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The spoons are a percussion instrument common in folk music around the world. Often, the spoons can create lines similar to a snare drum cadence, but with the addition of different body strikes and cup effects. I'm interested in finding out whether there is a way to notate in sheet music the intricacies of playing the spoons.

The title says "standardized" way of notation, but I would accept anything down to "somewhat common" as well (and truth be told, I've failed to find even one example of spoons notation. If you can provide one, then that'd still be valuable).

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    My money is on "no" simply because the spoons are often used in folk contexts that rely more on oral than written transmission, and that typically improvise instrumental parts rather than notate arrangements. If I were offered money to notate a Spoon Sonata I'd probably use some kind of simple rhythmic notation as if for snare drum, with invented symbols or textual indications for... the idiomatic elements of, ahem, spoon technique. Aug 20, 2021 at 20:07
  • @AndyBonner As far as my own looking-into-this goes, you hit it on the button.
    – Aaron
    Aug 21, 2021 at 1:07

1 Answer 1

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There does not seem to be a standard notation for spoons; however, spoons are related to castanets, and there are some examples of castanet notation, though also not standardized.

Castanet notation #1

The book Castanets: Study of Rhythm Music, Book 1, by Emma Maleras, uses a two-line notation. The upper and lower lines denote left and right hands, respectively, and simultaneous strikes are indicated by notes on both lines, or by notes in the center space, depending on the type of stroke to be used.1

Castanet notation #2

Tabourot's book Castañuelas, Olé!: A Book about Castanets, 2nd ed. gives a notation attibuted to "Monsieur Feuillet". This notation is similar to the Maleras notation but uses a single staff line with right hand notated above and left hand notated below. The type of stroke is given below the notes in the position might find lyrics in a vocal score.2

Castanet notation #3

In an arrangement of Boccherini's "Fandango", the castanets (Percussion 2) are notated on a single staff line designating rhythm only, leaving it to the performer to decide on the technique.3

Toward a spoon notation

It does not seem a stretch that a spoon notation could be adapted from these, possible also incorporating up and down stroke symbols from guitar notation. Techniques or strokes on different parts of the body could be notated directly through text.


1Maleras, Emma. Castanets: Study of Rhythm Music, Book 1 (Editorial Boileau, n.d.). A preview of the book contains the information found in this post.

2Tabourot. Castañuelas, Olé!: A Book about Castanets, 2nd ed. (Tactus Press, 2007).

3Boccherini, Luigi. Guitar Quintet in D major, G.448, "Fandango" from Mvmt. 3, arranged for orchestra by Charles Anthony Johnson. (IMSLP)

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    Following on from this: using drum notation, which isn't particulary standardised, with an explanatory text as preface, there's at least 9 places (lines/spaces) for the corresponding ways spoons can be played - I suspect 9 would suffice. But, as pointed out by Andy, oral traditionss are usually just that, and the market is too small for one standardisation, sadly. Somewhat like drum dots, as mentioned...
    – Tim
    Aug 21, 2021 at 8:16

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