Amazing spoons player

Amazing spoons player

I’ve only seen the spoons as a novelty, played by an attention seeker. I’ve also seen them banged horrendously out of time by people who love the music - but have the least level of commitment to learning. I’ve been royally put off this ‘instrument’ by the above non-musicians - apart from once seeing them played inoffensively by the singer Cathy Jordan (Dervish) for one tune.

Is there such a thing as a good spoons player at a session?

Perhaps somewhere to direct people if they start abusing cutlery at a session? (YouTube perhaps?)

And I always feel it would rip the heart out of people who play spoons to ask that they don’t play it to every tune- does anyone know of a good tact to take when asking someone not to make loud high pitched banging sounds all the time???

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BigDavy plays them occasionally and I quite enjoy it. I’ve also endured others banging a bodhrán, snare drum, spoons, bongos, table or whatever they can find… Not Davy’s case 🙂

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At one local session there is a very good player of Scottish smallpipes and border pipes. It’s a mixed Scottish/Cape Breton/Irish session. He sits out a third or more of the tunes, mainly the Irish ones, and brings out spoons for accompaniment on some of them. They’re wooden spoons with more of a "clack" than a metallic "clink" sound, and because he’s a good musician and knows all the dance rhythms, he plays well in time.

That’s my Platonic Ideal for hearing spoons in a session, if I have to hear them at all. Wooden spoons, not too loud, played by someone who knows what they’re doing, and only on a minority of tunes.

If someone shows up with spoons as their only instrument, it may not be easy to ask them not to play on every single tune. One tactic might be to suggest they pick up a melody instrument like whistle, so they have something to do when they’re not playing spoons? Maybe they would pick up on the hint.

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I see more bones than spoons. A regular bodhran player at one of my sessions will pull them out on occasion, but very rarely more than once a night. I kind of like them, as they sound akin to hard shoe dancing, but I’m appreciative when they’re used sparingly.

I was at a session in Ennis about 10-12 years ago, and a drunk gent at the bar picked up some silver spoons and started to play. He was given a sharp look by the session leader, and put them down. But a set later, he picked them up again. The session leader nodded to somebody, and a couple doormen tried to escort the guy to the door, but he threw a massive fit, to the point where the music and all the conversation in the room stopped cold for a few minutes while it was dealt with. (It was worth it, though! In that case, it was very distracting.)

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Some guy turned up with a bag of whistles, and a pair of castanets on a shaped stick.

He played well on both the whistles and the castanets.

I spoke to him, and he explained the setup of the different type of wood and the spacing of the castanets so they wouldn’t travel too far from the stick, so not getting too loud.

It sounded quite relaxing, actually. At the same session weeks earlier, there was a spoons players who insisted on playing them while standing (so right at ear level).

I’m currently going through a court case for compensation, as severe tinnitus ensued after the session.

OK, just joking about the last bit, but the sound really was hellish!

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"Is there such a thing as a good spoons player at a session?"

No. Spoons are for soup or pudding, should never come in pairs and they are they are the total bane of anyone who’s spent more than a minute learning traditional music. They’re loud and clacky and thoroughly detested by everyone other than some of those who bang them together and about half a dozen lunatics.

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They don’t allow music in ‘Spoons, and spoons shouldn’t be allowed in music.

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I was at a session in Doolin a few years back and towards the end of the night Christy Barry played a couple of sets on the spoons - nobody seemed to mind and anyway he’s a good enough flute player the rest of the time to get away with it!

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From "The Spoons Murder" by Con O’Drisceoil ….

‘til this gent wandered in to our session and proceeded to join in the tunes
without waiting to ask our permission, he took out a large pair of soup spoons.
Our teeth in short time we were gritting, as he shook and he rattled his toys,
and the company’s eardrums were splitting, with his ugly, mechanical noise.

Hopping spoons off our heads to provoke us, he continued the music to kill.
Whether hornpipes, slow airs, or polkas— they all sounded like pneumatic drills.
Then he asked, could we play any faster, as his talent he wished to display,
And the grin on the face of that bastard! — like the cat as she teases her prey.

Our feelings by now were quite bloody, and politely we asked him to quit.
We suggested a part of his body where those spoons could conveniently fit!
This monster we pestered and hounded, we implored him with curses and tears,
but, alas, our appeals they resounded in the desert between his two ears.

