Musical instruments can be expensive and require a great deal of dedication. Although just by using a couple of spoons bought at the local thrift store, discount store, or taken from the silverware drawer, you will soon be able to start playing complex rhythms. Spoons are a classic folk instrument that have been used everywhere, from the home to the concert hall, and with a little creativity, you will soon be able to add a rhythmic contribution to the music in your life through a couple of spoons.
Part 1 of 3: Choosing Spoons and Learning Hand Positions
Step 1. Get two spoons that are suitable
The ideal spoons for playing are those that are identical. Each one should have a flared base and a shallow hollow part, known as the spoon head. The more robust spoons have more weight and rest in the hand more comfortably.
- Avoid using spoons with handles that become narrower near the end opposite the head of the spoon.
- Soup spoons are a good choice and produce excellent tone.
- Silver spoons may work to accompany certain types of music, but they are generally too high pitched and resonating too much to work with most melodies.
Step 2. Get your hands in position
Place your non-dominant hand, which is probably your left hand, in a fixed position about 5 inches (12 cm) above your leg. Keep your hand extended, palm down toward your leg. You should place your dominant hand, which is probably your right hand, between your left hand and your leg. You should also extend this hand, palm down over the leg.
- Bounce your right hand between your left hand and your leg to produce a clapping sound and get used to the motion used to play the spoons.
- More experienced spoon players embellish their routine by moving the spoons and left hand around the body. This may affect tone slightly, but is used largely for stage purposes.
Step 3. Create some rhythms with your hands
This will help you prepare to play the complex rhythms that you will soon be able to play with spoons. Try to keep a steady beat, alternating fast and slow beats to create patterns with the sound. The accent in most songs falls on the second and fourth beats. Try to reproduce this accent with your hands.
This is another pattern you may want to try with your hands: bounce your hand against your leg and then up against your non-dominant hand, using a short, short, long, short pattern. Repeat it several times until it feels natural
Step 4. Put the first spoon in position
Hold the spoon with your dominant hand. If it is your right hand, the first spoon should be placed at the level of the middle phalanx of the right index finger, with the hand positioned so that the thumb and the head of the spoon are both facing upwards.
- You should curl your index finger into a kind of fist so that the end of the index finger can hold the flared end of the spoon handle, trapping it.
- Your thumb should cover the top of the spoon handle.
- The spoon should cross the middle phalanx about half an inch from the tip of the spoon handle.
Step 5. Put the second spoon in position
Hold the second spoon between the index finger and the middle finger, and lay it on the middle phalanx. The head should be oriented downwards so that the backs of the spoons are facing each other. The middle finger should curl up to hold the widening end of the handle, in the same way that the index finger did with the first spoon.
This spoon should also cross the middle phalanx of the middle finger about 1 inch (2.5 cm) from the tip of the handle
Step 6. Hold both spoons firmly
This will probably feel uncomfortable until you have some experience and your hands get used to the sensation. Your hand should hold both spoons using the shape of a fist. There must be a small space between both spoons, which can be modified by holding the spoons more or less deep.
- Spoons must be parallel at all times. If the spoons shake out of alignment with each other, they will not be playable properly.
- Depending on the shape and curvature of the spoons, you may need to modify the point where the spoons cross the middle phalanx on both the index and middle fingers.
Step 7. Hit the spoons against your leg
The grip with which you hold the spoons should cause the spoons to bump against each other once before falling silent and returning to a parallel and slightly apart position. If they do not produce sound or only weak sound, the problem is more likely the distance between the spoons.
Correct any kind of insufficient distance between the spoons by deepening your grip on each one
Step 8. Hold the spoons parallel with your fingers curled inward
The index and middle fingers, which should be curled inward and holding the spoons handle, are likely to get tired or cramp. This can cause the spoons to drift off-center, with one or both spoons moving to one side or opposite sides. Maintain a firm grip, and take a break when your fingers curled inward begin to tire.
As you practice, your hands will feel more comfortable in this position, and holding the spoons tightly will become easier
Part 2 of 3: Touching the Spoons
Step 1. Bring your hands back to the starting position with the spoons in hand
The non-dominant hand, which for the purposes of this example will be called the left hand, should be suspended over your leg. Hold the spoons in your right hand. Place your right hand between your left hand and your leg.
