Updated 4/98 - Volume 2 Isuue 2 - Spring / Summer 1998
Online edition of The Official Newsletter of the Jew's Harp Guild - The Pluck-n-Post -

Sponsored by:

Jew's Harp enthusiasts around the world


Wayland Harman's


A Word from the Executive Director

Mouthing Off

Selecting a Jew's Harp

VIM In Review
by M.D. POSS
Highlights of VIM 1-6

Pictorial Archive: The Series #2

Gengong & Yakut Round

The Bulletin Board

3rd International Trump Congress? More...

Back Beat
Editor's Notes

Molln CD - T-shirts - More...

Online Newsletter Column Archive Index

Janet Gohring - JHG Executive Director

A Word from the Executive Director

Janet Gohring
JHG Executive Director

Happy spring to everyone!

I have lots to tell you about ... many exciting things are happening with the Guild. We just held our annual spring meeting on March 21st and I will use most of my column this time to bring you up to date on our latest projects.


The festival has grown so much in the past 7 years that we have made some major policy changes to help the festival deal with this rapid growth. The major changes are:

(1) Because of the increase in Jew's harp players who attend the festival ... and in an effort to continue emphasizing Jew's Harps ... we are eliminating the words "Unusual Instruments" from the festival title. We still encourage "unusual instrument" players to attend and take part.

(2) Saturday performances will highlight JEW'S HARP performers. All Saturday performances MUST feature the Jew's Harp and it will be up to each individual Jew's harp player to "invite" other instrumentalists to accompany them on stage. All Saturday performers MUST PRE-REGISTER, by mail, no later than August 3rd. There will be NO EXCEPTIONS.

(3) Friday performances will highlight UNUSUAL instruments in an "Open Mic" environment. Performers wishing to have stage time on Friday will sign up at the festival on a first come, first served basis. We encourage performers to include unusual instruments or a Jew's harp in these performances.

(4) We hope to encourage more "off-stage jam sessions", so that all musicians can be a part of the festival even if they don't have stage time.


Several Guild members will be attending the world Jew's Harp Congress in Molln June 22-28. Those members who have been "officially" invited to represent North America are: Dr. Fredrick Crane (Iowa), Bill and Janet Gohring (Oregon), Gordon Frazier and Larry Hanks (Washington), Mike Seeger (Virginia) and David Holt (North Carolina). If you'd like to help any of these folks with their travel expenses, you can make a contribution, through the Guild, to the "Molln Travel Fund".


The Guild gave the "go ahead" on the CD project. We hope to have the CD available very soon. It is a great sampling of the festival and something all of us should have in our music collections.


Please keep in touch ... and if you have access to the internet, be sure and check out our website. Webmaster, Mark Poss, has added lots of new stuff there ... its the place to go for the latest updates from the Guild.

Keep twangin' !!
Janet Gohring
Executive Director

August 13,14,15 1998
Richland, Oregon

June 22-28 1998

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Check out the Festival Page for more information about the NAJHF

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Selecting a Jew's Harp

When I was reintroduced to the Jew's harp about six years ago, it was with a Bilyeu harp. A year later I had the opportunity to look through a large batch of Tom Bilyeu's product and chose several "good ones". One was a chromed harp similar to the one I had as a kid. Tom said it won't last and that's why he stopped chroming them. Well, he was right and that harp broke about a year later. I was devastated, my best harp was gone. My treasure was now trash. The best that harp ever sounded was right before it broke. Then it happened, the pitch started dropping and about three plucks later I was picking the reed up off the floor. If you play Jew's harp long enough, you'll probably experience the same thing. Then, go get another harp and keep on playing.

Selecting a harp is as much a matter of chance as knowledge. If you could choose from all the harps currently manufactured, laid out side by side, you couldn't choose just one. Unfortunately this is never the case and you will most likely play the instruments that come to you. These days we are lucky to find one for sale, let alone a nice selection, and many commercially available instruments are of limited quality. Much of the problem stems from the machine production of an instrument which does not lend itself to these methods. Making a fine harp takes individual attention; small adjustments recognized by the hand of an experienced maker. Some mass produced harps do play better than others, and individual playing characteristics vary from one instrument to the next. This is one reason why serious players have so many harps in their collections, and are always looking for more.


