Introduction: How to Sound a Shofar

A shofar is the horn of an animal, used as a musical instrument for Jewish religious ceremonies. It's mostly used during the Holidays of Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, although it used to be used more often during biblical times. Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur are called the "High Holidays" or the "High Holy Days". Rosh Hashanah is the Jewish new year, and Yom Kippur is "The Day of Atonement."

A shofar can be made from the horn of any animal other than a bull, the most common animals are the Ram and the Kudu Antelope.

The difference between a ram's horn and an antelope's horn lies in the size and shape. A ram's horn is short, about a foot long and contains a single bend. Kudu horns can be almost four feet long and spiral. I personally prefer the deeper sound of a kudu, but also have found ram's horns to be easier to use.

Fun Fact: It's a mitzvah to hear the shofar blown, but not to blow it.

(A mitzvah is a commandment - so to follow a commandment is to perform a mitzvah. There are 613 mitzvahs in the Torah.)

Step 1: Make Some Noise

Shofars are blown much like trumpets..anyone who plays a similar instrument has a starting advantage. A short shofar is also easier to sound than a long one and uses less air.

You'll want a tight upper lip, and looser lower lip, then when you blow out, your lips will vibrate. Put the mouthpiece against your lips (not inside your mouth) and try to force air through as small a hole in your lips as possible. I put the shofar in the corner of my mouth, others use the center..it's up to you. I also use my fingers and wear ChapStick to help create a good seal.

The goal isn't to force as much air out as possible, so don't tire yourself trying to make a sound. It just takes practice.


Step 2: Practice!

As with any musical instrument, practicing is the most important thing you can do. To sound the shofar at your holiday services, you must be able to consistently make a good sound. The only tip I have here is to not worry about the calls until you've mastered sounding it. They are very easy to learn once you can use the shofar.

Each shofar is different, so try and practice on the shofar you'll be using at services.

If you want to prepare for the calls, work on breaking up the calls and ending them. To break the call, as you will do for teruah, it's easiest to make a "ta" sound. Imagine you have a stutter: ta-ta-ta-ta-ta-ta-ta-ta-ta.

The ending of tekiahs and shevarims is a sudden peak. It's made by pushing more air out suddenly as you're closing your lips. The sound comes naturally when you're out of air and are trying to get the last bit out. It's pretty hard to explain, but very easy to do.

Step 3: The Calls

Give a general description of the StepDuring Rosh Hashanah, a sequence of blows is done. At Yom Kippur, only Tekiah Gedolah is blown. The person who sounds the shofar is called the "Tokea".

Tekiah - One blow that lasts 2-3 seconds
Shevarim - It's supposed to be a "broken" tekiah, made by sounding three quick blasts.
Teruah - The alarm is made up of nine very quick pulses
Tekiah Gedolah - Meaning "Big Tekiah", the Tokea blows the shofar for as long as possible, but at least 9 seconds. If more than one Tokea are sounding, they often compete to see who can last longer.

The sequence of calls on Rosh Hashanah is:

tekiah, shevarim-teruah, tekiah;
tekiah, shevarim, tekiah;
tekiah, teruah, tekia.

tekiah, shevarim-teruah, tekiah;
tekiah, shevarim, tekiah;
tekiah, teruah, tekia.

tekiah, shevarim-teruah, tekiah;
tekiah, shevarim, tekiah;
tekiah, teruah, tekia gedolah.

As you can see, each line starts and ends with a tekiah. Each "stanza" is sounded separately. Prayers are said, the first three lines are soudned, more prayers are said, the second three lines, etc. I don't know if it's uniform everywhere, buy my rabbi says each call separately. He calls tekiah, I sound it, he calls shevarim-teruah, I sound it, etc.

In the video below, teruah wasn't picked up correctly by the camera's microphone, so it sounds like one long blast. That is not how it's done. Be sure to make 9 short blasts.



Enjoy!

Comments

author
RhondaJ15 (author)2017-03-20

Thank you❗️Very helpful. SHALOM ?

author
c.nel.13 (author)2014-08-11

Hi there, I have a shofar with the mouth piece(or hole) on the side. can you maybe assist with that, it is very difficult to sound. help would appreciated. thx

author
Michael Chusid (author)c.nel.132016-04-09

Making the blow hole slightly larger may help. Find a shofar that is easy to blow, and note the size and shape of the blowhole. Then practice.

author
evilkidjr (author)2009-09-29

it cant only not be a bulls horn, its anything thats considered a keren, of which any animal whos horn grows from the bottom not the top's horn is considered

author
Michael Chusid (author)evilkidjr2016-04-09

All horns grow from the scalp. Horn is like fingernail -- the living part is the cuticle closest to the body. The tip is non-living.

author

What are some other animals that don't qualify?

author
sgsax (author)Weissensteinburg2009-10-01

You cannot make a shofar from the horn of an animal that is not kosher.

