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!
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.
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.
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.