Sounds Of The Shofar, Shofar Sounds, Shofar Calls
The Four Main Sounds Of The Shofar
The shofar sounds that Tradition has handed down have certain sound patterns to use for shofar blowing. These are commonly referred to as the calls of the shofar. Traditionally there are four different calls, the Tekiah, the Shevarim, the Teruah, and the Tekiah Gedalah. These can be heard below. They have come through various sources, including Judaism, and varying customs and renditions. One need not be bound by these patterns only. These are not the only ways to play a shofar, as shall be expounded upon later.
It does not take a lot of wind to blow a shofar unless the throat has no back pressure by being too large. However the lower the note the more wind it does take, and this is true with any wind instrument. The vibration of the lips, starting at around 16 C.P.S, creates a vibration within the throat and then the bore of the horn, and this is modified by the horn length and bell diameter. Low notes take less lip pressure and looser lip embouchure.
Higher Notes And Bell Position
Higher notes take more lip pressure and tighter lips, and the highest notes often take a rock angle to start a small tornado of high-pressure high resonance air. The shofar, when the bell is held up is called the natural position, this position plays the natural root note. When the bell is turned down or sideways, the note can be dropped in pitch in relation to the root note. Every shofar is different and will produce different primary notes and higher ascending notes.
Contributing Factors To The Sound
Be aware that the texture, finish, length, bell size, throat and mouthpiece all play a part in the final sound of a shofar. Also, the mouth size, throat, nasal passages and lung capacity all affect the final notes of a shofar from person to person. So it is important to have the right horn for the right person, for playing or for religious purposes.
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♪ 1) The Tekiah (T’kiyah)
It consists of one note (Blast), usually a low note near the root note (fundamental resonance) of the horn that raises 3 to 5 notes higher. It can also be finished off with the octave above the root resonance. A good horn with a good player may be able to hold this note for up to a minute.
♫ 2) The Shevarim (Sh’varim)
It consists of three blasts (sounds) that are from the root (fundamental) note to the next step up, usually a fifth. This takes a good to great shofar to produce more than just a simple three notes, with ease. The Shevarim is difficult to produce on a poor quality horn.
♫♪ 3) The Teruah (Teruwah)
This is what some call a wailing sound. There are two kinds of sounds from various traditions. (See Below) 3-A is nine short calls of the Tekiyah in rapid sequence. 3-B is a single long call with nine wavering undulations of notes, as low high, low high and so on.
Tradition 3-A (Above)
Tradition 3-B (Above)
♫♫ 4) The Tekiah Gedolah (Great Tekyiah)
Some consider this a fourth sound but in actuality, it is the Tekiah held as long as possible. Again, a good horn with a good player may be able to hold this note for up to a minute.
There is a difference of opinion in the Talmud as to whether the Teruah or the Shevarim was sounded in the Temple, so the Rabbis compromised and both were considered valid. On Rosh Hashanah (Yom Teruah) the shofar is sounded 100 times with all the traditional forms. So that the Shofar is blown often enough and with the proper sounds to satisfy the Creator. The shofar was also to be blown on the New Moon and on the high holy days of the feasts and the Shabbat.
Origins Of The Bugle Calls
Also the Greeks borrowed heavily from the Israelites concerning the trumpet. This borrowing led to many standardized trumpet calls that today are known as bugle calls. The Romans also took up this idea and ran with it for their own bugle calls. So a shofar is used in war, a call to assembly, a call to worship, or personal praise and worship to the Creator by one’s own improvisation of bugling.
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Advanced Shofar Playing Techniques And Sounds
Flutter tonguing: The player rolls the tip of the tongue to produce a ‘growling like’ tone. Just like a person rolling an R in the Spanish language.
Growling: Simultaneously humming while playing a note sets up two or more sets of vibrations that produce interference with each other and produce a ‘growling’ sound. So Jazz trumpet players use this technique for growling.
Double tonguing: The player moves the tongue as if speaking that represents the syllables ta-ka ta-ka ta-ka
Triple tonguing: The same as double tonguing, but with the syllables ta-ta-ka ta-ta-ka ta-ta-ka or ta-ka-ta ta-ka-ta.
Doodle tongue: The player tongues as if speaking the word doodle. This faint of light tonguing that makes a sound tremolo, as if played by a valve trumpet to produce a tremolo.
Glissando: The player slides between notes by changing lip pressure and pursing the embouchure. So as a trumpet player slides between notes by pressing the valves halfway, and then changing the lip pressure.
Vibrato: This usually consists of very rapid lip pressure and embouchure to surround the central note tone, this is also a relative note for frequency, going from plus center and minus. So this is kind of a modified form of glissando.
Pedal tone: A petal tone of a shofar is difficult except for the most experienced player. Extreme low pedals tone are produced by slipping the lower lip out of the mouthpiece Slipping the lower lip out by varying degrees, picks up an extreme low note or two.
Microtones: These tones are not generally produced by a shofar, but can be somewhat emulated by the glissando.
The Mute: Not generally used by shofar players but it can be. A real trumpet muter may be used or one may simply mute by hand.
Noises: The player may hiss, click, or breath through the shofar. This causes the shofar to resonate in ways that do not sound at all like a shofar. So most of the time these sounds do require amplification.
Singing: The player sings during the course of playing a note simultaneously, therefore making an unusual effect.
Split tone: Shofar players can make more than one tone simultaneously by vibrating the two lips at different speeds. Therefore the interval difference is usually an octave or a fifth.
Lip Trill or Shake: The player rapidly varies the lip tension of the embouchure. This therefore, causes the note ro vary quickly between adjacent harmonics. So this is much easier to do with the higher notes than the root or second note.
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