Why do you want to learn how to play the kazoo?
This tiny instrument, that many people describe as sounding like “an angry and singing bee”.
Perhaps it is because:
- It’s very easy to learn, and ultra portable
- It’s a great way to practice your vocal skills in music (for singing etc.)
- It is super fun to play, and you can use it to make people smile, including yourself
Here’s how you play the kazoo:
1 – Humming with your Voice
Start by placing your mouth over the big end of the kazoo. Then you don’t blow air into it like a flute or other classic wind instrument, no…instead you start by making a humming sound with your voice *mmmmmm*. As you can hear, the kazoo will now make a buzzing sound based on your humming.
2 – Playing Melodies and Songs
If you can hum a melody, you can play the kazoo. Because you don’t have to worry about keys to press, holes to cover, strings to pluck, or anything like that with this instrument. The notes you play on the kazoo, are the notes you hum with your voice. So you simply hum the melody into the kazoo, of any song you want to play.
3 – Advanced Techniques & Tricks
Not let’s get into my favorite part, which are all the things you can do when you want to add some emotion and expression, and get more variation into your kazoo playing, I have a few techniques for you that you can try:
1. Hand Movement Techniques
You can use your hand to cover the kazoo, which will soften overall sound and take away some of that harsh tone. Then you can experiment with opening up and closing your fingers to add expression as you play, just like you do on a harmonica.
2. Controlling the Note Attack
You can control the starting attack of each note, by using different syllables when you hum the melody. Harder consonant characters will add a more sharp and focused attack on the note, like “tu” or “du”. And softer characters like “mm” will make make the start of the note less sharp. Variation is the key here.
3. Shaping the Dynamics Curve (loudness)
Changing the dynamics over time is one of the foundations for adding expression and variation on any instrument. Dynamics means “loudness and intensity”. And on a kazoo, this simply means humming softer or louder. And you can think of this dynamics over time as a curve that you create and shape in real time.
4. Adding Vibrato
Vibrato is a technique used in music to add emotion and soul into a performance. You can do vibrato on a kazoo as well. You simply pulse the humming almost like a wave. The air stream will be constant, but change in a rhythmic fashion like a pulse, without sudden stops.
The Sound in Action
Let’s listen to the kazoo in action, so you can hear the sound of this instrument, including these techniques to add variation, expression and emotion.