Ham Bone Lesson 4: 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!

Session Four in the series Music: No Batteries Required!

Today we get to the core of the Hambone where we will learn the Hambone Legbone, and the Snowblower.

First, let’s look at the Grandaddy of all rhythms, 6/8 bell pattern. I believe this is one of the primary patterns upon which all others are based and typically called the standard rhythm, or bembé. Western drummers will just call it plain 6/8 bell pattern. It has 7 strokes over one bar, the equivalent of four steps while walking.

Start by singing 
1 & a 2 & a 3 & a 4 & a, the numbers are on the DOWNBEAT.

Here is how it breaks down for clapping out the rhythm: 
1 & a 2 & a 3 & a 4 & a You could say something like “Butter is so good on bread!”

Let’s do this on our thighs now.

Together on the one, both hands tap legs.

On the & of one, the RIGHT hand taps Right leg.

Both hands land at the same time again on TWO. 

The RIGHT hand now taps the & before THREE and they both come together for THREE.

Last, they alternate Right Left Right, RIGHT on A 
Left on FOUR, RIGHT on &.

Let’s do this a little while to get used to it.

Take this on walks when you go out in the world. Internalise this rhythm, make it part of your life! 
Whether or not you carry on with music, this can somehow be a comforting rhythm to have as a friend!

OK, let’s move on to the Hambone Legbone and the Snowblower!


New Moves!


Hambone Legbone

The Hambone Legbone is probably the most popular of all the hambone moves.
We will use the underside of our thighs, our chests and then the top of our thighs on the way back down. 
You will notice, this is again a rhythm based on three points of contact.

First, dangle your arms loosely at your sides. 
Make sure you have ample room around you. 

Now slap the underside of your thigh with both RIGHT and LEFT hands at the same time. Chuck your elbows out quickly this will bring your arms up and of course your hands will follow! This is the same as the Dusty Miller, but both 
at once.

Do this a few times to get the feel and a good tone.

Follow through on the last stroke, all the way up to your chest, both at the same time again. Now as you fling your arms back down let the backs of your hands slap the top of your thighs.

This will be 1, 2, 3.

Now we’ll do it twice to get 6 notes.

Next, end the whole thing with a single under thigh slap.

Put it all together and you have 
TAH KAH TI TAH KI TI TAH. This makes it a seven stroke rhythm. When you repeat this there will be a slight rest after the last note TAH. 

We can use what is referred to as a ghost note, or a note which is felt and not heard. In this case we can imagine kah as the note. It’s there but only as a place holder. This is how we take the rhythm made of three notes and shift it to fit over a grooving 4 beat pattern. In numerical sequence it looks like this: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, (8) You could say something like “Honey is so good in tea” or something like that.

Let’s do it on one leg now, using the inner and out thigh regions.

Move it over to the other leg.

Let’s do this for a bit.

Frog Legs

Next, we will make the Frog Legs!

This is the same pattern, but instead of going back down, you go out from your chest.

Clap the backs of your hands off each other as you roll them outwards, flinging your fingers away from your self. This will be 1, 2, 3. Let them separate, on the 4th count, clap them palm 
to palm on 5, bring them back to hit your chest on 
6 and then down to strike the tops of your legs on 7, and rest on 8. Make sense?

Let’s do this a for a bit.

You can fling your hands out to the left or right, up or down, however you want to make it fancy. Just stay in the groove though! You don’t want the presentation to get in the way of the music.

The Snowblower

Now the big finally move, The Snowblower!

This move is based on the circular motion you will create, intercepting your arms and both legs.

For this we will hold our arms our as though holding a load of firewood. Take your RIGHT hand and slap the bicep of your LEFT arm, following through to slap first your LEFT thigh then your RIGHT. Now do the same with your LEFT hand.
You will get ARM, LEG, LEG, ARM, LEG, LEG ARM, LEG, LEG, ARM LEG, LEG. It should sound like TAH KAH TI TAH KI TI. 
Let your arms be as loose as possible.

That folks, is some hambone!

Use your imagination to make up new moves, there are plenty I haven’t covered here and many we haven’t even invented yet!

Doing the hambone is really fun to do with other people. Round up your family or friends, show them the moves and get down to it! It’s good if you trade back and forth, one person holding the main beat, I, 2, 3, 4, MANITOBA MANITOBA, while the other person does some other moves over top.

The key 
to making good music is working together, helping each other stay in the groove. That’s what music is all about!

Singing a song like Cluck Old Hen is good to keep it all together and give some structure. You will find the words back in session two. Take any poem or rhyming couplet you like and sing that over top! You can use nursery rhymes like Twinkle Twinkle Little Star or Mary Had a Little Lamb. These work well for learning to do both the hambone (or any other instrument) and singing at the same time because you know them so well you don’t have to think about it. If you steer off course you will notice!

Here is probably the most popular example, this one is  from John Dee Holeman, a great old time blues man from North Carolina:

Hambone! Hambone! Hambone, hambone

Where you been?

Round the world and I’m going again

What you gonna do when you come back?

Take a little walk by the railroad track

Hambone, hambone, hambone

Have you heard?

Papa’s gonna buy me a mocking bird

And if that mocking bird don’t sing

Papa’s gonna buy me a diamond ring

And if that diamond ring don’t shine

Papa’s gonna take it to the five and dime

Hambone! Hambone, hambone

Where you been?

Round the world and I’m going again

I just skinned an alley cat

To make my wife a Sunday hat

Took the hide right off a goat

To make my wife a Sunday coat

Hambone, hambone

Where’s your wife

Out to the kitchen, cooking beans and rice

Hambone! Hambone! Hambone, hambone

Trying to eat

Ketchup on his elbow, pickle on his feet

Bread in the basket

Chicken in the stew

Supper on the fire for me and you


Another related to that:

Hush, little Baby, don’t say a word, 

Mama’s gonna buy you a Mockingbird.

And if that mockingbird don’t sing,

Mama’s gonna buy you a diamond ring.

And if that diamond ring turns brass,

Mama’s gonna buy you a looking glass.

And if that looking glass gets broke,

Mama’s gonna buy you a billy goat,

And if that billy goat won’t pull,

Mama’s gonna buy you a cart and bull,

And if that cart and bull turn over,

Mama’s gonna buy you a dog named Rover.

And if that dog named Rover won’t bark,

Mama’s gonna buy you a horse and a cart.

And if that horse and cart fall down,

You’ll still be the sweetest little baby in town.