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Morsing or Jaw Harp

Morsing or Jaw Harp

Morsing is a hand-percussion instrument used in Carnatic Music, Rajasthani music and also in Assam, Bengal and Sindh-Pakistan. It is known as Mukharshanku, Mourching also.


The instrument is made of a metal ring which has a shape of horseshow. There are two parallel forks forming the frame and a metal tongue in the middle, between the forks. The forks are and the tongue are fitter to the horseshoe shaped ring at one end and the other end free to vibrate. The metal tongue is bent at the free end, in a plane perpendicular to the circular ring. It is stuck at the end thus making a vibration. The bent part is called a Trigger. The pitch of the instrument can be varied slightly by applying beeswax at the plucking end. The pitch can only be reduced however.

Though the origin of the instrument in India is not documented, it is assumed to be dating back to about 1,500 years. The instrument is traditionally made of iron but brass, wood, bone and plastic are also used.

How is it played?

The Morsing is held firmly in the hand and placed on the front teeth with slightly pouted lips. The frame of the ring should be between the palm and the fingers. Usually it is held in the left hand. The middle part of the metal tongue should not be touched when it is idle. The upper one of the two parallel forks is firmly pressed against the upper front teeth and lower fork against the lower front teeth. Lips are used to keep the contact in such a way that the metal tongue will not touch the teeth when it vibrates. The trigger is plucked with the tip of the index finger of the other hand (right).

The sound is due to the resultant vibration of the metal tongue which gets transferred through the teeth and the mouth and nasal cavity. The artist moves his/her tongue with the constant plucking to produce varying and fast pattern of sound.

Morsing is played along with Mridangam, Dhol etc. The syllables of Mridangam should be thorough for the Morsing artist, which he has to tell along with playing the instrument. So the sound we hear is the combination of vibration of the Morsing tongue and the vocal sound produced by the artist. Artists also play the Morsing without plucking its tongue but producing vocal sounds.

Good Morsing costs between Indian Rupees 1,300 and 4,000 and available with all leading musical instruments dealers. It can also be ordered online.

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