… <narrator murders spoons player with a bicycle, inquest determines that spoons player
was engaged in trick cycling in public house yards> …

So, if you’re desperately keen on percussion and to join in the tunes you can’t wait,
be you Irishman, English, or Russian, take a lesson from his awful fate.
If your spoons be the best silver-plated, or the humblest of cheap stainless steel,
when you play them abroad, you’ll be hated, so just use them for eating your meals.

Re: Con O’Drisceoil

"At the inquest the following September
The coroner said "I conclude
The deceased by himself was dismembered
As no sign could be found of a feud."

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‘Amazing spoons player’: oxymoronic concept.

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There are signs between emergence of the spoons and the commencement of the percussion. If it is clear that the spoons couldn’t be used for eating due to shape, padding etc, the musical chances are better. I’ve sessioned with one player, a fine melody player who just occasionally takes out the spoons for a set, perfect rhythm, not too loud, it’s great. Then he puts them away.

Oxymoronic - the apparent contradiction is what gives the impact! 😉

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Don’t know what everybody is upset about. I often play my spoon at sessions and no one complains. Many find it quite pleasing. Although, I’ve been told that two of them might elicit a different response.

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Has anyone ever complained about spoons players in Doolin; ever?

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the guy who plays with us sometimes picks the spoons, and plays them softly, I think it’s fine when it’s not more than in one or two sets

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‘has anyone ever complained about spoons players in Doolin, ever?’ - no idea, AB, I was only there a total of 3 days in my life! Regular Doolin visitors or even residents might know.

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I was there (Doolin) in the summer of 2002 & late in the session there was a spoons player who in no way disrupted the tunes or anyone playing. Great session!

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Re: Amazing spoons player

that was likely Christy Barry then?

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The problem, if there is one, is not with spoons as an instrument, it is the issue that surrounds all percussion. In far too many cases the people you find in sessions have turned to percussion from an understandable desire to join in, and in the mistaken belief that playing percussion is easy. Most of these play with little or no understanding or sympathy for the music or their fellow musicians. However, a dedicated and skilled percussionist, who understands the genre and how to use percussion to lift and enhance the music, can be amazing, even on spoons.

Re: Amazing spoons player

heaven and hell hath, dear pilgrim, much the same tunes
harmonizing harps, and yonder, eternal clatter of spoons

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On the other hand, allow me the digression, if you will, to paint a picture where a spoon may carry the music …

the gong disperses, the monastic silence at high noon
every now and then, a soupy slurp from a wooden spoon

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We have had a nationally famous spoon player in Asheville who plays with a old-time & mountain music band who was great on them. We’ve only had one spoons player join us in the past six years at session who thankfully didn’t play too much and was outside the circle, but I grew tired of the constant clickity-clack that didn’t quite match the rhythm of the tunes.

I like the session rules of only 1 bodhran, 1 guitar or bouzouki, and one spoon at a time

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Yikes! That audience member who just can’t restrain herself from participating.

I include bones in my general abhorrance…

Although, I know of one excellent bones player. Subtle, rhythmic and appropriate.

An enthusiastic bones player started coming to one of my favorite, friendly sessions. I wouldn’t say he is rhythmically challenged, but the constant clacking-clack is like a dental drill. As soon as he starts, one friend stands up and leaves; I have stopped attending as he was the last straw.

Session from hell nominee… When each variety of melody instruments with sustain is outnumbered by each of: Bodhrans, plectrums and backers. 2 fiddles, two winds, 3 bodhrans, 3 banjos, 3 backers.

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brotherhug: I like the rule about one spoon at a time! That’ll sort the buggers out!!!

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Ha-ha! depends what you hit that one spoon against! Any other hard surface will make a NOISE!
We did run a spoons workshop at one of our festivals, and the tutor was at great pains to suggest the etiquette: ONLY one player at a time, and ONLY for certain types of tunes.
OK, you’ve guessed: they all went down the road to the next pub session, and ALL played on EVERY tune!
Clackety-clack ti clackety-clack ( and that’s only those who had any sense of rhythm at all!)

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I confess to owning and playing (wooden) spoons. I believe that an important part of learning to play the spoons is to know when NOT to play and I like to think that I use discretion when choosing to play: not all through a session, sometimes not all through a set. I’ll remember to keep an eye out for glowering looks of disapproval too, now. I thought they were all reserved for bodhran and banjo players!

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I like the spoon playing of Abby The Spoon Lady. Its not Irish music:
==> https://youtu.be/U3il2_xzTy4


But: I could only listen to spoons for a limited time, because they usually have such a high assertive tone.