Jew's harp collectors buy harps for their looks and tuning (if they are tuned) but most of all for their playability. Some aspects of an instrument's quality can be visually discerned, though playing is the only way to really know how good an instrument it is. Often this is not possible and we all end up with a few duds. Purchasing from someone who makes and sells their own harps will usually get you a much better instrument than you can buy at the music store, if you can find a store that still carries them. Plan on spending at least $20 for a hand made harp. If all you can find is a $5 music store harp, ask to try them all and select the best one or two. These harps will not be tuned to a standard pitch; which is a very nice feature when playing with other instruments. I get a kick out of pulling out a chromatic set of harps and asking the guitarist, "What key?". Often they respond, "I didn't know they were even tuned.". If they have ever played along with a harp that was not tuned, they will appreciate the difference. To me, this is one of the most important aspects of a good Jew's harp.


Jew's Harps are subtle instruments and need to be well crafted to maximize volume and tone. The harp should hum audibly when plucked without a resonance chamber. The longer this hum lasts, the better. Don't expect much volume, just a soft hum. This is one way to test a group of harps if the salesperson won't let you try them with your mouth.

I've been framed

The best visual clue as to a harp's quality are the gaps between the reed and frame. The closer and more parallel, the better, as long as the reed doesn't hit the frame when plucked. Close tolerances are more influenced by air, play louder, and have better high harmonics. Look for equal spaces on both sides of the reed which are consistently about as wide as a few sheets of paper. The frame can be carefully bent to improve the "set up" of a harp. This is something the maker does unless he's just a machine. Mass produced harps are rarely set up well. As a player gets better at plucking straight and true, they can stand to have a tighter tolerance. Stiff reeds can be set up tighter than thin flexible reeds as they vibrate a little truer. When purchasing handmade harps, it might help to indicate your experience to the maker, so they know how best to set up your harps.

Reeding Lesson

The reed must be securely fastened to the frame at the crimp. If any looseness exists, the reed will sound with an unpleasant buzz. Sometimes this connection can be improved with a few taps from a punch and hammer. A harp whose reed has slowly worked loose may also be mended this way. Set the harp, crimp up, on a solid surface such as an anvil and, starting with light blows, drive the steel down at the original crimps. Make sure the reed stays centered in the frame and that the frame is not being bent. Fairly heavy blows may be required to fully set the reed and, in some cases, the process will not work and can ruin the harp. Consider this before you start beating on your harps. A handmade harp should be returned to the maker for this correction. With factory harps, you are on your own.


Some harps have a full loop at the reed end and others don't. This loop keeps the finger from getting stuck as it plucks, especially when plucking both in and out. This is a matter of personal preference and taking what you get. If you want to loop a reed with a straight end, use a torch to heat the reed's tip before bending or it might break off. This would alter the pitch of the harp (higher) and there may not be enough metal left to try again. Avoid getting the flex area too hot or the temper of the reed may be altered.

Schematic of a Trump

The embouchure of this harp is where you play. This section of the reed is the most resonant and the most affected by air. Every other aspect of the harp is brought to focus here.

The reed's thickness varies depending on what pitch and size the instrument is. Lower pitched harps usually have thinner reeds. This stiffness greatly affects the feel of the harp, but it more a matter of necessity than quality. Learning to adjust is important.

Judgement Day

Judging a harp's quality takes experience and is best done after you know how to play. For those who have struggled with inferior or improperly set up instruments, I empathize. Much of the Jew's harp's beauty is inherent in the harp and the player must find the way to expose it. Starting with a good harp helps a lot and will allow a player to appreciate a really fine harp when the chance comes.

I hope this helps you find good Jew's harps. Remember, even a poor harp is better than no harp. Every serious collection I've seen has a $5.00 harp in it somewhere.

There are some very fine instruments being made if you wish to seek them out. Our guild store is a good place to start, though a comprehensive search would take you world wide.
Wayland Harman ***

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VIM In Review

by M.D. Poss

Under the hat of JHG Webmaster I am often asked questions about various aspects of the instrument and its history. Being a relative newcomer, I found I was asking the same questions and embarked upon the quest to educate myself (quickly!). The first stop on the path to enlightenment was the trump journal Vierundzwanzigsteljahrsschrift der Internationalen Maultrommelvirtuosengenossenschaft (VIM for short). This classy, small format, publication is the love-child of trump congress father, Frederick Crane. Its six issues have been published at irregular intervals since 1982. Volume 7 (due out in mid-May) will mark the change to a large-format.

