How to Sound a Shofar

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About: I enjoy photography, horticulture and carpentry, and am almost always doing something relating to of those things.

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!

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    39 Discussions

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    GarretBenson

    11 months ago

    This delightful article (I liked many of the comments, too) says, "A shofar can be made from the horn of any animal other than a bull." That's not entirely true. According to some opinions, it should be made from a kosher animal. According to all opinions, it should be from an animal from the Bovidae family.

    https://yemeniteshofar.com/2017/03/23/how-are-shof...

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     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?

    3 replies
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    LouisD65Michael Chusid

    Reply 1 year ago

    Good morning. I have always been told that we shouldn't blow the shofar on Sabbath...Even on those years when Rosh Hashana falls on the sabbath. I asked the congregational leaders what the tradition of the temple was concerning this matter...They all wanted it done...So I did it. Any thoughts?

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    RhondaJ15

    1 year ago

    Thank you❗️Very helpful. SHALOM ?

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    c.nel.13

    4 years ago on Introduction

    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

    1 reply
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    Michael Chusidc.nel.13

    Reply 2 years ago

    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.

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    evilkidjr

    9 years ago on Introduction

    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

    4 replies
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    Michael Chusidevilkidjr

    Reply 2 years ago

    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.

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    sgsax

    9 years ago on Introduction

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

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    Tzite

    9 years ago on Step 3

    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

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    Michael ChusidTzite

    Reply 2 years ago

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

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    Michael Chusid

    3 years ago

    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

    2 replies
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    Life LineMichael Chusid

    Reply 2 years ago

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

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    Life LineMichael Chusid

    Reply 2 years ago

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