Experimenting with Rhythms Using the Spoons – with Percussionist Jo May 
 
Jo May loves to play percussion. And she loves to teach it too. As a professional percussionist, she has learned to perform on a huge range of orchestral instruments. Here she teaches some creative techniques for music-making using a humble pair of spoons. 
 
Jo recorded a series of 5 mini videos for Music Workshop Company all about playing the spoons. If you missed the first two, check out her introduction to the spoons, and the first “proper” lesson. Now it’s time to learn how to play using some more complicated rhythms and techniques. 
 
Let’s get creative! 
 
Image by Monika Grabkow, Unsplash 

Lesson 3: Playing Between Your Leg and Hand 

In this lesson, Jo demonstrates how to play between your leg and your hand to create a steady rhythm. The spoons move from your leg to the hand that is not holding the spoons. They make a sound each time they hit your leg or your hand. Alternate the spoons between your leg and hand and notice how the quality of the noise changes when you play using different parts of your body. 
 
Once you have mastered the technique, you can play double speed, and even play really fast. 
 
Next, try moving from one leg across to the other. To play like this, you need to place your non-playing hand more centrally. 
 
You can also begin to make rhythms using new patterns. Jo shows us how to play “leg, leg, hand, leg,” to produce a typical spoon-playing rhythm that can be used in lots of types of music. 
 
Can you think of your own patterns to play? See what rhythms you can create by moving the spoons between your legs and your hand in all sorts of combinations. 

Lesson 4: How to Play Triplets 

Now it’s time to try a triplet rhythm. This is one of Jo’s favourite spoon-playing techniques. 
 
A triplet is a three-note pattern that is played in the time of a normal two-note pattern. Instead of two quavers or eighth notes, you play three, slightly faster notes, within the same beat. 
 
Jo uses the same patterns of hand, leg, hand, but she turns her hand over for different parts of the rhythm. The first note of the triplet is played with the palm facing upwards. She hits her palm with the spoons, then slides the spoons onto her leg for the second triplet note. This makes it possible to play quite fast, because one movement produces two notes. 
 
As she slides the spoons onto her leg, Jo turns her top hand over, so the palm is facing her leg. Watch the video to see how she does it. You might need to practice this a bit to coordinate the two movements. 
 
With the palm facing down, you can play the third triplet beat from underneath, bringing the spoons back up to hit the palm of your top hand. 
 
Now, as you play the third triplet, use the momentum to turn your hand back over, so you are back in your starting position. This allows you to play a final beat, or to keep your triplet pattern going for as long as you want. 
 
If you want to play faster, keep your hand nice and low, make sure you are relaxed, and really use your spoons to push your hand over. Follow the video to see if you can play along with one of Jo’s favourite tunes… 

Lesson 5: Create Your Own Rhythms 

It’s time for the final lesson. By now, you have learned all about how to choose your spoons, how to hold and play them, and how to make a variety of rhythms. 
 
In this video, Jo gives a reminder of the rhythms you have learned: 
• The “We Will Rock You” rhythm, the rolls, and combining the two 
• Playing between your legs and your hand, at fast and slow speeds 
• The triplet rhythm 
 
Now you have all the techniques you need to make your own rhythms and patterns. You can combine the basic rhythms, triplets, and rolls in all sorts of ways to make new sounds and patterns, and put the rhythms together to make longer phrases. 
 
Get creative and see what you can come up with! Maybe you can make a rhythm that goes with a song you love. Or if you are learning in a group, try putting two or three rhythms together to make an ensemble piece. 
 
And finally… Watch this amazing Russian spoons orchestra for some inspiration. 
If you have enjoyed learning the spoons, you might like to try one of our drumming or percussion workshops. Why not contact us to find out more? 
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