How to Play the Spoons

Appalachian musician and multi-instrumentalist David Holt provides a primer on how to play spoons.

| July/August 1980

Learning how to play spoons is easy, enjoyable, and on a more practical side enormously impressive to Aunt Minnie when the family gets together over the holidays.

The first (and only) things you'll need in order to complete this compact music course are your instruments: two spoons. Teaspoons will work well for this purpose, stainless steel tablespoons will do the job even better, and silver-plated scoopers will sound best of all. (On the other hand, solid silver implements dent too easily to be worth using.) Now that you know what to fetch, I want you to put this magazine down, run into the kitchen, and get some spoons.

You're back! Let's start class off by mastering the basic "spoonster's" position. Place one of the instruments between your thumb and first finger ... with the end of the utensil's handle on your palm and its approximate center crossing over your middle knuckle. Now put the other clacker between your first and middle fingers. Hold this second spoon upside down, so that the bottoms of both soup scoopers can hit each other. (If you have little hands—or big spoons—you might have to put a pair of fingers between the two implements.)

Next, make a fist and grip the handles of both spoons tightly. (Be sure to leave about half an inch between the two stirrers' bowls. That way, the convex sides will click together whenever you bang them against a surface ... while your tight palm grip will act as a spring to pull the cups apart again afterward.) Try striking your leg with the spoons. Did you hear a clicking noise? Good. Try it again.

You're now ready to put your free hand above the spoons and hit the gripped implements down on your leg ... up against your hand ... down on your leg ... and up on your hand again. Try this procedure slowly at first and work at getting a nice, steady, clicking rhythm.

Remember to keep a firm grip on the spoon ends so that their bowls always bounce back after impact to a distance of one-quarter to one-half inch apart. Keep practicing the leg-and-hand rhythm for a while until you begin to feel comfortable with it.

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