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Here is a flash movie how to hold and play the bones.

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The Bones:Simple Instructions For How I Play Them
By Alexander de Seton

I. Two slightly curved sticks, usually of wood (“tree bones”) or bone (“bone bones”).
Can also be made of ivory, plastic, etc.

II.How To Play
Put convex sides together.
Put middle finger between at top; fingertip should curve over and hold the stick next to the thumb tightly to the palm.
Other stick is held by the pressure of the knuckles of the middle and ring finger; this stick needs to be able to move.
The stick next to the thumb is the anvil, the other is the hammer.
The hand should be perpendicular (90 degrees) from the forearm, thumb down (pointing toward your body).
Flick hand up, thumbs describing an arc coming to the top; sticks should click.
REMEMBER: Keep stick by thumb pressed into palm of hand; let other stick move; keep hand perpendicular to arm. Repeat.
III. To practice, play along with music, or keep a tune running through your head. Use the radio, or other performers. Ask permission before playing along.
You should be able to play softly or loudly as you wish by judging the force of your “flicks” and cupping your hands. Practice. It took me about a whole day to get a consistant sound.

This information is taken from the website “www.rhythmbones.com” in the section about Bones history. It is from a disertation by Sue E. Barber.
“According to the Sachs-Von Hornbostel classification of instraments, bones are most broadly defined as idiophones '...the substance of the instrament itself, owing to its solidarity and elasticity, yields the sounds...’ Further, bones, numbered 111.1 in the Sachs-Von Hornbostel system
are ‘...concussionidiophones or clappers, two or more complementary sonorous parts struck against each other.’(Von Hornbostel and Sachs 1961:14) Sachs adds that instraments of this type are extensions of striking or clapping hands or stamping feet. The two complementary sonorous parts were originally, indeed, two pieces of bone. Later, various types of woods were used. The two parts, held between the fingers of the hand, strike together as the player, manipulating wrist and arm, produces varied rhythmic patterns...
Mentions of the bones throughout available historical sources and eras invariably associate them with the folk tradition. Folk music grows out of and is closely tied to daily life...Bones certainly were often associated with dance and daily life, as this discussion will reveal. They have formed the rhythmic underpinnings for various kinds of religious and entertainment activities in many cultures and times.
Research reveals that bones in some form date back almost as far as man himself. The specific origens of the instrament are hidden in the mists of prehistory, but they were probably among the earliest instraments made by man. Archeological finds, while not numerous, do yield instraments made of stone and bone which have resisted the damages of time. Clappers made of bone have been found in graves excavated at Uychvatince in Moldavia, dating from the second millenium BC. Thier primary functions seem to have been to drive away evil spirits, help cure the sick, and provide amusement for children.(Buchner 1961:10) The relieves and mosaics of Ur document the existance of clappers in Mesopotamia. A number of centuries after Ur, clappers appear on Egyptian relieves of the New Kingdom. Vases dating prior
to 3000 BC show female dancers playing clappers, two held in each hand and struck against each other. These clappers were made of metal, bone, and ivory.(Sachs 1940:88) Called "krotals" or "krotala" in ancient Greece, bone clappers appear on vases and amphorae dating from 500 BC. The artists of ancient Greece ’...interpreting in their art their impression of daily life...’ show clappers of wood, bone, or ivory, many decorated with the head of Hathor, goddess of heaven, joy, and death. Sachs notes that ‘The clapper seems to have been an instrament frequently associated with the worship of Hathor and probably every woman had her clapper to worship the goddess, as today every Cathothic woman owns a rosary.’(Sachs 1940:89)
After the demise of classical civilization there is a time gap of several centuries in the knowlege of the development of musical instraments. This turbulent period of migration of peoples has left little specific evidence to the music historian. Fortunately, a few scattered references to
clappers or bones remain from the Middle Ages. Jongleurs in the Sixth Century, using instraments and airs from Rome, wandered around Europe, singing and dancing, using tambourines and clappers. (Their rambling, desolate life style led to public censure by the church in 554 AD.) (Edgerly 1942:365) The Bible of Charles the Bald, which dates from the Ninth Century, shows players with horn, clappers, harp, and lyre. The Anglo-Saxon Psalter of the Eleventh Century shows harp, rote, crowd, panpipes, and clappers. A

Fourteenth Century book illustration shows fiddle, psaltry,lute, tambourine, portative, clappers,bagpipe, shawm, drums, and trumpets. (Marcuse 1964:105)

By the 1500’s the bones seem to have centered themselves north of the English Channel. Shakespere mentioned them in Act IV, Scene I of ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream’. Nick Bottom says,’I have a reasonable good ear in music. Let’s have the tongs and bones’. By the Seventeenth Century the bones were
commonly called ‘knicky-knackers’ in England and are represented in Inigo Jones’ ‘designs for court masques’. (Galpin 1910:190)...

Making Bones
Bones are made of various materials; differnt materials allow different tone colors. Bones were originally, by definition and nomenclature, bones. Homemade bones can be either crude and unfinished or highly refined, depending on the care taken by the maker. Shin and rib bones are the most
commonly used because they are naturally of the proper size and shape. They must be allowed to dry thoroughly before they will produce their characteristic hollow click. Wood sticks also make acceptable bones. Different kinds of woods give different sounds. Bones of rosewood or teak emit a piercing, shrill click that literally make a listeners ears ring. The
sound of teak bones could cut through that of a large orchestra in the same way as a picolo does. Balsa wood bones produce a muted effect. Their lilting shuffle is characteristic of a soft shoe dance. White pine bones have a sound between teak and balsa. They are solid and authoritative without being ear-splitters. Bones, like everything else these days, come in plastic models. They are commercially available in some stores and by catalogue order. Their sound is quite similar to bones made of bone....”

