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BigHustle
Oct 19, 2005

Fast and Bulbous

Thanks to this thread, I'm bidding on autoharps and looking at other musical instruments. That brings me to an instrument that I don't remember being mentioned in the thread but is one I plan to take up. My apologies if this is a duplicate.

The Washboard



Originally a device used for clothes washing, the washboard is one of the more versatile of the homebrewed percussion instruments. Originally made of entirely of wood, by the beginning of the 20th century the washboard was made of a wooden frame that contained a corrugated sheet of metal. Today, washboard corrugations can made from galvanized metal, tin, stainless steel, or even glass. They are also made with a wide variety of corrugation or patterned crimps to create different tonal qualities from board to board. Columbus Washboard Company, the oldest washboard manufacturer in the US, has several sound clips of what the variety of washboard types sound like here.



The sound of the washboard can be found in a wide variety of classic American music, most notably Appalachian folk music, jug bands, and zydeco sounds from the Cajun country. In jug bands and folk music, the washboard usually took the place of the drums in providing the rhythm for the rest of the band. In zydeco music, the washboard either replaced the drums or acted as a replacement for the snare if the group had a drummer. The washboard can be played in a variety of ways. Traditionally it was played with a whisk brush creating a muted snare-like sound, or with any handy metallic object like a spoon or bottle opener for a louder, raspier sound. Most modern washboard players tend to use metal thimbles or home made gloves to get the most sound out of their instrument.




Washboards, like some of the other instruments listed in this thread, are relatively cheap and easy to come by. You can find them in thrift stores, antique shops, or your hometown hardware store if you don't want to order online. With the exception of the cheaper $8 models on Amazon, most are produced by Columbus Washboard Company and retail for $20 to $35 depending on size. If you want to go whole hog, you can drop $90 for a special edition hand-made model with wood blocks, cowbells, spoons, and a reception bell attached to it. Thimbles can be found virtually anywhere for pocket change, as can bottle openers, spoons, etc.
THIS JUST IN If you live in a somewhat rural area, check your local feed store. I picked up a very basic cheapie Mexican made washboard for $12.75 this morning.

Here are a few videos of the washboard in action:
Elephant Revival play 'Fine Line Situation' with Bonnie Paine on washboard.
Reverend Peyton's Big drat Band video for 'Clap Your Hands' with Breezy Peyton on the board.
David Holt and the Lightning Bolts - David explains how the oldest woman in the world taught him how to play.
Spring Street Ruckus playing the Surfari's classic 'Wipe Out' on banjo and washboard.
Japanese high school dixieland band with a fantastic washboard player playing 'Sweet Jenny Lee'.

The Frottoir

The popularity of the washboard in zydeco music was so great that in 1946 the King of Zydeco, Clifton Chenier, invented the frottoir (zydeco rub-board) which is a frameless washboard worn as a vest and played using spoons or bottle openers.



Frottoirs are a fair amount more expensive than your basic washboard. The only manufacturer I was able to easily find was Key of Z Rubboards, run by zydeco musician Tee Don Landry. His new Tee Don Board line of rubboards are smaller than the vest sized models (coming in at 6" X 10") and run $40 to $45 in price. Full sized models run from $150 for a 'novice board' to $240 for a 'pro board.' Various other sites online had 'no name' frattoirs for around $200, but every reference I found said to just buy from Tee Don if you want quality.

Here's some videos of the frottoir in action:
Zydeco Dance Camp footage of students playing the frottoir.
Tee Don Landry playing the washboard then the frottoir and drums simultaneously.
Zydeco Hepcats play 'Zydeco Boogaloo'
Key of Z Rubboards - Tee Don Landry shows how he makes his frottoirs.

EDIT: Added feed store shopping tip

BigHustle fucked around with this message at Jul 12, 2011 around 16:34

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BigHustle
Oct 19, 2005

Fast and Bulbous

Xenoid posted:

TapTheForwardAssist could you do that American-South instrument that is a bucket upside down with a string on the top? That has always fascinated me..

That would be the Gutbucket or Washtub Bass.

Until TTFA gets a chance to do a full write up, check out Tub-o-tonia for mid 90's web design, playing tips, and instructions on how to build your own washtub bass.

BigHustle
Oct 19, 2005

Fast and Bulbous

Per TTFA's request, here are some pictures of my newest toy...



Thanks to the magic of Craigslist, I was able to get my hands on a 15 bar [url=http://www.rhythmband.com/default.aspx?page=item+detail&itemcode=RB1545]ChromAharP autoharp from an elderly gentleman for $65.

The body is in pristine condition, with the exception of some grime and a spot of sticker residue on the bar bracket. The strings are tarnished as hell, so those are going to have to be replaced. I can pick up a set of strings online for $60, which will still leave me having spent about half the cost of a new one. Alternately, I may just go up to the local music shop and use their tool to measure the strings and replace them with guitar strings of the same diameter. Buying loose strings will probably save me a couple bucks for a little bit of effort.