http://www.myjewishlearning.com/holidays/Jewish_Holidays/Rosh_Hashanah/In_the_Community/Shofar/How_to_Make_a_Shofar.shtml

For some examples of kosher horns.

author

well anything that isnt hollow, a rhino for example

author
sgsax (author)2009-10-01

Very nice. I always get shevarim and teruah mixed up. I'm a front-of-mouth blower, and I don't even play trumpet. :)

author
Michael Chusid (author)sgsax2016-04-09

Try this:

S = Several

T = Tremelo

author
Tzite (author)2009-10-02

WOW! Nice tekia gedolah. Most I've personally seen is 46 seconds. The sancutary was dead silent. when they finished their face was bright red and everyone was stunned. Great job and nice instructable

author
Michael Chusid (author)Tzite2016-04-09

Suggestion - focus on hearing instead of timing. Looking away from shofar blower will make it easier to focus on hearing its message.

author
youknowwhoiam (author)2009-10-25

 this is very interesting, as I am a musician, I enjoy collecting, and playing strange, obscure and ethnic instruments. I am just wondering, is there any  taboo about when not to play it or for what reason?

author

No taboos. The instrument has been used for music making since ancient time.

author
Michael Chusid (author)2015-10-09

I have an entire chapter on MAKING a shofar in my book, Hearing Shofar: The Still Small Voice of the Ram's Horn. You can download book for free at www.HearingShofar.blogspot.com

author
Life Line (author)Michael Chusid2016-04-09

Good day, Your Download is not working, sorry to tell you this. Shalom

author
Life Line (author)Michael Chusid2016-04-09

Good day, Your Download is not working, sorry to tell you this. Shalom

author
bbs123 (author)2011-10-11

i do not know how to do this

author
ilpug (author)bbs1232011-10-11

that is why it tells you!

author
aceopspadeshearts (author)2009-12-03

Heeeey i recognise the place in the bottom picture !!!! =D=D=D=D

i've been there this summer, its in the old city near the damascus gate isn't it =D

author
frikkie (author)2009-10-05

I have listened to a vuvezela and to a shofar and I must say the vuvezela sounds nothing like a shofar.

author
frikkie (author)2009-10-05

Thanks for the yips.I brought a shofar made from kudu horn.I love the sound it makes.Im still practesing of course. :)

author
Vikingtrader (author)2009-10-02

Hey, that's great. I have a small shofar and I taught myself using the front of my mouth but I must try the side of my mouth. Thanks for a great Instructable

author
mazejack (author)2009-10-02

glad to know when its used and really great to hear it. thx,jack

author
Kiteman (author)2009-09-26

You'll want a tight upper lip, and looser lower lip, then when you blow out, your lips will vibrate.

To a brass player, that's an embrasure (which means "small opening").

According to Roger-X, who occasionally plays the trombone.

author
natethegreat88 (author)Kiteman2009-10-01

Yea, Trombone! I play the trombone too. There should be more trombone instructables.

author
Speidumb (author)Kiteman2009-09-26

-1 for spelling

embouchure - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Embouchure

author
Kiteman (author)Speidumb2009-09-27

Haha, like I said; "According to Roger-X". I don't think either of us have ever seen it written down.

author
mgroodt (author)2009-10-01

I have heard that the shofar is blown before the reading of the Torah? I want to let my Sunday School kids blow the vuvuzela in the same way. Here is a clip of the vuvuzela blown in the more 'traditional' way.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SrYb9qtO8OQ

author
iectyx3c (author)2009-09-27

Your practical tips and clear writing and video are fantastic. I especially like the chapstick idea. Also using your hand to help seal the connection to your mouth. But most useful is when you say not to try to expel lots of air, but to take it easy -- this makes sense, it must be that the shofar resonates and amplifies the sound.

author
tacamaral (author)iectyx3c2009-10-01

As a matter of interest: what it happens when you sound an instrument like this is that the sound waves you produce are made increasingly longer by the horn flaring out from the hole where you blow. : )

author
jessyratfink (author)2009-09-27

Nicely done, sir! Very well explained. I learned something new today. :D

author
TheOlMaestro (author)2009-09-27

Great 'able, W, and l'shana tovah to ya!

One Rosh Hashanah when I was working as a Reform temple organist, the religious school had a "shofar choir." Envision, if you will, forty youngsters of various ages, with forty different types of shofars, with forty different embouchures and skill levels, playing the calls at the same time. The resulting yet orderly cacophony was one of the most wonderful sounds I have heard until then, or since.

Thanks for the instructable, and for bringing that great memory flooding back.

author
bumpus (author)2009-09-27

Very well done 'Burg. :D

author
imrobot (author)2009-09-27

shana tova! and have an easy fast on yom kippur

author
Persona (author)2009-09-26

This is great! I got a shofar last year, but have only been able to play one long, loud note. I think this will help.

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