Ham Bone Lesson 3: No Batteries Required!

Watch the video and then spend time practicing every day. It’s a good idea to watch the video several times, so that you get the feel and technique. 

Try playing along with Teilhard!

Welcome to session three in the series Music: No Batteries Required!

Today we will learn three more moves: Hand over Hand, Champaign Charlie, and the Dusty Miller.

We will be utilizing the syncopated polyrhythm we learned last session. 

Let’s start with the Cuban Son Clavé.

Clave is the word in Spanish for Key. The Clave is the key to the music. 

Not the key as in ‘the key signature’, but the key to unlock the front door of the tune. It runs through the entire piece of music, giving the musicians and dancers a place to land, to know where they are.
The Clavé also broadens the sonic landscape, 
opening it up, providing a springboard for other rhythms and melody to move with.

In this case there are two sides to the clave, the light and the heavy or two /three. Most people will recognize this rhythm, it is the foundation for a lot of music and was made most popular in North American music by a guitar player named Bo Diddley.

This is a five stroke rhythm, meaning, over the course of two bars you would clap five times. Keeping our foot tapping in a solid rhythm is important here, it gives the clave something to push against.

So, we need to establish the basic beat, the foot tap, the place where we naturally tap our foot when listening to music. We refer to this as the DOWNBEAT. The trick with the clavé is allowing that downbeat to breathe, to have it’s own place. We often take this downbeat for granted but it is the very foundation of all music! 

So let’s start by saying Manitoba, tapping your foot on the first and third syllables.

Now breaking this down farther, we could say ‘1 & 2 & 3 & 4 &.

When we say ‘&’, we are saying it on the ‘BACKBEAT’. 

The backbeat is the direct opposite of the downbeat. 

Some refer to it as the ‘offbeat’, but I tend to say backbeat. It’s the beat between your steps or foot taps.

Now we will clap on points 1 & 2 & 3 & 4 &

This is the ‘heavy’ side of the Son Clavé.

You could say “I ate toast”

Let’s do that for a bit and get the feel.

We could do this all day and it would set you up for a good dance party!

Next, we will clap on the 1 & 2 & 3 & 4 &

You could say “to day!” finishing the first sentence.

Do that for a moment to get the feel.

Now put it all together and you have “I ate toast, to-day!”

Pay attention now to how your foot falls on the downbeat, and how we don’t always land on that beat. This is where we get the push and pull, or the tension that make the music even more interesting. 

Go slowly and really let your foot sound out, feel that pause between the clavé notes. When clapping the rhythm, let your hands pull apart for the downbeat.

Now let’s do this with our hands on our legs. We’ll use both hands, one representing the downbeat, the other the Clavé. Start with both hands landing on your legs at the same time on the 1, then we will alternate hands 2,3,4,5, last time, 6, together again which is on a downbeat.

Let’s say “Pass the butter and the peas” When we say pass it feels a bit longer.

There are all kinds of clavé and bell patterns. 

We will look at a couple more next session, including what I think of as the parent of them all, the 6/8 bell pattern, or clavé.

 Alrighty! Now to the hambone!

New Moves!

First we’ll do Hand Over Hand.

Pat your legs with alternating hands, R, L, R, L, etc. Manitoba Manitoba and so on. Now we’ll pat R, L, then move the RIGHT hand over and pat the BACK of the LEFT hand as it comes up. This will feel like a left hand move, but really it’s a right hand move, because ssentially, we are still alternating hands, but optically it looks as though it’s something more complex.

Next, immediately following that, your LEFT hand drops to pat your LEFT leg while your RIGHT hand moves back to pat your RIGHT leg again, while the LEFT hand comes over and pats the back of the RIGHT hand! I think it’s easier to do it than to write about it!

All the while the patting tempo remains the same.

When going slowly it should sound like this: man ih TOW bah man IH tow bah and keep moving through the word like we did with ‘Round the World’ (manitoba Manitoba).

You can vary this, putting accents where you like, switching back to just plain Pat a Pat and back to Hand Over Hand again.


Champagne Charlie

Next let’s make the acquaintance of Champaign Charlie. This move uses the popping action of your mouth.

Drop your jaw all the way down, form your mouth in the OH shape, bring your jaw back up a bit and pop it with your hand! We’ll do the same as in Hand Over Hand, but instead of hitting the back of your hand, pop your mouth instead!

Dusty Miller

Finally today we will learn The Dusty Miller.

This is a square rhythm, and when I say square, I’m referring to the evenness of the beats. 

It sounds like PAT-AH-PAT-AH-PAT-AH, all even with no syncopation.

Make sure you have plenty of room around you and your chair. Drop your arms by your side and wiggle them out, loosening up. Now slap the underside, or half way to the underside of your thigh as though you were trying to dust off, following through and past you leg, towards your chest. Next, do the same thing and observe where you hand goes. It should head almost up to your chest/shoulder. Now do it again, this time make contact with your chest.

Now do the same on the other side, with your left hand. 

Do it a few times to get the feel. 

You want to be loose, like a wet noodle!

Now alternate, RIGHT then LEFT . We’ll use Manitoba again, so you end up with MAN IH on your RIGHT side, then TOW BAH on the left!


You can also do it on just one leg using the inner and outer thigh.

I like to make fun by walking around stage or into the audience and dust peoples shoes off, or their ankles for hat!