Imgur is being a bitch so I'll have to put pics up later, but I also picked up a cheap Mexican made washboard at the local feed store for $12.75. It's not the 'top of the line', but it gets the job done for now.

BigHustle
Oct 19, 2005

Fast and Bulbous

TapTheForwardAssist posted:

Groovy. What kind of music are you going to play on it? Not to commit you to a LiveJournal post, but if you have any comment on how you came to choose autoharp as your next endeavor, that's be useful

I basically chose the autoharp because I've got some nerve damage in my left hand from an accident back in the day and can play the guitar/bass for about 5 minutes before I have to stop. I've also been trying to learn guitar for about 10 years now and it's just not coming to me. I like the sound of string instruments, so autoharp is the next logical choice. I plan to use it to learn some cover tunes and write some of my own songs and possible go out busking downtown or play some open mic nights. Mostly as a backup instrument for now, but if I get good with the fingerpicking, I'd like to play some melody parts here and there too.

quote:

Hay goon, before you go spending cash, might want to ascertain how bad your tarnishing is. Are we taking "grayish and a little scratchy" or are we talking "black and crusty" or "red and flaky"?

If more the first of these, try googling up "tarnished strings", "cleaning autoharp strings" and other such keywords. You might be able, depending, to take a few bucks' worth of steel wool and white mineral oil and polish up your strings decently.

The pics I posted don't show much detail, but we're talking black and crusty for the most part, with some of the wound strings showing a greenish buildup. They aren't rusted. I honestly don't think this thing was ever played... The strings were all uniformly out of tune (lowered approximately 2 steps) and despite the tarnish don't have that 'old string' dull sound. The music shop I got my replacement string at recommended steel wool or a 3M pad to clean them up, so I should probably just go that route for now. If I get good at it and enjoy playing, I'll end up wanting to upgrade to a 21 bar model to get more chord selection anyway.

BigHustle
Oct 19, 2005

Fast and Bulbous

Update on the washboard situation:

The one I got at the feed store was pretty crappy once I got down to trying to play it. The metal corrugation is too defined and the thimbles don't easily run up and down the surface without getting hung up so I decided to do a little upgrading.

In the David Holt video I posted earlier, he mentioned that the National Washboard Company's Zinc King 703 Lingerie pail sized board. Since those are pretty hard to come by, I ended up going with its also hard to find bigger brother, the National Washboard Co. Zinc King Top Notch 701.



Following David Holt's example, I also snagged a few accessories to go along with it. A desk style call bell and a tin cup will soon be attached along with the one thing every song needs, MORE COWBELL.



I picked these up for a good price from Scott Miller who runs Bone Dry Musical Instrument Co. based here in St. Louis, MO. The guy has been playing the bones forever and won the 2005 World Bones Championship. His site sells washboards, supplies, and rhythm bones in all shapes and sizes, along with uncut bones he gets from a rancher in the Southwest in case you want to craft your own. I stopped by his place to pick up my order and we ended up sitting around bullshitting about music and such for about two hours. The dude is awesome. I also picked up a set of Kuaiban clappers. More info on those will be in my next (possibly double) post.

BigHustle
Oct 19, 2005

Fast and Bulbous

I have discovered the Wu-Tang secret... Rap actually originated in ancient China. Ladies and Gentlemen, I present for your approval, KUAI BAN.



The Wikipedia article on Kuai Ban sucks, so here's a blog entry from Asian Rap Worldwide instead.

quote:

Kuai Ban is a form of Chinese rap that was developed in China during the 1930s and 40s. Kuai Ban literally means 'fast board' which refers to the bamboo clappers that the performers use in their performance. In Kuai Ban, the performer uses the bamboo clappers as a beat and then simultaneously recites a rhythmic poem according to the beat of the bamboo clappers. There's also a lot of theatrics involved in Kuai Ban performances.

Kuai Ban (pronounced Kwai-bahr) is a form of shuochang (translation: 'speak and sing') that consists of a singer singing a story in a specific rhyming pattern accompanied by handheld percussion instruments. The story-singing tradition is as old as China itself, but was brought into the modern art form it is now in the 1940's by a man named Li Runjie. Here's a blurb from the Kuai Ban page at Bone Dry Musical Instrument Co.

quote:

The art form was developed by Li Runjie during the midst of World War II. An old friend of the Li family (and a virtouso kuai ban performer himself) is Liang Houmin. He explains that "Mr. Li was born into a poor farmer's family. He was apprenticed in Tianjin while still a youngster. By the time he reached 18, he was indentured by Japanese occupation forces to work in a coalmine as a miner. But he fled from the mine and began life as a beggar. No doubt, life then was miserable, yet, right at that time, he learned to play the "Shu Lai Bao", a rhythmic story telling to the accompaniment of the clappers, played by beggars to make a living." Liang Houmin explains that by the 1950s Mr. Li had fully developed the art of kuai ban and become famous.

The traditional style clappers used for Kuai Ban come in two forms: A pair of bamboo clappers or brass clappers. Pictured below are the pair of each that I just bought.


