Musical instruments have been around for a long, long time, and the mouth bow is probably one of the oldest of them. In fact, an ancient French cave drawing, made perhaps 15,000 years ago, shows an individual dancing toward several buffalo while playing one of the stringed resonators. Early humans may have believed there were magical powers in this simple soundmaker, or may have discovered that wild animals were intrigued by the humming, twanging noises it could produce.
The most traditional sort of mouth bow is similar to its counterpart, the simple hunting bow . . . being little more than a springy bough with a length of twine, leather, or gut strung between the two ends. The so called Appalachian mouth bow is a variation on this style, having a flat strip of wood, tapered on each end, rather than the rounded branch. Its design is clean and uncomplicated.
Hold the mouthbow in one hand press it firmly against your opposite side cheek, next to your mouth. Open your mouth behind the stick, and make the inside of your mouth as much as you can. Pluck, hit or strum the string with your other hand, quite close to your mouth. You change the sound by changing the size and shape of the inside of your mouth. The mouthbow is a relatively quiet and the rich harmonics.