Remember that your left hand should be about 5 inches (12 cm) above your leg
Step 2. Practice the movement of hitting the spoons
You should make a rhythmic clicking noise with the spoons as they hit down against your leg and up against your left hand. Gently tap the spoons several times slowly until you feel comfortable with the grip.
Step 3. Identify the two main points where to hit the spoons
You can create different shades with the spoons by tapping them in different places against your left hand or leg. The two main points to hit the spoons are the tip, which is the rounded end of the spoon opposite the end of the handle, and the head of the spoon, which is the hollow part.
- Tapping the tip of the spoons up against your left hand or down against your leg will make the spoons sound clearer and brighter.
- Hitting the head of the spoon up against your left hand or down against your leg will produce a louder and more accentuated sound.
Step 4. Master the blow with the tip of the spoons
When trying to hit the tip of the spoons, you may find that it is easier for you to hold your left hand at a small angle so that you can bring the tip of the spoon toward the fleshy part of your hand where the thumb meets the the Palm.
This pose will help you avoid hitting too large a portion of the spoon head and ending up with a louder snap
Step 5. Perfect your headshots
Bumps with the head of the spoon are made more horizontally against your leg and your left hand. Hit one of the heads against your leg, and then raise it towards the fleshy part of your hand, where the thumb meets the palm. Both strokes should be made as horizontally as possible to produce the strong, accented tone characteristic of a spoon head strike.
Step 6. Alternate blows with the tip and the head
At first, you will probably need to do it slowly. This will ensure that you are holding the spoons properly while coordinating the different strokes. Repeat the previous exercise in which you have accented the second and fourth beats of the rhythm, only this time you will use a clap strike to accentuate and a toe strike on beats one and two.
- As you get more comfortable, try using different patterns. You can try accentuating only the third beat, or the first and fourth beats.
- Listen to your favorite music and follow the rhythm while you play the spoons. Stay in sync with the music as you alternate beats.
Part 3 of 3: Add Advanced Techniques
Step 1. Learn the classic roll
Stretch the fingers of your left hand and spread them firmly so that each finger is spread equally. Then, rotate your hand so that your thumb is pointing up and your extended fingers are pointing in the opposite direction from your body. Slowly drag the spoons down through your outstretched fingers to produce a drumbeat-like sound and finish by hitting the spoons against your leg.
- The roll should be performed sequentially from finger to finger evenly to produce a measured rhythm during the roll. Maintain a constant speed as you drag the spoons through your outstretched fingers.
- If the roll is not working well, or the individual beats of the roll are indistinguishable, the spoons are probably too close together. Push the spoons in and take a deeper grip to correct it.
Step 2. Add the canter roll to your repertoire
The canter roll can be overwhelming, so you should only use this movement sparingly to accentuate the rhythms you produce with your spoons. First, hit them against your leg. While bouncing, you should hit your left hand during the upward movement over the fleshy part of your hand where the thumb meets the palm. Then, twist the fingers of your hand into a "C", so that you catch the tips of the spoons.
- The fingers that you are keeping curled should not move at this point. Performing a fixed C shape with your fingers works best for beginners learning the canter roll.
- Due to the pronounced nature of this rhythm, you may only want to use this movement as an ornament.
Step 3. Incorporate other parts of your body to vary things
More experienced spoon players use their entire body when playing, both to produce a more visually appealing performance and to create different sounds. For example, you could produce an arm roll with the spoon by hitting it against the fabric of your shirt that covers the area of your biceps and forearm.
Step 4. Create effects with your mouth
Using a particular wooden spoon is recommended for oral effects, although light spoons might work for this move as well. However, bouncing a metal spoon in your mouth can be painful or damaging to your teeth, so you should be cautious when attempting this move. Hold your left hand so that your palm is extended in front of your face and:
- Bounce the spoon heads between the corner of your mouth and the outstretched palm of your left hand.
- Change the shape of your mouth as you go to create a variation in the sound of the spoons. Due to individual differences in the shape of the mouth, the sound produced by this movement can vary considerably.
- Over time, your hands will get used to touching the spoons. This means that you will develop greater hand strength, dexterity, and calluses to protect your hands from bruising, pain, and chafing.
- Each pair of spoons you use will be slightly different and may require variations in grip for the best sound.