The brass clappers are played in the same clacking style as rhythm bones but also have a technique where they can be played to ring like a bell.
The bamboo clappers are a matched set, with a large two piece set played in one hand and a smaller set of five played in the other hand. To equate them with a drum kit, the larger set acts as the bass drum of the set while the smaller set could be considered the toms.

http://youtu.be/JgW07ywC5Jw - A 10 minute video showing various playing techniques. It's in Chinese so I can't understand a word of it, but the close up shots explain themselves.

http://youtu.be/mHztae9dz0c - This is a guy showing his family from America his Kuai Ban technique when they visited him in 2008. Dude has some serious chops.
http://youtu.be/q5VHGuV4tmM - Here is Zhang Zhi Kuan performing a piece titled 'The Drunk'
http://youtu.be/FWwLAK1CCsg - Zhang Zhi Kwan performing 'Wu Song Fights a Tiger'. Part 1 of a 2 part upload. The second part is linked on the video page.

Listening to the rhythm and delivery of some of these guys makes me wonder if Brandon DiCamillio listened to them before his Chinese Rap from the CKY vid.

BigHustle
Oct 19, 2005

Fast and Bulbous

TapTheForwardAssist posted:

I'm going to re-post the banner ad to snag more noobs, so if anyone has a suggestion as to what musical instruments should be mentioned by ad in the name, and which one or two instruments should be shown on the banner (previous version had a close-up of a concert zither), that'd be cool. I'm tentatively thinking some string instrument, and some electronic instrument.

Just based on thread content, I'd put in the NAF or tin whistle since those seem to be the one most folks wandering in choose to start with. If you want to go electronic, I vote for the Theremin. Not just because it's bad-assed, but also because I want to see if anyone other than Paramemetic has any tips since I just picked up a Moog EtherWave Standard for a song and a dance. I hate this loving thread because it keeps making me buy poo poo.

EDIT
Not gonna bump the thread for this, but here's a pic of the aforementioned Moog Etherwave Standard.

BigHustle fucked around with this message at Aug 15, 2011 around 18:45

BigHustle
Oct 19, 2005

Fast and Bulbous

Nuggan posted:

So far, I've loved my violin and the NAF that I bought. I'm curious as to how everyone else that bought instruments because of this thread are doing with them.

I'm going to be completely honest here and say that I haven't made much progress in learning anything specific. I may not be able to play the harp like John Popper, but when I grab a harmonica and honk out "Heart of Gold" you know what I'm playing.

Over the course of the thread I caught a bad case of Gear Acquisition Syndrome and now own an autoharp, Q-Chord (a synth/electronic autoharp), two washboards, a set of Hohner Piedmont Blues harmonicas, a set of kuai-ban clappers, and a Theremin.

Thanks to this thread and the volunteer music writing gig I picked up I can say that my appreciation for music has grown by leaps and bounds in the last year. Two years ago you couldn't have gotten me to go to a bluegrass show or listen to anything that could be considered jazz and today I try and track down that stuff so I can catch up on what I've missed over the years.

BigHustle
Oct 19, 2005

Fast and Bulbous

TapTheForwardAssist posted:

This thread could really use a Q-chord post; you up for it? The Q-chord (previously known as the Omnichord) was as he notes an electronic autoharp, but over time Suzuki has kind of dropped that mention of its origin since "autoharp" doesn't really resonate with the kids like it used to. Looking at YouTube, most of the clips are by some pretty unhip people, but then again it's also been used on a variety of indie albums, so an instrument in two worlds.

I can do an in-depth post, sure. Give me a day or so to put my research goggles on and throw something together.

quote:

BigHustle: my main question, does it feel like a pretty quality instrument for the price? I'd initially thought of it more as a novelty instrument, but looking at it more it seems it has some serious potential. Good buy for the money ($225 on Amazon, often used on eBay or CL)? Would you, overall recommend it for music-novice goons interested in electronic instruments? A better first choice than, say, a keytar, or a Kaossilator?

Well, it isn't going to sound like a Roland AXSynth, but it isn't $1200 either. I wouldn't compare it with the Kaossilator, mainly because they are really two different animals. You can make farting robot sounds with the Kaossilator where you can't with the QChord. If that is your determining factor, then I'd go with the Kaossilator.

For a total musical novice it's a godsend. You can turn it on, press a few buttons and live the Wesley Willis rock and roll dream, complete with backing band. The auto-chord function is great for getting the basics down and it can do major, minor, 7th, major 7th, minor 7th, augmented, or diminished chords for any key. The strumplate is kind of a pain in the rear end since it requires a fairly heavy hand to register that it's being used, but you can also bang on it like a toddler and never get an off note.

It's nice to be able to pull it out, surf to a site like Chordie and be able to play a song using the chord progressions and not have to worry about having to learn a new chord or fingering. I mostly use it to write basic chord progressions and put down accompaniment for vocals. This thing has helped me become the karaoke king.

For more advanced musicians it may be frustrating for use other than basic chording. It also locks you into a limited number of voices for auto-chord and the strumplate, so if you want to go your own way or have unrestricted freedom, you'd be better off getting a synth. You can also use it as a MIDI controller, but I've read online that the MIDI functions aren't standard so there's a bit of bullshit you have to go through to get it done.