Each issue of VIM is a treasure-trove of current events, informative articles, and historical fillers; all tied neatly together by Fred's scholarly attitude and tongue-firmly-in-cheek humor. Taken together, VIM expresses the evolution of the trump, in many cultures, through centuries of time. From courting whispers played through a bamboo Subing to the Electric Trump. VIM also has plenty of practical information about makers, recordings, tutorials and books relative to the subject.

Contributors to VIM include many of the "Big-time" names in the genre, including; Leonard Fox, John Wright, Trân Quang Hai, Mike Seeger, Phons Bakx and Larry Hanks. Fred, these contributors, and ALL the others, are the finest people I can think of to learn from. I suggest strongly that you collect all the issues.

Following are highlights of each issue of VIM. These are by no means complete summaries.

VIM 1 - 1982
Jew's (Jaws? Jeu? Jeugd? Gewgaw? Juice?) Harp - Frederick Crane

The Recordings of John Wright - F. Crane

Checklist of Long-Playing Records with Jew's Harp Music

VIM 2 - 1985
Trumping Around Scotland - Lindsay Porteous

Some Strategies for Tuning and Improving a Factory Jew's Harp - Mike Seeger

The International Jew's Harp Congress 1984 - F. Crane

An Annotated Checklist of Microgroove Records with Jew's Harp Music - Trân Quang Hai

VIM 3 - 1987
The Jew's Harp among the Peoples of the Soviet Union - R. Galayskaya

The Jew's Harp in the Soviet Union

Ten Tutors for the Jew's Harp; A Review - F. Crane

VIM 4 - 1994
TRUMP editorial (p.5)

Trump Makers of Today I- Frederick Schlütter, Robbie Clement

Book Reviews

A Sketch of the Life of C. Eulenstein (Supplement)

VIM 5 - 1996
Anthology of German Trump Poetry - Rudolf Henning

Trump in British Literature - F. Crane

Electric Trump - Anton Bruhin

Functional Description of the Electric Trump - Stefan Flüeler

Trump Makers of Today II-Zoltán Szilágyi

VIM 6 - 1997
Yakutsk: Khomus-Harpin' in Siber-Space - Larry Hanks

Tom Bilyeu 1915-1996 - F. Crane

An Interview With Tom Bilyeu

SUBING: An Iraya-Mangyan Trump from the Philippines - Janas Baes

Order information may be found on the P-n-P ad page, or on the website under JHG Store.
These are truly special journals... Created with virtuosity, read with passion.

Enjoy!!! --- Mark

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Pictorial Archive Index - UNDER CONSTRUCTION
Send Us Pics

We are an organization dedicated to preserving the history and art of this, and other, ancient, unique, or culturally significant acoustic instruments.

Towards that end, we are developing a pictorial archive and database of these unique instruments. In the months and years ahead we hope to create the most comprehensive archive of this kind in the world.

We hope you will join us in this effort and send us pictures, audio clips and information of your important finds.
THIS IS THE SECOND of the series we hope to include in every issue of the Online Newsletter. The presentation of this column, and the entire archive, is in a state of construction. Please bear with us.

The developement of such a database, designed to utilize the capabilities of the internet, is a large undertaking for a volunteer organization. We feel it is a worthy goal however and will strive to make it the best we can.

More volunteers are needed in the technical aspects of database development and CGI programming. If you wish to donate some time to this project please contact me. MDP

Check out Jim Fitzgerald's unique collection
Thanks for the contributions Jim!!!

Gengong from the
Gordon Frazier Collection

photo by Veronica Poss @ NAJHF 1997




Gengong (& case)
Gordon Frazier
Bought at Zamboanga (store) in Seattle's Pike Place Market

Yakut Round from the
Bill Gohring Collection

Yakut Round from the Bill Gohring Collection
photo by Veronica Poss @ NAJHF 1997




Yakut - Russia
Bill Gohring
Beautiful workmanship and player

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Post Your Notes

We encourage everyone to
send us news, questions,
and other contributions!!

