HOW TO PLAY THE BONES

“How to Play the Bones” workshops given by the Enkhuizer, Hans Weehuizen

One of the oldest instruments with which to make rhythm is the Bones. In the past there were not many music instruments on board ship so sailors improvised and made them themselves, of wood or bone. Particularly on the whaling fleets, there was always enough material around to carve the bones.
Now that whalebone is scarce, wood, an excellent alternative, is used. This even gives the added advantage of different types of wood producing diverse sounds.
Playing the “Bones” somewhat different from our old fashioned “Clappers”. The difference being in how you hold the bones, which enables you to play more different rhythms. Nowadays Bones are played a lot in Ireland, just as the playing of “Spoons”. Both are excellent accompanying instruments for Irish sessions. A good Bones player is always welcome in the group. The Bones are also an excellent addition to the percussionist’s skills.
You hear the Bones played a lot at Shanty Festivals. One of the promoters in Europe is “Shanty Jack”, who accompanies many of his songs with the Bones. It was he who taught Hans Weehuizen to play. Americans are even more enthusiastic, as you can see by the large number of players at the Festival in Mystic Seaport. There is even a “Rhythm Bones Society”, which has members the world over and organizes its own “Bones Festival” every year.
A workshop with Hans is a great opportunity for young and old to become acquainted with playing the Bones.