Overall, I'd say that it's a decent buy for anyone looking for a relatively inexpensive instrument that won't require a ton of practice time or army of manuals to coax good sound from as long as you can accept and tolerate it's limitations.

BigHustle
Oct 19, 2005

Fast and Bulbous

SUZUKI OMNICHORD


Back in 1981 the Suzuki Music Corporation released the Omnichord, an electronic version of the autoharp. It had the same tonal characteristics as keyboards of the day, but was much easier to learn since you only needed to know the alphabet in order to recreate any type of music.



Throughout the 80s and into the late 90's, Suzuki released upgraded models that had better strumplates, more features and MIDI interface capabilities. It was adopted by a diverse array of people, from schools and programs to help the disabled to church choirs and stars like David Bowie and Brian Eno.

SUZUKI QCHORD



After two decades of Omnichord models, Suzuki decided to revamp the instrument and released the QChord Digital Songcard Guitar in 2000. The form factor was redesigned to mimic a guitar and Suzuki added a slot for QCards, which hold either pre-recorded songs to play along with or new rhythms for creating your own tunes.



The 'arm' of the QChord contains the buttons for choosing the chords you wish to play. With a single button press, the chord buttons can be turned into a keyboard for playing melody lines. The QChord comes with a keyboard overlay so you know what key does what in piano mode. The range of the keyboard is 4 full octaves, adjustable using the control buttons.
What makes the QChord unique among most keyboard/synth gadgets is the touch sensitive strumplate on the side. This plate covers 4 octaves and all notes are preset by the chord buttons, guaranteeing that wherever you touch the plate, you'll play a note in the correct key. Aside from the 10 built in voices accessible by the control buttons, there are also 100 general MIDI voices that can be assigned to the strumplate.



OMNICHORD VIDEOS
Omnichord Demo – Demo of functionality of an earlier Omnichord model (OM-84)
MGMT – Kids cover – Girl covering MGMT on her Omnichord OM-82
OM-300 Demo – Demo of the last Omnichord model to be released before the QChord debuted
Omnichord Demo – Casey Desmond demos her Omnichord

QCHORD VIDEOS
QChord Intro Video – A basic testimonial/demo video with all the charm of Made for TV informercials
Amazing Grace – A video of a song everyone knows and is included on one of the QCards
Let It Be – Another song everyone knows played by a crazy old man
Strumplate Demo – A demo of the strumplate and pitch bending wheel
Melody Keyboard Demo – A short improv using the piano function
Mod Your QChord – Mod your QChord with paper clips, clothespins and wire ties

BigHustle
Oct 19, 2005

Fast and Bulbous

TapTheForwardAssist posted:

Okay, made a rough accounting of goons served up to this point.

I also have a National Washboard Co. Zinc King 701 washboard, a set of Hohner Piedmont Blues harmonicas (C D E F G A B-flat) and various rhythm/percussion instruments.

BigHustle
Oct 19, 2005

Fast and Bulbous

drat this thread. drat it straight to hell.

I picked up a Remo Thundertube tonight for use in my percussion rig.

Since I couldn't use that as the only content in the post, I also shelled out a bit of cash for an Eddy Finn Mahogany tenor ukulele.



I'm also looking into picking up a Claviella (a melodica variant) and possibly a chord organ if the Craigslist ads pan out.

BigHustle
Oct 19, 2005

Fast and Bulbous

If anyone else is thinking about a tin whistle, goingtoday.com has a Feadog tin whistle in D along with a book and CD for $19.99 plus $5 shipping until midnight EST.

BigHustle
Oct 19, 2005

Fast and Bulbous

I think I might have a first for this thread. It's gotten me a job.

Back in this post from August 2011 I talked about getting my washboard from a guy who runs an online music store out of his home in St. Louis.

Fast forward to two weeks ago, he makes a post on Facebook looking for someone to bring on-board making musical bones and handling various administrative tasks while he delves into creating a wholesale division to supply brick and mortar stores with old-time percussion instruments. Two nights ago we got together and hashed out the details.

Starting next week, I'll be learning how to hand craft rhythm bones out of natural bone, slate, metal and wood along with assembling washboard playing gloves and performing various other tasks, like doing research and writing up little blurbs about the different varieties of wood used for making bones and other such things.

So thanks TTFA. This could turn out to be a full time gig making the same cash as I make at my lovely non-musical day job.

Also, if you want to see me playing the washboard and baritone uke (among other things) whilst forgetting the lyrics to the song I was singing, the show I did last week is archived here and should be up for a few more weeks. The video quality blows but the audio is pretty good.

BigHustle
Oct 19, 2005

Fast and Bulbous

TapTheForwardAssist posted:

That is indeed a first, keep us posted!

OK, here's an update.

So far I've been doing a little recon work tracking down new suppliers and filling orders, but the primary focus of the job so far has been manufacturing product.

