To play the Mouth-harp, the two metal shanks of the steel frame are positioned against the teeth. There must be enough space between the upper and lower teeth to allow the spring-tongue of the instrument to vibrate and move freely between the teeth into the mouth, which acts as the sound chamber.
The lips are allowed to rest on the metal shanks so that they cover the shanks comfortably, however, the spring-spring-tongue must remain free to swing.
With the finger (usually the forefinger) the spring-spring-tongue of the instrument is set into motion. The Mouth-harp is strummed using finger strokes toward the mouth to achieve the best results. It can also be strummed with the thumb by using thumb strokes away from the mouth.
However, this technique can unduly stress the spring-tongue of the Jew''s harp and may lead to its failure. This especially applies to the smaller versions of the Jew''s harp (G, A, C, D).
After the instrument has been played several times, the mouth learns to act as the sound chamber, building resonance and creating tone. By altering the shape of the mouth, the tone can be changed.
One can play the instrument by changing the volume of the sound chamber to produce corresponding changes in the tone range. In some cases, the base tone will be weaker, but the overtones should still be clearly audible. A second mode of playing the Mouth-harp results in breathing deeply through it while playing. This causes the tone to increase and become stronger. As one learns to play the instrument, subtle techniques required to master it will be revealed.
The correct alignment against the teeth must be practiced in order to play effectively:
CORRECTING THE TUNING
The basic tuning of the instrument is determined by the configuration of the spring-tongue. The tuning, however, can be adjusted by bending the short end of the spring-tongue slightly in one direction or the other. Bending it toward the point at which it is fastened will raise the tone. Bending should be done very carefully, preferably with a set of round nose pliers and with just enough pressure to accomplish the bend. Too much pressure may damage or break the spring-tongue.
The tuning can also be corrected by altering the thickness of the short end of the spring-tongue. By removing metal from this end, the tone will rise. Likewise building up the spring-tongue in this area will lower the tone.