Buchner, Alexander. “Musical Instraments Through The Ages”, London:Batchworth Press Limited, 1961
Edgerly, Beatrice. “From The Hunter’s Bow”, New York: G.P.Putnam and Sons, 1942
Galpin, Canon Francis W. “Old English Instraments Of Music”, London:Methuen and Co. Limited, 1910
Marcuse, Sybil. “Musical Instraments, A Comprehensive Directory”, Garden City, N.Y., Doubleday and Co, 1964
Sachs, Curt. “The History Of Musical Instraments”, N.Y, W.W.Norton, 1940
Von Hornbostel, Eric, and Sachs, Curt. “The Classification Of Musical Instraments”, Galpin Society Journal, #14, 1961

The Bodhran: Simple Instructions For How I Play It
by Alexander de Seton

I. A frame drum played with one hand, usually distinguished from a “tom-tom” by method of play and a brace on the back (wood for bodhran, rawhide for tom-tom).
II. Spelled/pronounced differently from glen to glen. Makes no difference. (bodhron, bodhran, bodron, bodran, boron)(“Classically” pronounced “Bow-Rahn”, like “Cow-Rahn”)
Stick is called “cipen” (“key-peen”), “tipper” or “stick”.
III. DO NOT PUT WATER ON LEATHER DRUMHEAD. Use skin care product containing lanolin or aloe. I use Vasaline Intensive Care without perfume. You could use lanolin but its expensive and smells like a wet sheep. You could use unwashed
sheep’s wool.
Synthetic heads need little care other than keeping free from abrasion or puncture (also not good for leather).
Put hand care product on >back< of drum to keep playing surface clean and free from dirt (which would stick to the lotion and abraid the playing surface).
Apply a little at a time until the leather will accept no more. Repeat periodically when head seems to tight (high pitch).
If head is too loose, warm or dry head by placing in sun, warming by fire (take care not to scorch!), or by friction (rubbing).
IV. I do not use mechanical head tighteners - I use my hand on the back of the drum, braced against the cross-bracing.
First, lay stick aside. Hold arm vertically, hand at rest and as flexible as it can be.
Shake hand back-and-forth - watch as knuckles behind fingernails describe an arc.
Hold drum in other hand agaionst and perpendicular to the body. Bring the arc described by the knuckles to intersect the plane described by the drumhead. Repeat. Now you are playing the bodhron.
Strike drumhead with an up-and-down motion.
When you are comfortable with this, pick up the stick and hold it
as you would a pencil, then curve your wrist so the “pencil point” points at your body. Move hand as before, bringing stick to contact drum. The “pencil point” of the stick should be stiking the drum in an up-and-down motion. Repeat.
“Triplets” will come as you learn and as your wrist gains flexibility.

Both your wrist and arms will hurt before you learn how to do either Bones or Bodhron. “Feel the burn.”

I have been attempting to research the history of the frame drum known as the “bodhran”, and I am finding a certain derth of information. There are some suppositions, conjectures, presumptions, and theories, but precious little documentable fact, as far as I can tell.
Some allegations include...
*Musically, the bodhran evolved frrom the tambourine
*The drum originated in Africa, and came to Ireland by way of Spain
*The drum originated in central Asia, and was brought to Ireland by Celtic migrants
*The drum originated in rural Ireland and evolved from a work implement to its present musical status
*The bodhran began as a skin tray used for drawing turf (peat) on the bogs
*The bodhran apparently served double duty as a husk sifter and grain tray

I read that the Irish (Gaelic) word “Bodhar” means “deaf” or “haunting”.

I read that the goatskins used for drumheads are treated in hydrated lime mixed with ingredients that are a closely guarded secret of every bodhran maker. They are soaked for 7-10 days in a solution of lime sulphide which softens the skin and de-hairs it and dissolves the fatty tissue.Sometimes the skin is buried in manure. It is finally steached under tension onto a birch frame. It is also glued on. It thus cannot “rip off” at the tack, traditionally the weakest part of the bodhran.

I have played percussion instraments with bands and alone since about 1965. I have played a bodhran for over a decade, and it is upon my experiences, and the experience of bodhran makers that I make my comments and opinions. Much of my playing is done outdoors at “Renaissance” Faires and
such gatherings.
It seems to me that the frame drum was developed by disparate peoples in widely seperated places: from the Inuit of the far north to the desert tribes of the American southwest to the Asian nomads and the African tribes. The
frame drum, with one or two heads, is played by beating with hand or hands, or with one or more sticks of various compsition. To me, it does not matter where it was developed, but only that it was used across the world by early man and its use has come down to the present from our ancestors.

My Recommendations
I recommend >against< using water on your drumhead. You don’t use water to re-hydrate and make supple your hands or lips when they are parched; you should not use water on your leather (skin) drumhead. Continued water use will warp the skin and cause cracks in it.
I recommend against using waterproofing your drumhead with waterproofing agents such as neetsfoot oil or “dubbin”.
I do recommend using skin treatments such as aloe or lanolin to keep the skin supple and soft. I recommend applying this treatment (like “Vaseline Intensive Care”) to the back of the drumhead, so the lotion will not put dirt on the striking part of the drumhead, thus deminishing its life by abrasion.
I tune my drum by hand, depending on the sound that is required. I find that “tunable” drums take a long time to tune correctly, and if the humidity changes, you have to tune again. My drum started out as a “tunable” but I took the tuning points off, tacked down the skin, and played on, using my hand and heat to tighten the head when it needed tightening, using lotion when it needed loostening.

Some Bodhran Resources:
www.ceolas.org/instraments/ bodhran/history.shtml


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