First up was attaching the bottle caps to the washboard gloves. The gloves in the picture are my personal gloves, which were a gift from the owner and are worlds better than the home-made pair I had been using. Played my first show with them last weekend and they were rad as hell.


I'm also about a third of the way through creating musical rhythm bones out of sun bleached ox ribs. Attached are pictures of me cutting the ribs into segments using a wet saw and doing the rough shaping and sculpting with a wet sander a 60 grit paper. Still to come: gluing to patch any holes, grinding the ends, two more trips on the wet sander, and a final buff and polish before they go up for sale.


On the washboard front, I have been playing the board in a punk band since August. I've also added to the collection.


Left Rear: The cheap board I got at a feed store shortly after finding the thread. It is brash and lo-fi sounding, like snotty garage-rock guitar.
Left Front: National Washboard Co. Glass King #863 Has a tiny corrugated pattern on the rubbing surface. Somewhat high pitched and plinky when tapped and sounds like a guiro when rubbed with something that has an edge.
Right Rear: National Washboard Co. Zinc King #701 The board I play on stage. It has a dull clank when tapped and somewhat muted ring when scraped.
Right Front: Another gift from the new boss, this is a no-named glass board with large cornrows like the 701. It has a dull clank with no resonance or sustain when tapped and sounds like a fat man with a head cold snoring when rubbed.

Here is a video of my boss boning it up with Dom Flemons and Rhiannon Giddens of the Carolina Chocolate Drops.
Here is a video of the boss demonstrating the different tonal variations that can be made in the hands of a skilled player. The bones in this video are made from ox shin bones, which is the closest thing I could find to the ones I'm producing, which are from ox ribs.

BigHustle
Oct 19, 2005

Fast and Bulbous

OK, after some trial and a lot of error, the first batch of ox rib bones have been completed and are officially up for sale. It's been an interesting past month or so, since prior to this gig my jobs have always been retail or office jobs. I wasn't sure how I would acclimate to power tools and doing actual hands-on creation of product from scratch. The boss says that he is thoroughly impressed with what I've made so far. They aren't perfect, but they are pretty drat good from someone who's never made them before.

The boss has given me a few pair of bones so I can get to know the product, so here come a few pictures of my stash.


These are the ox rib bones that I've been working on for the past month or so. They were made by hand in St. Louis, MO by yours truly from sun-bleached ox ribs that are sourced from a cattle farm somewhere in the Western US.


These are the biggest seller at the store. Joe Birl Rhythm Bones are made from maple and come in in natural or black finish. They are standard minstrel style bones that have a patented notch carved into the curve that makes them easy for beginners to hold. The notch is easier to see in the group picture below.


These are Aaron Plunkett Blue Bones. The thin version is on the left, stout on the right. These bones are made of a urethane resin that is infused with stone and metal particles and are cast from a mold made from Irish goat bones. These are very quiet compared to all of the other plastic, wood or natural bones. I mainly got them to play at home without getting kicked out of the house.


Here is the whole collection all together. You can see the notch in the Joe Birl bones from this angle.

Once I get the chance to sit down and put some effort into it, I plan to do a content post about bones and bones playing. Until then, have this video of Dom Flemons of the Carolina Chocolate Drops demonstrating how to play the bones. You might also want to check out this video of Scott Miller (my boss) demonstrating the tonal variations you can get by shifting the position of the bones in your hand.

I'll also post a bonus video of Dom Flemons and Scott Miller running through a medley of the old minstrel era tunes "Brigg's Corn Shucking Jig" and "Brigg's Breakdown" before they played together at a Carolina Chocolate Drops show in 2010.

EDIT: Added link to the product page of the online store.

BigHustle fucked around with this message at Mar 6, 2013 around 07:23

BigHustle
Oct 19, 2005

Fast and Bulbous

Stew Man Chew posted:

So I know it's been a while since the Ukulele days but I just wanted to post that my parents retired recently and dug my grandpa's 75 year old baritone ukulele out of the basement and left it in my keeping. Immediately thought of your uke thread, TTFA.

I was really excited but the realization that it's just a guitar without the lowest two strings has dismayed me somewhat. I already have a Full Guitar! I restrung both today and look forward to driving my girlfriend crazy. maybe I can actually learn something this time.


For what it's worth, I bought a baritone uke for my birthday last November and found that it actually increased my guitar playing abilities. Adding those extra strings isn't difficult and you aren't really working against the chord shapes you already have down. It also doesn't hurt that grabbing the uke to jam is a lot easier than bringing the guitar out.

BigHustle
Oct 19, 2005

Fast and Bulbous

Stew Man Chew posted:

This has been my experience so far. I am not an actual guitar player, just a former pianist / trained percussionist frustrated by not having a portable instrument under my belt. I'm really looking forward to developing the more intuitive muscle-memory keyboard familiarity on a slightly smaller format that translates upwards.

It's also pretty cool having a vintage instrument. It sounds amazing although I don't know enough about the brand to know what the wood is. It's a Silvertone, I'm going to guess my grandfather toted it around when he was in the service during WWII. mainly because his SSN and name are engraved in the head and at the base of the body. Character!