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Trish:
"We did run a spoons workshop at one of our festivals"

Was Janet Weatherspoon the tutor, by any chance?
🙂

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Spoons, like bones, shakers, tambourines, and any of the myriad of rhythm/noise makers and their players are usually more of a hindrance and distraction than a help. There’s a technique and skill level that most of the folks I’ve been around just don’t have.

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No, Janet (deliberately punny mis-spelt surname?) didn’t take the workshop, tho she does play in our local pub session, just on one or 2 sets per night, which others have suggested is the max anyone can tolerate!

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Really good spoons player at my local American old-time session. He doesn’t play spoons all evening though. Just now and then. He will offer them up to a newbie/audience person who looks like they want to participate. He gives them a little lesson so as to encourage them to be a part of the fun (that’s a major difference between American old-time music and Irish), but most people can’t even figure out how to do it, even with a lesson, so it’s never annoying.

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Many years ago I met a really good spoons player at a session at the Willie Clancy week. Don’t remember his name, but his spoons playing was actually a pleasure to listen to.

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There’s a elderly man who occasionally turns up at our session with two metal dustbin lids. We were aghast when he sat down the first time, but then he started to play. He played very sensitively, and it was obvious that he knew the tunes well. It all depends on the person doesn’t it.

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Copperplate, if folk like spoons in an amplified situation, like in your clip, that’s absolutely fine. In a band everyone agrees the line-up. In an acoustic situation it’s a different story. They’re so loud and clacky they do the heads in of almost everyone who’s put the effort in to learn the tunes.

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"Many years ago I met a really good spoons player at a session at the Willie Clancy week. Don’t remember his name, but his spoons playing was actually a pleasure to listen to."

Johnny Spoons? He used to spend a lot of time at The Malbay Hotel (in the bar, not as a guest). I had a few tunes with him years ago and, yes, he was a pleasure to play with.

There was a very elderly gentleman (now some 10 years deceased) that I met once at Dolan’s pub in Limerick, known as Johnny Sticks. He would turn up to the session with an assortment of metal objects (a tobacco tin, a saucepan, a small hand cymbal…) mounted on a wooden board, which he would play very steadily and sensitively with a pair of drumsticks. It transpired that he had been the drummer in a ceilidh band (and possibly other bands) for most of his life and, too infirm to perform anymore, satisfied his drummer’s craving with a couple of hours in the pub playing his drumkit-lite. I believe there is now a commemorative plaque above where he used to sit.

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I own several spoons and don’t play them. Does that make me a gentleman?

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CredurMawnOrganig: No!
That does not make you a gentleman.
You are confusing this with the ability to PLAY THE ACCORDION BUT CHOOSE NOT TO to qualify for gentleman-ship.
Must be a close run thing though!

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Bogman
. just showing the player (Mark’s) technique which is fantastic and adds to our sessions here in Melbourne. No one is more welcome at sessions here than he. his playing is anything but "clacky". It is as thoughful and skilled as anyone who has put years into mastering their instrument. He is also a fine whistle player and singer. Any instrument played badly and loudly can "do the head in" of tune players not just spoons.

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Copperplate, I take bogman’s point. A pub session is not a ceili, it is not a band performance. Unless you have a YouTube of a session with a spoons player (who you don’t know before hand) sitting in at your session then…
it’s good your sessions can session w/a known player (whatever the instrument) but it doesn’t say anything regarding bogman’s experience in his local sessions w/random spoons players. Also I wonder if those clacky players some members are bringing up perhaps don’t play another instrument & are yet green on "the spoons" (?)

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yeah. on balance i concede to Bogman and AB. I get the shivers when I see someone approaching with spoons like everyone else especially those wooden tong-like monstrosities 🙂 The other serious problem of course is that at least twice that I know of Mark our silver spoon expert has had to retrieve his favorite well seasoned instruments from the pub kitchen due to officious catering staff while he was at the bar 🙂

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If ever these officious catering staff fancy emigrating over here Copperplate they will be absolutely guaranteed a full visa. :-p

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Ah yes, "favourite" spoons. If you’ve forgotten to bring your own, you can try using any old (or shiny new) ones from the pub kitchen. But one thing our tutor taught the workshop folk to do was to bend the stem of each spoon to your preferred degree of curvature to get the best "hit". Don’t think that would go down well with the pub kitchen.