Folk & Traditional Instruments

Kazoos to Swear By: Choosing the Best

Kazoo

When you consider genre-spanning instruments, kazoos are a whimsical, easy-to-learn addition to any musician’s collection. Don’t let their ubiquitousness fool you—some kazoos are better than others.

I’ve poured over hundreds of reviews of the available kazoos on the market today, and done extensive research into the hearts and minds of kazooists on YouTube and in forums around the world so you don’t have to. Whether you’re an amateur kazooist, or looking to sharpen your kazoo IQ, I have your one-shop stop for all of the important kazoo information you’ll need when making a decision about what kazoo is best for you.

The type of kazoo you choose will affect the acoustic quality of the sound and the longevity of your instrument. Plastic, metal, wooden, and even electric—in some cases, it ultimately comes down to personal style and sound quality. But if you want a kazoo that will have you buzzing away for years to come, your best bet is a Monoprice Metal Kazoo.

Top Pick: Monoprice Metal Kazoo

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The most durable, lightweight metal kazoo there is. The notes blend smoothly, encouraging musicians of all ages and experience levels to keep on kazooing.

How to Play Kazoo

Kazoos are one of the most deceptively simple instruments to pick up and play. Simple—because there are no notes to learn, no holes or slides to configure; only your voice. Deceptively simple—because, like most instruments, you still need a sense of timing, rhythm, and melody.

Basically, you need to be a good singer to be a good kazooist. If you can’t carry a tune, a kazoo isn’t going to be very forgiving. You cannot simply blow into a kazoo. Playing kazoo is more like humming, or making other nonsense sounds with your voice. There is no sheet music associated with a kazoo.

The kazoo is perhaps the instrument that is the closest thing to vocal chords—kazoo pitch is created by your voice. The quality of your kazooing is directly proportional to the quality of your singing. Your voice makes the sound, and the kazoo transforms it into music.

The Membrane

Most kazoos are constructed with a submarine-like body: a wide opening on one end tapers toward a narrow opening on the other end, with a resonator protruding from the top. No matter what type of kazoo, it’s important to understand that a kazoo wouldn’t be a kazoo without its membrane.

That’s the part of the resonator that makes it earn its name: a small piece of plastic or wax paper called a ‘membrane’, which resonates your voice into kazooing vibrations. The number one key to kazoo maintenance is to keep your kazoo stocked with an intact membrane.

Your local music shop likely sells membrane replacements, but in a pinch, you can cut a plastic bag or wax paper into the appropriate size for your kazoo’s resonator. If your membrane is damaged or falls out of the resonator easily, your kazoo won’t work properly, or even at all.

Types of Kazoos

There’s no need to spend an excessive amount of money on a kazoo: Most quality kazoos can be found for under $10, typically as low as the $2—$7 range. Before you decide how much you’re willing to invest and which type of kazoo you want, ask yourself which kind of kazoo you need:

What are you kazooing purposes? Are you casually curious about adding a new instrument to your repertoire? Or are you purchasing for children? Or are you in a band and looking for a new sound to spice things up—and, if so, what type of music? In jug bands and video game cover songs, the kazoo is a natural fit. In metal bands and electronic music, the kazoo can add a fascinating new layer to your band’s sound.

Once you’ve answered these questions, the most important factor to consider is the type of material from which the kazoo is crafted. The most common types of kazoo materials are plastic or metal, but you can also find wooden kazoos available. Let’s walk through an overview of kazoos made with these materials.

Plastic Kazoos

Plastic kazoos are the classic kazoo everyone thinks of when they picture a kazoo. If you’re looking for product recognition and the whimsical style of plastic kazoos in a variety of bright colors, plastic kazoos are the kazoo for you. These are a solid choice for kids, jug bands, goofy song covers, and musicians who don’t take themselves too seriously.

