How can I Play a Comb?

Malcolm Tatum
Malcolm Tatum

The ability to play a comb is actually easier to acquire than many people think. There are not complicated lessons to take, and only a few simple tips to follow in order to may music using a simple comb. By simply preparing the comb properly and learning how to use the vibration of your voice properly, you can learn how to play a comb in a matter of minutes.

Larger combs are usually unsuitable for comb playing.
Larger combs are usually unsuitable for comb playing.

Before beginning any attempt to play a comb, it is important to prepare your musical instrument. This is very simple to accomplish, as you only need two components. First, there is the need to secure a simple comb. Most people who play the comb recommend using a simple pocket comb made from plastic, although some people prefer rat tail combs. Next, a piece of paper is required. The paper should be large enough to fold over the teeth on the comb. Common wax paper from the kitchen or tissue paper that is used in the wrapping of gifts is ideal for this function. Combined, these two components form what is commonly referred to as a comb kazoo.

To begin playing a comb, fold the paper over the teeth, then gently place the comb between your lips. Take care to not move the comb into your mouth and thus allow the paper to get wet. Press your lips together firmly, but without pressing down too hard on the comb and paper.

With the comb securely in place, you can begin to play the comb. This will involve humming a tune while continuing to keep the comb stationary. As you hum, the vibration created by your voice will cause the paper to rattle. The result of this activity is a sound that is very much like that of a kazoo. The pitch of your voice will determine the notes that are produced with the comb. Essentially, if you can hum a tune, you can play a comb.

Making and playing comb kazoos are a wonderful way to amuse younger children, as well as remind people of folk art and music from years gone by. Since the device requires no costly materials and no musical talent other than the ability to hum, just about everyone can enjoy playing a comb.

Malcolm Tatum
Malcolm Tatum

After many years in the teleconferencing industry, Michael decided to embrace his passion for trivia, research, and writing by becoming a full-time freelance writer. Since then, he has contributed articles to a variety of print and online publications, including wiseGEEK, and his work has also appeared in poetry collections, devotional anthologies, and several newspapers. Malcolm’s other interests include collecting vinyl records, minor league baseball, and cycling.

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Discussion Comments


My grandmother use to play the comb for me and my brother when we were kids. He would really ham it up and do a kind of hillbilly dance around the room as he played. I think it probably annoyed my grandmother to no end but my brother and I got a huge kick out of it. Maybe one day I will play the comb for my own grand kids.


I once saw a trio that was made up of a comb player, a saw player, and a guy that played the washboard in ways that I never knew were possible. It was really a cool show and the quality and variety of the music were so much more than I would have ever expected.

I guess this goes to show that music can come from strange places. We tend to think of instruments these days as being complicated and the products of intense craftsmanship or technology. Think about a french horn that looks like a maze or a keyboard that can make a million different tones.

Most instruments started out with ideas as simple as the musical comb. Think of the rattle or clapping and whistling or a simple flute made from bamboo. It doesn't have to be complicated to be beautiful.


What a cool idea! I had no idea that it was possible to play a comb. Here I have been just running them through my hair for years when I could have been using them to play Beethoven's 5th. I'm headed to my medicine cabinet right now.


Does anyone know the name of the Newhart episode where two of the three brothers (Larry, Darryl and his other brother Darrell) did a spoof of "Dueling Banjos" using hair combs?

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