If it's a Silvertone, he bought it from Sears and Roebuck. As far as who made it, that I don't know. Sears farmed the construction out to National, Danelectro, Teisco del Rey, Harmony, Kay, etc. depending on the model. You might find something on it buried in one of the Silvertone guitar fan sites on the net.

BigHustle
Oct 19, 2005

Fast and Bulbous

I finally had some time to write up an effort post on one of the oldest instruments known to man and the reason I have money these days… BONES



Wait, wrong Bones. I mean MUSICAL RHYTHM BONES



That's better.

Records show that the bones were played in Ancient Egypt as well as the Greek and Roman empires. They were brought to the US by Irish immigrants back in the 1800s and quickly became a popular instrument for a few reasons, one of which being that they were fairly cheap and easy to purchase. Sears Roebuck and Company sold them in their mail-order catalog for about thirty-five cents back in the 1890's. They were an integral part of Minstrel shows, which kicked off the modern music and popular entertainment industries as we know them today. The bones can also be found in the blues, zydeco, and French-Canadian music. After almost completely disappearing from common use after the Minstrel era died out, the bones experienced a rebirth in 1976 when Percy Danforth (pictured below) popularized them again and began selling his own line of wooden bones.



The bones get their name from the original material they were fashioned from, namely animal bones. The Irish traditionally used goat ribs to fashion their instruments. The American traditionally used ox ribs or shins. You can still buy bones made of actual bone, although in modern times you can get them made from almost every wood available as well as plastic, stone or metal.



Bones typically range in size from 5 to 8 ½ inches or longer. The ideal set of bones will be 6 to 8 inches long and have a 28-degree curve to them, mimicking the shape of a rib bone. Obviously using a rib bone would require less overall shaping, but it is not difficult to fashion instruments from other materials.



Choice of material will affect the overall tone of the instrument. Soft and less dense woods like pine and maple offer a duller, softer tone while hard woods like ebony or English boxwood offer a sharper, louder tone. Plastic bones are usually on the soft and dull side of the spectrum while metals are sharper and brighter sounding. Natural bone varies based on density and finish. Polished bone has a sharper, higher tone while unpolished bone sounds much deller and lower.



There are two primary techniques for playing the bones, minstrel style (pictured above) and two finger grip (pictured below). For minstrel style playing, you place them on either side of your middle finger with the convex sides together. The middle finger wraps around the side of the bone closest to the thumb, using enough pressure so that it doesn't move. The ring finger should be used to squeeze the other bone against the middle finger with just enough force to keep it from falling out but not keeping it from moving freely. Two finger style players place the non-moving bone between the thumb and pointer finger, wrapping both fingers around the stationary bone. The movable bone is held like it is in minstrel style playing. The bones are rattled together by snapping the wrist with the same motion you use to start a car. As your skills advance, you can create multiple clicks per motion by also using arm motion to the wrist action.



In the right hands, bones can sound amazing and bring a great accompaniment to a jam session. In the wrong hands, the player is likely to find them shoved up their rear end by the other musicians at the session who are thrown off because they can't keep a beat and/or bring the loudest pair they have and overshadow the whole ensemble. Practice and more practice, hone your skill, and go join the Irish jam session at the pub to show them that not all bones players suck.



I work for Bone Dry Musical Instrument Company, the only bones-specific store on the planet. We're based in St. Louis, MO and sell bones, washboards, and assorted accessories for old time/folk/roots percussion. Although I can't offer a Goon discount, I can let you know that if you go to the website and sign up for the monthly newsletter you will receive 5% off of your orders as well as 10% off the wood of the month. The newsletter is a once monthly thing and we don't sell our customer's email addresses or anything nefarious like that.

If you end up ordering anything, make sure to put something Goony in the comments or mention me by name and I'll try to avoid getting Cheeto dust on your order, which is not something I would normally do.

VIDEO SECTION
Dr. Steve Brule on bones: http://youtu.be/8iMXH5z63r0
Vash of Circled by Hounds with a basic how to play video: http://youtu.be/mU31eqwC3w4
Percussion god Boris Sichon showing off his skills: http://youtu.be/JxFZzqUCzoI
Boris and Matt Gordon in Dueling Percussion: http://youtu.be/WsKIkZFHiqI
Suzuki Harmonica clinic with guest Mardeen Gordon, maker of Shooting Star brand bones: http://youtu.be/7pWZX1zS6gE
Dom Flemons of Carolina Chocolate Drops shows how to play the bones: http://youtu.be/iMokBr9cTxM
Carolina Chocolate Drops performing Genuine Negro Jig: http://youtu.be/bNaK_nBp2Yc
Teenager Sky Bartlett making most bones players look like poo poo: http://youtu.be/KtXayGVttm0

BigHustle
Oct 19, 2005

Fast and Bulbous

TapTheForwardAssist posted:

Thanks for the great writeup! Your earlier posts a few weeks ago actually got me to go digging into boxes and drawers to haul out the pair of wooden "bones" I bought back in the mid-1990s and have scarcely played since then. They're a reddish-light-brown wood, and pretty lightweight, I want to say cedar. If I every actually get decent on bones I think I'd buy a pair of whatever is least sharp/loud sounding, so I can play it at a session without being too obtrusive, or "that guy" like the archetypal inept bodhran player.

