The fact that the shofar has been used since antiquity in the marking of sacred rituals has largely contributed to the mystery that surrounds the instrument. Of all types of shofar, the rams horn shofar is the most preferred ideally because it was a ram that was sacrificially slaughtered by the patriarch Abraham instead of his son Isaac. The shofar is used to make a number of dedicated shofar sounds but before we get into these it would be prudent to learn how to blow this instrument.
Only a few persons wholly excel in the masterful blowing of a shofar, be it the ram’s horn shofar or that made from another type of horn. This fact is even supported in the Talmud where blowing the shofar is recognized as being a skill and not hard work. To gain mastery you will be required to dedicate adequate time for practice. The first step for anyone who intends to become a ba’al tekiah is to select the type of shofar that will best suit them. Rather than pegging the choice on aspects of appearance and size you should consider the feel of the shofar and the manner in which it sounds.
The shofar, unlike other conventional instruments, only has a mouthpiece and this is the only point at which you can alter the notes produced. This calls for adeptness in the use of both the lips and tongue. The best shofar for any individual will be that whose mouthpiece allows for a comfortable positioning of the lips. Get ready to make a note now.
Start by moistening your lips at the farthest right-hand corner and hold the ram’s horn shofar firmly at this point. At this point your lips should be tightly sealed. When you feel ready, create a tiny hole (in the lips) against the shofar and then forcefully blow air into the instrument. To do this well, assume that you want to make a Bronx cheer. The resulting sound if perfectly executed should be powerful and bright. For longevity, fill your chest with enough breath and then let this out in a controlled manner. You can use two fingers to steady the ram’s horn shofar next to the lips. The tighter your lips are, the higher the pitch that will be produced. Always ensure that you don’t let excessive saliva into the shofar as this will serve to make the sound croaky.
Having learnt how to produce notes on the shofar it is time that we learn about the three different sounds that are significant to Rosh Hashana. The first of these is the Tekiah and it is denoted by a single, straight and prolonged blast. The main concept of Rosh Hashana is to appreciate that the Almighty God is the supreme King of the entire Universe. When the ram’s horn shofar produces the Tekiah it denotes God’s coronation as King. This is also an individual call for all faithful to help each other in recognizing God’s supremacy.
For the Shevarim sound, the shofar produces three medium blasts in a wailing mood. This sound depicts the disappointment of persons who have failed to make the most of their full potential in a past year. The Shevarim stirs people to aim higher in the New Year by making the most of the opportunities available to them.
The final sound is the Teruah. These are nine blasts made in rapid succession. They are meant to act like a spiritual alarm clock that rouses people from spiritual slumber. Here the shofar enforces a mentality of clarity, focus, and commitment.