Tooting our own Kazoo

"The Kazoo band," by Thos. P. Westendorf.

The following is a guest post by Julianne Mangin, Library Services.

National Kazoo Day, recognized on January 28th, celebrates what is perhaps the most accessible of all musical instruments, the kazoo.  If you can hum a tune, you can play a kazoo, which takes your voice and changes its timbre to give it a comically buzzing quality.  Kazoos are usually made of plastic or metal, and have a small piece of paper that is held in place so that it can pick up the vibrations from the player’s humming.  At just under five inches in length, you can take it just about anywhere.

Invented in the United States in the mid-19th century, it has long been a staple of blues, jug band music, and novelty songs.  But before you dismiss it as a low-brow instrument, take note of the fact that Leonard Bernstein (whose collection resides at the Library of Congress, in the Music Division) used a kazoo ensemble in his Mass.  If you have a kazoo from your childhood gathering dust somewhere in your house, today would be an excellent day to bring it out, and use it to play along with your favorite music.

3 Comments

  1. John Rybarczyk
    January 30, 2010 at 12:32 pm

    Rootie Kazootie

  2. Joseph R. Boley
    July 9, 2010 at 11:52 am

    I heard the “Kazoo Band” march several years ago, but no composer/arranger/etc. identified at the time.

    I would like to know if ANYONE has it. I would like to use it in my Olde Tyme Towne Band as I do skits on kazoo history.

    Thanks,
    Joe the diRECtor of the OTTB in Great Bend, KS

  3. Pat Padua
    July 9, 2010 at 2:17 pm

    Hi Joe – if you mean the piece pictured here, click on the image and you’ll be taken to a page where you can view images of the sheet music. Hope this helps!

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