After all, how serious can you be when you’re trilling away on an orange and yellow kazoo? Plastic kazoos are a top choice for multi-tasking musicians—if you need both hands for your guitar or keyboard, the plastic kazoo is easy to grip between your teeth to play simultaneously.

The main downside to a plastic kazoo is it has a tendency to break the notes a little. When you’re ‘duh-dah’-ing between notes, the kazoo canal can be a little fuzzy on note clarity. It’s a tone that is distinctively kazoo, but not the most pleasant sound when you’d genuinely like listeners to want to, well— listen.

That being said, musicians who are experimenting with kazoos would be wise to consider owning a plastic and a metal kazoo. If you’re playing around in a broad harmonic range, plastic will have your back on the lower tones, while metal can handle the rest.

Metal Kazoos

As I’ve made clear by my top kazoo pick, metal kazoos are a serious musician’s secret weapon. Metal kazoos tend to be made with various metal alloys, but they can sound as rich and bold as brass. It’ll take some practice and skill, but it’s not out of the realm of possibility that your metal kazoo could resemble a trumpet if listeners close their eyes.

The metal holds the notes more clearly, which helps you transition between smoother ‘duh-dah’ pitches, lending itself well to jazz, in addition to metal or electronica. Metal kazoos can handle lead melodies and harmonies more seamlessly than plastic kazoos, and their wider range of pitch control makes them a more versatile instrument.

The main downside to a metal kazoo is, if you’re a multi-tasker, it’s not as easy to grip a metal kazoo between your teeth. You’ll need at least one hand to hold it. Another downside is I’ve heard reports of some metal kazoos having a weird taste because of their type of metal. I’d argue that the celebrated musical quality benefits outweigh the narrow possibility that you won’t get used to the taste of the kazoo metal.

Wood Kazoos

Wood has a more open sound, which some folkier musicians like. Wooden kazoos also tend to be handcrafted by independent artists and musicians, so your kazoo would be a work of art as well as an instrument. However, this does mean wooden kazoos are sold at steeper prices, more along the $20—$40 range.

The type of wood, the atmosphere of the workshop it was carved in, and the type of wood finishing product used all affect the taste of a wooden kazoo as well. This can be off-putting to press to your lips. I don’t recommend wooden kazoos overall.

Electric Kazoos

Whether you choose a plastic or metal kazoo, you also have the option of enhancing or manipulating the sound by turning it into an electric kazoo. Essentially, electric kazoos are regularly constructed kazoos that pair with a pickup to plug into an amplifier or a guitar effects pedal. It gives you more freedom to play around with your kazoo music, and I especially recommend it if you’re in a rock or electronic band.

The pickup inserts into the kazoo’s resonator, so it’s wise to use the kazoo that’s sold in the electric kazoo set for the proper fit. Like wooden kazoos, electric kazoos will cost you a fair bit more than your average kazoo, but it’s still pennies compared to most musical instruments. You can find most in the $20 range.

The Competition

After hours of testing and research, here's the final competition.

InstrumentRatingCurrent Pricing
Monoprice Metal Kazoo
durable, lightweight, and the notes blend smoothly$7.99
Wazoo
for loud and playful performances with a goofy presentation$3.38
Kazoobie HUMMbucker Electric Kazoo
for electronic or metal bands who want to experiment with a new sound$19.91
Kazoobie Plastic Kazoos
for when you need a lot of easy-to-use kazoos, poor resonance and cheap membranes$12.96

Our Top Pick: Monoprice Metal Kazoo

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The Monoprice Metal Kazoo is by far my top recommendation. As discussed, I prefer the sound of a metal kazoo over other types of kazoos, and Monoprice crafts the best durable, lightweight metal kazoo there is. The notes blend smoothly, encouraging musicians of all ages and experience levels to keep on kazooing.

The greatest thing about metal kazoos like the Monoprice are they still sounds like a kazoo, but minus the easily obnoxious buzzing of plastic kazoos. The tones are smoother, more like the imitation of a brass band—not quite saxophone or trumpet, but not unlike them.

