Do you love music? Some people like to sing, while others prefer to play musical instruments, such as the guitar or the banjo. Can you play any instruments? Some people can play one instrument really well, and others can form their own one-man band!

There’s one simple instrument that many kids can play. You may have received one as a toy at a birthday party in the past. What is it? The kazoo!

Kazoos are small, tube-shaped instruments. One end has a small circular opening, and the other end is flattened. Kazoos also have a third opening that is covered by a thin membrane that is free to vibrate.

Kazoos are a type of mirliton — also called a membranophone — which is an instrument that changes the sound of a person’s voice via a vibrating membrane. If you’ve ever played a kazoo, you know how it adds a nasal “buzzing” quality to your voice.

Although kazoos are considered wind instruments, they’re not really played by blowing into them. Instead, kazoo players actually hum into the kazoo. Simply blowing into a kazoo will produce no sound. You need to vibrate air from your lungs by humming to make a kazoo come alive.

When you play a kazoo, you can make different sounds by humming different syllables, such as doo, who, rrrr and brrr. You can also make louder sounds by increasing air flow as you hum.

Primitive kazoo-like instruments have been around for hundreds of years. For example, people in Africa have used kazoo-like instruments to imitate animals or disguise their voices in special ceremonies.

The first true kazoo was invented in the 1840s by a man named Alabama Vest from Macon, Georgia. A German clockmaker named Thaddeus Von Clegg made the instrument based upon Vest’s instructions.

Several variations of the instrument were developed and patented over the next 50 years or so. Warren Herbert Frost is given credit for coming up with the name “kazoo” in an 1883 patent application. The familiar submarine-shaped kazoo was patented by George D. Smith in 1902.

47 Join the Discussion

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    • It’s pretty cool, isn’t it Siddman? We Wonder if you have ever played a kazoo? We bet if you can hum, you’d be great at it! :)

  1. We think Kazoos are funny. Some of us have one at home.

    We think tomorrow’s wonder will be about tornados, balloons or flying kites.

    • Hi there, Mrs. Bayko’s class! We think you’re right– kazoos have a funny sound to them sometimes! We Wonder if any of our Wonder Friends can play a song, or is it just a fun instrument to try? We can’t wait to stir up tomorrow’s Wonder with you! :)

  2. Dear wonderopiles,
    I thought today’s wonder was cool.
    I think tomorrow’s wonder is going to be about the water cycle or how the wind can blow a lot of things!
    Thanks!!!!
    Emmaily

    • HOORAY, Emmaily, we’re so glad you liked WONDERing with us today! We can’t wait to find out what tomorrow’s Wonder will be… in the meantime, we hope you can enjoy some music today. Maybe it will be music from a kazoo! :)

  3. Dear Wonderopolis,

    We think today’s wonder was unexpected. 10 people in our class have a kazoo.

    We predict tomorrow’s wonder will be about the weather, how tornados are formed, or the way seeds blow in the wind.

    Thank you for the wonders,
    Mrs. Tillman’s 4th graders

    • We surprised Mrs. Tillman’s SUPER 4th grade class! :) We are glad that some of our Wonder Friends have a kazoo of their own. Do you practice often?

      We can’t wait to find out what tomorrow’s Wonder will be… but we sure hope to see you back here! Until then, have a WONDERful Wednesday, Wonder Friends! :)

  4. Dear Wonderopolis,

    We thought the kazoos were awesome today. Many of us knew the song Final Countdown, because it is played when we play hockey and football. We think tomorrow’s wonder will be about hot air balloons, dandelions, kites, jets or balloons.
    Have a great day!
    Warmest regards,
    The 4/5 people in Ms. Barnett’s class

    • We’re so glad our Wonder Friends in Ms. Barnett’s 4/5 class enjoyed today’s Wonder! Thank you for commenting today. We hope you were tapping your toes to “Final Countdown”– we bet you were ready to get out on the ice or on the football field when you heard it! :)

      We can’t wait to find out what tomorrow’s Wonder will bring… we certainly hope to see you soon! Have a WONDERful Wednesday! :)

  5. Dear Wonderopolis,

    We learned that you have to hum into a kazoo to play it, instead of just blowing air into it.

    We think tomorrow’s wonder will be about tornadoes, hurricanes, direction, or kites.

