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The kazoo is a musical instrument which adds a "buzzing" timbral quality to a player's voice when the player vocalizes into it. The kazoo is a type of mirliton, which is a membranophone – a device which modifies the sound of a person's voice by way of a vibrating membrane.
"Kazoo" was the name given by Warren Herbert Frost to his invention in Patent #270,543 issued on January 9, 1883. In the text of the patent he refers to it as "This instrument or toy, to which I propose to give the name 'kazoo'." This first kazoo was not the familiar "submarine" shape.
While blowing is the term typically used to describe the technique required to play a kazoo, a more accurate term would be humming into the kazoo. Blowing with the lips closed around the mouthpiece of the kazoo will not create sound – one must vibrate air from one's lungs by humming into the instrument to produce any sound. Increased air flow (louder humming) will result in a louder sound.
Instead of just humming (hmmmmm), different sounds can be made by singing different syllables such as doo, who, rrrrr or brrrr into the kazoo.
The submarine shaped kazoo, which was also the first metal kazoo, was patented by George D. Smith of Buffalo NY, May 27, 1902.
Professional usage 
The kazoo is played professionally in jug bands and comedy music, and by amateurs everywhere. It is one of the few acoustic instruments to be developed in the United States and one of the easiest melodic instruments to play well, requiring only the ability to vocalize in tune. In North East England and South Wales, kazoos play an important role in what are called juvenile jazz bands. During Carnival the kazoo is routinely used in the Carnival of Cádiz and the Murga in Uruguay.
In the Original Dixieland Jass Band 1921 recording of "Crazy Blues", what the casual listener might mistake for a trombone solo is actually a kazoo solo by drummer Tony Sbarbaro. The Mound City Blue Blowers had a number of hit kazoo records in the early 1920s. The Mound City Blue Blowers featured Dick Slevin on metal kazoo and Red McKenzie on comb-and-tissue-paper kazoo. The vocaphone, a kind of kazoo with a trombone-like tone, was occasionally featured in Paul Whiteman's Orchestra. Trombonist-vocalist Jack Fulton played it on Whiteman's recording of "Vilia" (1931) and Frankie Trumbauer's "Medley of Isham Jones Dance Hits" (1932). The vocal group The Mills Brothers originally started in vaudeville as a kazoo quartet, playing four-part harmony on kazoo with one brother accompanying them on guitar.
The kazoo is not often found in European classical music, a rare exception being David Bedford's With 100 Kazoos, a piece which emphasizes the simplicity of the instrument—rather than being played by trained musicians, kazoos are handed out to members of the audience, who accompany a professional instrumental ensemble. Leonard Bernstein included a segment for kazoo ensemble in the First Introit (Rondo) of his Mass (theatre). The kazoos are played by the boy's choir. The kazoo was used in the 1990 Koch International and 2007 Naxos Records recordings of American classical composer Charles Ives' "Yale-Princeton Football Game", where the kazoo chorus represents the football crowd's cheering. The brief passages have the kazoo chorus sliding up and down the scale as the cheering rises and falls.
The kazoo is called for in Frank Loesser's score for the 1961 Broadway musical comedy How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying. It appears as part of the instrumental accompaniment played by the orchestra: several instruments provide the sound effect of electric razors being used in the executive washroom, during a dance reprise of the ballad "I Believe in You".
A kazoo solo is featured in Jesse Fuller's 1962 recording of his song "San Francisco Bay Blues", as well as in Eric Clapton's 1992 recording of the song on MTV's Unplugged television show and album. Many Paolo Conte performances include passages played on the kazoo.
Short performances of kazoo music are included on many modern recordings, usually for comic effect. For example, in Frank Zappa's first album, Freak Out!, he used the kazoo for adding such comic feel in some songs (including one of his best known, "Hungry Freaks, Daddy"). In the song "Crosstown Traffic", from the album Electric Ladyland, Jimi Hendrix used a kazoo made of comb and paper acompanying the guitar to accentuate a blown-out speaker sound for which he was looking. In the song "Lovely Rita", from the album Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band by the Beatles, kazoos made of combs and toilet paper are featured. Kazoo was used to parody the sound of a military brass band in the song "Corporal Clegg" by Pink Floyd.
One of the best known kazooists in recent times might be Barbara Stewart (1941–2011). She was a classically trained singer who wrote a book on the kazoo, formed the "quartet" Kazoophony, and performed at Carnegie Hall. She appeared on Late Night with Conan O'Brien.
On March 14, 2011, the audience at BBC Radio 3's Red Nose Show at the Royal Albert Hall along with a star-studded kazoo band set a new Guinness World Record title for the Largest Kazoo Ensemble. Wagner's Ride of the Valkyries and the Dambusters March were performed by 3,910 kazooists in the Royal Albert Hall crowd, surpassing the old record of 3,861 players set in Sydney, Australia in 2009. The current record of 5,190 was set later that same night in a second attempt.
See also 
- Shepherd, John. 2003. Continuum encyclopedia of popular music of the world: VolumeII: Performance and production. London., [England]: Continuum. p. 275. ISBN 0826463223
- US Patent 700986
- Meredith Jordan (October 7, 2010). "Kazoo factory tunes in to Beaufort County". Bluffton Today. Retrieved October 26, 2010.
- Peter Siegel, liner notes to Friends of Old Time Music (Smithsonian Folkways, SFW40160) Media.smithsonianglobalsound.org
-  Big Red Nose Show
-  Guinness World Records
- Joe Kukura (August 2010). "Giants Fans' Kazoos Create World Record Buzz". NBC Bay Area. NBC Universal, Inc. Retrieved 2010-08-14.
- Kassinger, Ruth, 2002, Build a Better Mousetrap: Make Classic Inventions, Discover Your Problem-Solving Genius, and Take the Inventor's Challenge, John Wiley and Sons, ISBN 0-471-39538-2
- Lombardi, Fabio, 2000, Canti e strumenti popolari della Romagna Bidentina, Società Editrice "Il Ponte Vecchio", Cesena
- Guizzi, Febo, 2002, Gli strumenti della musica popolare in Italia. Invaluable survey of popular instruments in use in Italy, ranging from percussion,wind and plucked instruments to various noise makers. Numerous drawings and plates. Wrappers. - Lucca : Alia Musica, 8. - 502 p. ISBN 88-7096-325-X
- Lombardi, Fabio, 1989, Mostra di strumenti musicali popolari romagnoli : Meldola Teatro Comunale G. A. Dragoni, 26-29 agosto 1989; raccolti da Fabio Lombardi nella vallata del bidente, Comuni di: Bagno di Romagna, S. Sofia, Meldola, Galeata, Forli, Civitella diR. e Forlimpopoli ; presentazione Roberto Leydi. - Forli : Provincia di Forli, 1989. - 56 p. : ill. ; 21 cm. In testa al front.: Provincia di Forli, Comune di Meldola.
- McGlynn, Don, 1986, The Mills Brothers Story, VHS, Kultur Videos.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to: Kazoo|
- Kazooco, kazoo museum and historic manufacturer
- Eden, NY, home of Kazooco
- "This is a kazoo!" Captain Kazoo: The world's largest private kazoo collection. More history, including details on the mirliton.
- The Kazoo Museum official website of the Beaufort, SC kazoo museum
-  Miss G and her Blues Kazoo. Woodstock Wooden Kazoo in Woodstock, NY
-  Doc Kazoo and his Wooden Folk Kazoo in Lake Seneca, Fl
-  The Association of American Kazoologists: Information on the kazoo, including the history, design and construction.