Subject: International Jew's Harp Festival 1998, Homepage
Date: Fri, 13 Mar 1998 08:06:48 +0100

Verein Mollner Maultrommelfreunde
Rußmann Manfred
Postfach 53
A-4591 Molln


Sehr geehrte Damen und Herren, liebe Freunde der Maultrommel!

Dear Ladies and Gentlemen, dear friends of the Trump!

Bitte berücksichtigen Sie die Hompageadresse oben, zu der jetzt uneingeschränkt Zugang besteht. Auf unserer Homepage erfahren Sie vieles über die Maultrommel, die Maultrommelfreunde und das Internationale Maultrommelfesitval 1998 vom 22. - 28. Juni 1998 in Molln /Oberösterreich.

Please take a look on our homepage above with will be now with access for everybody. On our homepage you get information about the Trump (known as Jew's Harp/Jaw Harp), the Friends of the Trump in Molln and the International Jew's Harp Festival 1998 / 22 - 28 june 1998 / in Molln / Upperaustria.

Mit besten Grüßen

Yours Sincerely
Manfred Rußmann

June 22-28 1998



Subject: jew's harps in the Carribean
Date: Mon, 16 Mar 1998 19:58:36 -0600
From: Jon Camfield <GriffJon@Mail.UTexas.edu>

Hey there-- I was reading a novel based on the Haitan slave rebellions and was flabbergasted to come across a reference to a Jew's Harp. It's in a book by Alejo Carpentier, "El reino de este mundo" (English: "The Kingdom of this World"), and the sentence is (translated by Marriet de Onis) "The children followed him wherever he went, organizing serenades of harmonicas and jews'-harps." (That's arpa judi'a in the original, but my fancy spanish-english dictionary translatets jew's-harp as birimbao, which I think may be a bastardization/misnomer based on a brazilian instrument (a great candidate for the bizaare musical instuments festival, I might add)

The Kingdom of this World by Alejo Carpentier
Year published, 1989
ISBN, 0-374-52197-2
page of entry 160 (bottom)
credits (translations: Harriet de Onis)

El reino de este mundo
Author: Alejo Carpentier
Pub'd: 1996
ISBN 84-322-3015-4
page 126 (middle)



Subject: classical concerts for jew's harp and guitar
Date: Sat, 31 Jan 1998 18:36:18 +0100
From: THEINERT.GmbH@t-online.de (Bernhard Theinert)

Dear All,
For long time now I am searching for CD's with classical concert's for jew's harp and orchestra. I heard a part of a concert 6 years ago. As I am a fan of jew's harp's music, you are my last idea to get more info about it.

Do you have any idea ?

Thank's for your help !


[If you can help Bernhard, and don't have e-mail, send me the information and I'll forward it on. Ed.]

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M. D. Poss
Pluck-n-Post & JHG Online Newsletter

Molln CD

I recently had a chance to listen to tracks from the Molln CD that Fred mentioned in the last issue (below). This CD may have changed my life!!! Especially the Spiridon Shishigin, Tuba & Jew's Harp, and Didj & Jew's Harp cuts.
A defenite "have-to-have" for your CD pile!

ATS Records CD-0489. Maultrommel Molln. 16 tracks, recorded live at the festival "Maultrommel 96 Molln," with performers from Austria and neighboring lands, and Ivan Alexeyev and Spiridon Shishigin from Sakha/Yakutia. Full of great stuff, though I suppose my favorites are Anton Bruhin's improvisation "The Gnat," and "I bin va Moin aussa" by the Mollner Maultrommler, with peachy-keen trumping and singing by Manfred Russmann. To order this one, send US$30.00 cash (which is always just a bit risky) or by international postal money order to Verein Mollner Maultrommelfreunde, Marktstrasse 1, Postfach 53, A-4591 Molln, Austria.

Where's my PLUCK

The Festival Highlights issue of PLUCK has been delivered... Any questions about this issue should be directed to the PO Box 92, Sumpter, OR 97877 address.

New T-Shirts

Jew's Harp Guild T-shirts are still available.
The new design includes the Huey P. Long quote:
"Properly played... the Jew's Harp expresses the deepest feeling of the human soul."
under the logo.

See the JHG STORE for further information. A picture of the new design is now online.

Yours in Music,