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What Is a Kazoo?
History of the Kazoo
Kazoo Design, Construction, &Maintenance
How a Kazoo Works
This is one of the diagrams from the patent of the first submarine shaped kazoo, which was issued to George D. Smith, May 27, 1902.
It included many inovative improvements to the kazoo.
I don't know if any exactly like this were produced.
Most of the modern ones simplify the design to varying degrees, frequently doing away with some of the important improvements.
I have added colors and arrows to hopefully help explain how it works.
1. As the player hums, sings or speaks into the mouthpiece (B) the sound waves travel through the instrument, some of the waves hitting the walls and bouncing off in another direction. This can add some harmonics to the sound depending on how and what the body is made of.
2. Some of the sound strikes the membrane (F) causing it to vibrate. This adds harmonics to the sound and causes the air on the other side of the membrane to vibrate. This sound is directed outward by the funnel. Most of the sound you hear from the kazoo comes out here.
The harmonics added by the vibrating membrane vary depending on the qualities of the membrane.
3. The sound vibrations continue traveling through the body to the hole in the rear (G). This hole is much narrower than the mouth piece. Not much sound comes out here. Much of it is redirected back into the body, further affecting the harmonics.
These harmonics change the tone of the voice and amplify it.
As the funnel (E) is screwed into the holder (K) the edges (colored green) press against the semi-flexible ring or frame (peach colored) that the membrane is attached to, pushing the edges of it down and increasing the tension of the membrane. This affects the way the membrane vibrates and thus the harmonics it creates.
For a description of the parts see Kazoo Structure--Smith's Submarine