Instruments | Shofar | Brass

The shofar is a ram’s horn used as a musical instrument in Judaism. Broadly speaking, it was sounded at times of ceremony, such as the celebration of the new moon, at times of great significance, such as a drought or famine, and as a signal for war.

Today, its use in secular contexts has largely been abandoned, though it was sounded in celebration of the reunification of Jerusalem in 1967. It retains its religious significance, however, and is particularly associated with Yom Kippur and Rosh Hashanah.

The calls played on the shofar vary greatly according to circumstance, tradition and players. All are essentially made from two notes – the precise pitches being dependent on the specific instrument – and the tremolo resulting from fast alternation between them. The shofar player is known as the Ba’al Tokea or ‘master of the blast’.


The horn is heated, worked into shape and hollowed out. A hole is made at the tip; some shofars are designed to be played directly through this hole, others use a mouthpiece. All kinds are played with the buzzing lips familiar from trumpets and horns. Due to the irregular nature of the bore, the shofar does not always sound the same intervals.

Given its inconsistent musical nature, the shofar has rarely been used in orchestral music. There is a short part for it in Elgar’s The Apostles, but this is more usually played by a flugelhorn.

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Source: The Illustrated Complete Musical Instruments Handbook, general editor Lucien Jenkins


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