You can reach more solemn tones with a metal Monoprice, more suited to the character of a metal band. If you’re looking for a brighter, buzzy sound, check out our plastic runner up, but if you want to redefine for your sound and show your listeners what a kazoo can do, pick up a Monoprice Metal Kazoo.

Unlike some metal kazoos, the Monoprice does not have any sharp edges, so you won’t have to worry about an injured lip while you’re deep in song. By most accounts so far, the metal is pretty resilient and won’t deteriorate with too much use. The cap of the resonator is screwed in securely, and it’s easy to unscrew if you need to replace the membrane.

Clocking in around $7.00 per kazoo, Monoprice Metal Kazoo is a solid choice for any kazoo enthusiast, whether you’re an amateur or a seasoned pro who’s looking for a kazoo who can keep up with the evolution of your craft.

Our Runner-Up: Wazoo

 

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My runner-up pick is the Wazoo, which is basically a super loud kazoo, aided by the attachment of a horn. Priced around $6.00, when I need a kazoo that simply must be louder than the rest, I reach for a Wazoo.

It’s a kazoo with a horn branching off the top to amplify the sound.  Adding the horn to the kazoo creates a richer, slightly different tone, in addition to making it louder. It’s also pretty neat to be able to hinge your palm on the horn as a mute.

The wazoo’s horn is removable, which makes it a versatile choice. I prefer the wazoo because it blares the classic plastic kazoo sound with double the amplification of a normal kazoo. That makes for loud and playful performances with a goofy presentation.

But when I need to simply practice or mess around in a less flashy way, I can remove the horn, and I’ve got myself a regular ol’ kazoo. Wazoo colors vary, but the kazoo body and the horn tend to be mismatched bright colors.

Other Kazoos to Consider:

Kazoobie HUMMbucker Electric Kazoo

Credit: Amazon.com

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I found a couple of other kazoos worth our consideration. The Kazoobie HUMMbucker Electric Kazoo is a great choice for when you need a harder sound. It’s a little pricier than the average kazoo, sold around $20.00, but that price includes both a kazoo and the pickup that makes it electric.

Crafted by trusted brand Kazoobie, the HUMMbucker takes a classic plastic kazoo and turns it up to eleven by letting you plug into an amplifier. Paired with a professional grade pickup (15 foot cable and 1/4 inch plug), this kazoo set gives you more freedom in the kinds of sound you can make with a kazoo.

I recommend this for electronic or metal bands who want to experiment with a new sound. Typically, performers amplify a kazoo by playing it directly into a microphone. By plugging your kazoo into an amp or guitar effects pedal, you not only get volume, you can distort and manipulate kazooing to your heart’s desire.

Kazoobie Plastic Kazoos

Credit: Amazon.com

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Kazoobie Plastic Kazoos are my top pick for when you simply need a lot of easy-to-use kazoos. They’re typically priced around $13 for a set of 8. If you only need kazoos for a single event, like a one-off concert or a kid’s birthday party, Kazoobie Plastic Kazoos can deliver without much fuss, but still sound good. Kazoobie Kazoos are crafted with resilient membranes and tightly packed caps.

Some musicians swear by Hohner as the best for plastic kazoos, but I’ve found that compared to Kazoobie, Hohners have poor resonance and cheap membranes that fall out easily. If you’re looking for a basic plastic kazoo—or even a whole set of them for a kazoo orchestra—Kazoobie is where it’s at.

Sources
  • C. (2012). Retrieved December 21, 2016, from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AnmIN7PTsbI
  • G. (2013). Retrieved December 21, 2016, from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=j5jtl0WvmU4
  • K. (2016). Retrieved December 21, 2016, from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GUPn2CFYDLM
  • N. (2011). Retrieved December 21, 2016, from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=h8wIRoj5KBM
  • T. (2014). Retrieved December 21, 2016, from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dFuIqSEiCNA

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