Cut a piece of aluminum foil one inch longer than the comb length, and three-quarters of an inch wider than the comb width.
1. Place the aluminum foil, shiny side down, on a flat surface, like a table top.
2. Place the comb on top of the piece of aluminum foil, aligning the top of the comb's teeth with the top edge of the aluminum foil. (refer to the pictures)
3. Center the comb from side to side on the foil, then fold the left and right edges over the side ends of the comb.
4. Fold the bottom of the aluminum foil up over the back (spine) of the comb. Carefully crease all the folds to make the foil tight.
5. Turn the comb over, so that the face (Shiny side) is up. Use your index finger to rub the foil against the teeth of the comb, so that there are ridges in the foil to match the teeth and inter-tooth spaces on the comb. (refer to the picture). This is done to increase the surface area of the vibrating membrane.
How to play:
Hold the aluminum foil face (shiny side from Process step #5) towards your face, with the teeth of the comb facing up. Place your top lip to the foil near the top of the comb teeth, slightly parting your lips, and you bottom lip on the foil close to the comb spine.
Hum, talk, or sing (you may have to vary your pitch until you find the "sweet spot" or harmonic vibration point) while doing this. The aluminum foil will act as a type of mirliton.
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