Jews harps (or jaw harps) are very under-valued small instruments!
They are relatively easy to play and are a sure-fire way to get some attention at any musical gathering.
There are two basic types of jews harp, as shown in the picture below:
The top harp is made of one piece and these get called 'dan moi'. They are playing in front of the mouth and do not need to touch the teeth.
They have great sound and harmonics and come in many sizes and varieties. Usually the smaller they are the higher the pitch, some of the larger ones can have great sustain.
The harp underneath is a more Western style 2-part harp. This one is made from brass. These style of harps need to be played with the harp pressed against the front teeth (never between them!). Many folks prefer the direct sound and volume they get from this style and harmonics can be amazing on better quality harps. See image below for correct playing position:
Choosing a harp:
Many folks start off with a cheaper dan moi. This is a good option if you want something quick and simple and do not need to play with others in key.
Dan moi can be great for 'techno' sounding fast rhythms and sound almost electronic. Larger ones can have great sustain and deeper tones.
I personally prefer to play western style harps against my teeth as I think I get much more control of the sound and harmonics. I also now prefer to play higher quality tuned harps that are available in most keys (notes) including sharps and flats. This really opens up the possibilities and means I can play along with just about any other instrument or a band and be in tune!
Check out the great range of tuned harps http://www.soundforhealth.com/collections/tuned-jews-harps
Something for most budgets!
I'll be writing more tips and sending out special deals so keep watching.