    • WOW, look at all the WONDERful information the cool students in Mrs. Karr’s class learned today! We hope you hum (in your mind) all day today! We can’t wait to find out what adventure tomorrow’s Wonder will bring! See you then! :)

  6. Dear Wonderopolis,

    We really enjoyed the video today. We thought it was cool!

    We think tomorrow’s wonder will be about hot air balloons, gliders, or a severe storm.

    Thank you for the wonders,
    Mrs. Witkowski’s 4th graders

    • We’re oh-so-glad that our Wonder Friends in Mrs. Witkowski’s 4th grade class are joining us today! We hope you all get to play the kazoo sometime soon!

      We are excited to find out what tomorrow’s Wonder will be… we hope to see you tomorrow so we can all Wonder together! Have a Wonder-iffic Wednesday! :)

    • WOW, thanks for your kind comment, Coca Jesica! We are glad you’re enjoying our Wonder today! It’s fun to use our imaginations together! :)

  7. I play a musical instrument! I play the flute, guitar, and piano. I also play recorder but I doubt that counts. I used to always get these at birthday parties when I was little. Awesome article.

    • WOW, how cool, Gwyn! We bet it sounds AWESOME when you play the kazoo! We are still practicing our kazoo skills! :)

    • We love your comments, KF Dragon Wonder Friends Aidan and Makenna! We hope you have a musical and WONDERful day! :)

  8. I had a kazoo once but it broke. If I get another I will try to hum some songs into it….the man on the video was very good!

    • We hope you replace your kazoo soon, Patrick! We are glad that you’re WONDERing with us today– have a SUPER day! :)

  9. Wow I remember playing with that!!!!!!!!!

    1. they have been around for hundreds of years.
    2. first true kazoo was invented in the 1840s
    3. a man named Alabama Vest from Macon, Georgia. A German clockmaker named Thaddeus Von Clegg made the instrument based upon Vest’s instructions.

    Several variations of the instrument were developed and patented over the next 50 years or so. Warren Herbert Frost is given credit for coming up with the name “kazoo” in an 1883 patent application. The familiar submarine-shaped kazoo was patented by George D. Smith in 1902.

    • Thanks for your kind comment, Evelin! We bet you can find some more great kazoo videos with a little bit of WONDERing– we’d love to see what you find! :)

    • Hey there, Diamond! We think that means that you’re having a grand ole time at Wonderopolis– we so happy to hear that! Thanks for WONDERing with us– have a very cool rest of your day! :)

    • Thanks for sharing your thoughts about this Wonder, Hello Kitty! We appreciate your comments and we are sorry to hear this wasn’t one of your favorites. We hope you’ll come back to Wonder with us again! There’s so much fun to be had! :)

    • Aww, thanks Bobo! We are always glad to have happy Wonder Friends, joining the fun at Wonderopolis! Have a WONDERful Wednesday! :)

    • What a great question, Wonder Friend Madeline! We think you might get tired, or even winded, by playing a wind instrument for a long period of time! You might need to rest and take a breath or two! :)

      Sometimes musicians who play instruments using their breath do mouth and face exercises so their lips and mouths don’t get sore after hours of playing! :)

    • Hi Anthony! That’s so neat that you own a Kazoo! They are fun and awesome! Where do you like to play with your kazoo? Thanks for WONDERing with us! :)

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Have you ever wondered…

  • Can you play a kazoo?
  • What is a mirliton?
  • How long has the kazoo been around?

Wonder Gallery

Try It Out

Have you ever played a kazoo? Chances are, you’ve probably played with a kazoo at a birthday party or a friend’s house. It can take a while to get the hang of humming into — rather than blowing into — the instrument.

If you don’t have a kazoo, make one at home! Grab a friend or family member and check out these resources that teach you how to make a homemade kazoo with a few simple household items:

When you’re finished, post a picture of your homemade Kazoo on Facebook for all your Wonder Friends to see. Better yet, upload a video of you playing your kazoo, if you can. We can’t wait to see your homemade kazoos!

Still Wondering

Visit Smithsonian’s History Explorer to learn about a Fife from the period of the American Revolution that was unearthed on Red Bank battleground in 1800 near the New Jersey Monument.

Wonder What’s Next?

Tomorrow’s Wonder of the Day might take you any way the wind blows!

Upload a Photo or Paste the URL of a YouTube or SchoolTube Video.