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Classic Styles

Traditional Irish Cow Rib Bones
Here's where you can get a pair of authentic traditional Irish natural cow rib bones made by bodhran maker, Padraic Mac Neela. I purchased two pairs online from the Shanna Quay music shop in Adare, County Limerick, in October 2003 for (20.00 Euros) $24.73. One pair is quite wide (I play them often), the other pair is rather narrow (I play them when I need a soft tone).

Traditional Irish Goat Rib Bones
The only source I've seen for these hard-to-find bones is from Rhythm Bones Society (RBS) member Aaron Plunkett. He plays bones exactly like this with the steerage band in the hit movie Titanic. The bones are heavy and flat which produce a delightfully resonant sound quite unlike any other I've heard. Last time I checked, the bones ran $95 per pair.

Free-range Cow Ribs
These hard-to-find bones used to be made by Songbird Dulcimer from old cows that died a natural death in the Missouri Ozarks. Their bones were naturally cleaned by coyotes, buzzards, and rain. Mine are heavy, clunky, loud, extremely resonant—quite awkward for a novice to play—and are among my favorites. Songbird does not make these bones anymore. So now I do. The ones I currently produce are naturally sun-bleached ox ribs from Wyoming. Approximately $40 per pair.
Here's where to get them:

Whamdiddle Bones
Whamdiddle bones are handcrafted by Rick Fogel, a master luthier with a graduate degree in physics. The company offers a large assortment of exquisite hardwoods but is famed for their laminated bones. Whamdiddles are less oval than minstrel style bones. The first thing you notice when you grab a pair is their substantial heft. Even the lightweight bones feel full in your grip. The largest selection of Whamdiddle bones on the internet is at the Bone Dry Musical Instrument Co.

Shooting Star Bones
Shooting Star has produced bones in a broad variety of woods since 1983. The face of the bones are flat and vary in width from around 7/8" to 1-3/8". The wide maple and cocobolo bones are among my top favorites. These measure approximately 7-1/2" long, by 3/16" thick, by 1-1/4" wide. Most of the woods are sourced from sustainably harvested and CITES certified suppliers. You can order Shooting Star bones by exact width at the Bone Dry Musical Instrument Co., which is the only online store that offers this capability. Price is around $20 per pair but varies with type of wood.

Joe Birl's Patented Rhythm Bones
RBS member Joe Birl is famous among bones players for his plastic molded rhythm bones with the patented notch. The finger notch makes the bones more comfortable to hold. I learned on a pair of Joe Birl plastic Rhythm Bones around 20 years ago. They cost $3.75 at the time. Unfortunately, these bones are no longer in production because the mold broke. They do appear on eBay every now and then, and go for around $15 a pair if you are lucky. But here is good news: Now you can get full-size pairs of genuine Joe Birl bones with the glorious warm sound of hardwood!

Incidentally, Joe holds the trademark on 'Rhythm Bones' and he kindly allows the Rhythm Bones Society to use the name.

Percy Danforth Bones (minstrel style)
These wooden bones are patterned after those used by 'Mister Bones' during the minstrel era. They are produced by RBS member Sandor Slomovits who is in the process of taking over production from Ray Schairer (who produced them for the late Percy Danforth since 1976). Percy Danforth bones are available at various music stores including Bone Dry Musical Instrument Co., which I opened in the Spring of 2007. (Around $20 to $30/pair)

Incidentally, Percy's grandson Jonathan Danforth is a fine fiddler and a heck of a nice guy. Jonathan hosted the tenth annual Bones Fest, manages the RBS website and is a member of the RBS board of directors.

Lark In The Morning 'Bone Bones'
Lark In The Morning provides one of the best retail selections of wood and natural animal musical bones. Retail stores are in three locations: San Francisco, California; Mendocino, California; and Seattle, Washington. One of their most popular items are 'Bone Bones' (actually cow shin bone). Last time I checked, they sold for thirty-one dollars per pair, plus a minimum of ten dollars shipping. The bones look and feel like ivory. They produce a bright sharp tone and used to be among my favorites.

Now you can get similar bone bones (aka nautical style bones) at my online bones store.

Washboard Thimbles
Okay, thimbles ain't bones. But if you are like many bones musicians who also play the washboard, then you know how hard it is to find thimbles that fit. The thimble collection at Bone Dry Musical Instrument Co. represents what is possibly the world's largest selection of thimble styles and sizes available to the public.
Thimbles for Musical Washboard

© 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008 Scott C. Miller