Those do sound like cedar. We have some bones in Indian red cedar that are reddish brown and, when the light catches them right, almost salmon pink. If you do end up deciding to get another pair, let me know exactly what sound you are looking for and I'll get you some recommendations.

quote:

To draw a connection with my bones experiences back in the day, I've been reflecting on how ridiculous communications technology has gotten in my lifetime, and I'm only in my early 30s. Back when I first started getting interested in bones, the big deal was the paper copy of the Lark in the Morning world instruments catalog I got from some music store. It was huge and full of all kinds of weird stuff, and I mailed them a letter asking to get on their mailing (literal paper mail) list. If I'd somehow become aware of bones and hadn't had their catalog I could've spent forever trying to find out when folk festivals were in my area, going to festivals and hoping someone was selling bones, or asking musicians at local pubs if they knew anyone who played bones and could help me learn the basics.

Nowadays, in contrast, I went onto a melodeon forum and mentioned I was looking for a D 1-row, a guy messaged me to say he was in my area and had a spare, we met up by cross-communicating with cellphones to find each other. I bought it off him, and went online to buy some spare parts from an accordion store in the UK using PayPal. I then went back to the forum, used the search engine to get some recommended 1-row players' names, bought three of their albums on iTunes, then downloaded a free demo of the Amazing Slower Downer program so I could play the tracks at low speed (at the same pitch) to figure out the fingerings. I ended up buying the app on my phone, so I could move tracks there, and then sit outside in the park listening to half-speed tunes on my earpiece and playing along with the recordings. And now I'm shopping around Irish music instructors on the opposite side of the planet that I can take lessons from via Skype, from their homes in rural boondock County Whichever.

It's almost insane how quickly the internet developed into what it is today. I've been attempting to source new items for the store and it still blows my mind that I can sit down and find exactly what I'm looking for and have a shipment on the way to my doorstep with just a few button clicks.

BigHustle fucked around with this message at Apr 30, 2013 around 04:36

BigHustle
Oct 19, 2005

Fast and Bulbous

Sierra Nevadan posted:

I've used and had fun with normal spoons before, I think a pair attached together would be easier on the hands over time though.

TapTheForwardAssist posted:

*Catpaw and "musical spoon" things*

BigHustle, this is kind of your territory. Any further guidance?

Sure, I can chime in.

First, here is a video of a guy playing the "musical spoons" from Amazon

They are easier to hold but there are some downsides.

First is that you won't learn the proper grip/technique for playing actual spoons, which will cut down on the 'wow' factor of grabbing some poo poo out of the utensil drawer at a party and going to town.

Second is that you will have the exact same sounding instrument as everyone else who has one of those. Learning to play with the traditional method leaves you open to literally infinite tonal variety with spoons made from different woods, metals, plastics, or even bone or horn.

Third is price. The pair that TTFA pictured sells for $5.28 at Amazon. For that amount you could hit a thrift store and get an assload of spoons that will offer you more of a variety in materials and tonality.

I personally wouldn't apply the above comments to the Catpaws or other one piece carved spoons, mainly because those are nice looking instruments. The Amazon spoons look like something that was shipped over from China for the dollar stores. At least the carved one piece spoons look like there was some craftsmanship involved.

The variety of spoons are what will add spice to playing a simple instrument. We have some wooden spoons in a variety of sizes at the store I work for that aren't up for sale yet. They look nice and sound pretty good. The one thing I immediately picked up from messing around with them are that different sized spoons are a great thing to have. We're going to have three different sized wooden spoons, 4", 8" and 12". The 4" spoons have a nice, clear high pitch that I really like. The longer the spoons get, the lower the pitch.

If you get a decent pair of spoons, you can hold them in the same manner as bones and play them the same way. With a qood quality sounding set, you can get the best or both worlds.

Just as a word of 'warning', if you get a pair of 'cheater spoons' and go to play at a jamboree or something with folk/traditional players, they may treat you like poo poo for playing 'cheaters'. Some people are bothered by this, others not so much. As far as I'm concerned, if it brings you enjoyment just loving do it.

VIDEOS
Vash of Circled by Hounds teaches basic spoon method
National Museum of Australia video demonstrating the Spoons
Grammy award winning musician David Holt with an in-depth explanation of spoon playing <-- skip the rest and just watch this one.

BigHustle
Oct 19, 2005

Fast and Bulbous

virtual256 posted:

That last video is amazing. Short, sweet and to the point. I now feel comfortable monkeying around on spoons.

That is part of David Holt's "Folk Rhythms" DVD. He teaches how to play the bones, spoons, washboard, hambone and paper bag. The whole thing is worth a watch if you are interested in old time percussion.

