Guide to the Spoon – A Percussion Instrument

Spoons can be an improvised percussion instrument, or it can also be an idiophone, just like the castanets. The spoons are played by hitting them against each other. In the United States, the spoons are associated with minstrelsy, American folk music, as well as jug and spasm bands. While in British folk music, the spoons are often accompanied by fiddle playing and other folk instruments. They also have this kind of musical instrument in Greece wherein it is played by the dancers to accompany the different knocks of their dance rhythms. In this article, we are going to learn more about the spoons.

History of Playing the Spoons

According to some studies, the spoons have been used as an instrument even before written history. Prehistoric rock pottery and drawings that date as back as the early 4th-millennium show dancing figures holding curved blades in their hands. Spoons are considered to be in the class of instruments called concussion idiophone. This class of instruments is believed to have some of the oldest musical instruments known to man. And as we mentioned, the spoons themselves are prehistoric, and it is safe to say that have been spoon players that existed around the invention of the spoon or before the spoon became a kitchen utensil.

Most ancient cultures have their own version of the spoon. Ancient Greek, Egyptians, and Romans all played spoons as well as different variations of the spoons and back. They called it rhythm bones or rattle bones. Rhythm bones are usually a pair or set of three bones that are typically made of sheep and cattle bones, and they are played by holding them parallel to the palm with their convex sides facing each other. The bones are then placed between each finger, one finger is used as a hinge, and the player moves his wrist in such a way that the bones hit each other. The Greeks, Egyptians, and Romans used and played the spoons and bones during their battle marches, in fact, some studies even speculate that they also used human bones back then. When the armies are marching while clicking the bones and spoons during the crusades, they signal their enemy that “the pagans are coming,” and it serves as a warning to run, hide, and prepare for a battle.

Spoon Playing in the World

As we mentioned, the spoon is used throughout different countries globally, more specifically in Europe. In fact, in Great Britain, the spoon is often played with a fiddle while performing traditional music. While the French-Canadians have their own spoon playing tradition wherein they use the wooden spoons connected along with a carved out of a single block of wood. In this part of the world, they often play the spoons with an accordion or a fiddle. In Greece, the spoons are a part of their folk music tradition. They call the spoons as kautalakia, and they often use this while people perform a folk dance and during wedding ceremonies.

In Russa, they call the spoons as lozhki. Several studies show that spoons are the most popular folk music instrument in Russia. They have different kinds of spoons, along with techniques and tricks. Some Russian spoon players sew spoons on the outside of their shirt or pants so they can knock it in against their hands. Lastly, in the Eastern Slavs, Scotland, China, Turkey, and Ireland, they use spoons in traditional music and hunting ceremonies.