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Instruments > Music Articles updated November 16, 2003

How To Play the Bones one way to grip the bones, front view one way to grip the bones, side view

Bones can be made of other materials besides real bone. In this picture we show a pair of wooden bones. There are as many ways to play bones as there are bones players.

Different grips are possible. In these photos, the light-colored bone (the "main" bone) is held rather firmly between the thumb and the index, while the dark one (the "secondary" bone) is held somewhat more relaxed, either between the index and the middle finger or between the middle and ring fingers. Some people hold the 1st bone between the index and middle fingers. The idea is that at least one finger should separate the two bones.

Here are some different ways to play:

  1. One is to hold the main bone firmly enough so that it does not move and the secondary one rather freely, then, with a quick twist of the wrist away from you, let the 1st bone hit the 2nd one.

  2. Another way is to hold the 2nd bone more firmly and, using the thumb, let the 1st bone hit the dark one (the reverse of method #1).

  3. You can also combine these 2 methods. In any case, one bone needs to be relatively free to move so that it will hit the other bone.

  4. Practice just getting one consistently good loud click from the bones until you gain a sense of control, then work on more complex patterns.