BigHustle
Oct 19, 2005

Fast and Bulbous

I have a spoon update for you all. I picked up a couple of cheap sets of spoons at Dollar Tree yesterday and spent half the night screwing around with them. I ended up going to work today to get a few things done and my boss asked me to join him at a jug band jam session.

We get out there and it ends up being run by Ryan Spearman, a well-known local folk musician/music historian. It was kind of bizarre jamming with him since it was the first time I've played with someone I've written about. I'm a music writer for the local independent radio station and the last blurb I wrote was the piece I linked in this post. I was pleased to get a compliment on my playing. I kept it mellow and low-key, which is apparently a rarity for people who show up to the jam with spoons.

I also happened to be in the right place at the right time and picked up a Suzuki OM-84 Omnichord for $25 from a local thrift store. The organ function sounds like it was used to record the audio for NES carts, but it's a shitload easier to set up for basic playing than the newer version, the Q-Chord. I may end up busting out the DAW and recording a few basement demos with it just for fun.

Speaking of basement demos, I bought an electric kazoo last week. It's essentially a regular kazoo with a pickup that firs in the resonator port. I recorded a quick and dirty Neil Young cover to test it out, so if you want to hear some amateurish guitar playing and kazooing, here you go.

BigHustle
Oct 19, 2005

Fast and Bulbous

Cached Money posted:

I wish I had more cash for odd instruments, still want a lap steel.

I have an Indy Custom lap steel that I picked up last year for $200. This is their current offering.

Build wise, it's a nice piece. It's modeled off of the 60's/70's era Harmony/Supro/Whatever steels. Nothing fancy, but it sounds good and isn't a budget killer.

Here's mine with bonus tone cat.

BigHustle
Oct 19, 2005

Fast and Bulbous

Captain Bravo posted:

Big Hustle, I just wanted to let you know that you made a sale, dude.

Good deal, that David Holt video is some good stuff.

As an update, I stopped working there in August of last year after some poo poo went down between the owner and myself. I haven't been back over there since, but I understand that he still runs a good shop so don't be concerned about ordering from him.

quote:

Edit: Also, the washboard gloves are loving genius. If I can scrape together the cash, I might trade up from my thimbles too.

Before I started working for him, I made my own gloves using a pair of motorcycle gloves and bottle caps with a generous portion of hot glue that worked just as well. His are a lot cleaner looking, but if you're a washboard player "homemade" might be what you're looking for.

BigHustle
Oct 19, 2005

Fast and Bulbous

Captain Bravo posted:

I didn't want to be rude and suggest something, but since you're not working there... Have you considered cutting the tips off the fingers, running the thimbles through the inside of the glove, and gluing them to the edges? It would need to be custom-fitted to your hands, so not something you could realistically do for an online store, but for a personal pair it seems like it could look really slick.

There are plenty of folks who do that, but coming up with a way to mass produce something that looks decent is a pain. When I left his plans for thimble gloves had ground to a halt because he couldn't find a decent way to mount them on the gloves and finding a reliable manufacturer for thimbles that met his standards was nearly impossible.

quote:

Also, has anyone ever tried to washboard with Banjo Picks? Does it work well?

I know a few folks have done that. One bought some thin dress gloves and stitched the thimble to the glove tip to keep them from flying around or shifting. The trick is finding picks heavy enough to make a decent sound. Most finger picks are pretty thin.

I've gotten out of playing mine lately, but I was leaning more towards using cheap sockets from Harbor Freight. They're tougher on the board but make a lot of noise.

BigHustle
Oct 19, 2005

Fast and Bulbous

Hello thread. I was at the thrift store last night and happened to see this sitting in the window.



It's a 4 string mountain dulcimer made by Double Eagle Dulcimers of Branson, MO and is crafted from the finest burled-wood printed cardboard money can buy.

$25 and a trip to the music store for some new strings and I was set. It is a little on the quiet side, but has a nice clear sound and stays in tune very well.

Now to find some Beatles tabs. If this thing was born to play "Blackbird" it has no purpose in life.

TECH SPECS: I strung it with .012-.012-.015-.022w Ernie Ballsack strings and tuned it to D Ionian (D-A-A)

BigHustle
Oct 19, 2005

Fast and Bulbous

laertes22 posted:

While I am thinking of it, does anybody here play spoons (like actual spoons, not the easy to play ones where the spoons are joined on the end)? I didn't see it list in the OP. I am trying to teach myself and struggling, so could use any good resources or advice.

I posted some links in the thread a while back. Once I get in front of the computer, I'll dig up some videos for you.

EDIT:VIDEOS
Vash of Circled by Hounds teaches basic spoon method
National Museum of Australia video demonstrating the Spoons
Grammy award winning musician David Holt with an in-depth explanation of spoon playing <-- skip the rest and just watch this one.

BigHustle fucked around with this message at Jul 14, 2014 around 23:55

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BigHustle
Oct 19, 2005

Fast and Bulbous

I took up the 4 string tenor guitar a few months ago after wanting to upgrade from my baritone ukulele. I'm now playing it in my band, since I'm better at it than I am a regular 6 string.

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