Metal Aluminum Bones for Adventurous Players
Genuine die-stamped Bot Bones
Aluminum Bot Bones deliver a strong thick "chunky" tone. Depending on the grip you can also generate clank, swish, or chime tones.
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What are Bot Bones?
The name is short for Robot Bones. That's what four-time Grammy Award winning multi-instrumentalist David Holt calls them. The idea for the name came about in the summer of 2009 when I saw David Holt and Doc Watson perform live at the Sheldon Auditorium here in Saint Louis.
David Holt comes from five generations of bone players. In fact, David started his musical career as a bone player. (David is also a gifted teacher whose popular Folk Rhythms dvd shows you how to play 5 folk instruments: Spoons, Hambone, Washboard, Bones and the Paper Bag.) Fortunately, I arrived at the Sheldon early enough to stop backstage and visit David before the show. I brought along a pair of experimental aluminum bones for David to try and as luck would have it, he played them on stage during his performance with Doc. He called them "Robot Bones," which I thought was a good descriptive name. This evolved into Bot Bones.
What Do Bot Bones Sound Like?
You can see innovative grip techniques and performance videos on this Bot Bones YouTube Playlist.
The Unusual Story Behind Bot Bones
Bot Bones are dedicated to the ingenuity and vision of Rhythm Bones Society member Parker Waite. Parker first introduced me to metal bones in 2003 at Bones Fest VII which was held that year at the historic Kentucky Theatre (now gone) in downtown Louisville.
The Bot Bones design is modeled after Parker's legendary aluminum bones. His aluminum bones helped me win the National Traditional Country Music Association (NTCMA) bones contest in 2004. The metallic sound was absolutely perfect for the Cajun tune "Jambalaya," which was one of three tunes in my set.
The next time I saw Parker was during the summer of 2006 at Bones Fest X in New Bedford, Massachusetts. I asked if he was interested in producing his aluminum bones for my future online bones store. Parker replied that because of health reasons he was no longer making them.
Parker produced just 18 sets of aluminum bones. In January 2008, Parker's aluminum bones became a topic of the Rhythm Bones online forum. So Parker explained what inspired him to create them.
"They were developed accidentally in June 1993 while I was chopping tone bars for a sculpture by Patrick Zentz, at the entrance to the Snake River Correctional Facility amidst the irrigated alfalfa fields that sweep down to the river north of Ontario, Oregon. A couple of short pieces fell off the table & rattled together mid-air on their way to the floor. The sounds were melodious so I snatched them up & started to play. Ultimately 6 inches seemed like the right length so I made 18 sets."
Parker went on to list every set he made including the name of each person he sent them to, adding, "I hope Scott starts manufacturing these aluminum bones for others if the demand is there for them." Two years later I finally went into production. Time will tell if a demand exists or not.
Parker Waite at Bones Fest III
Parker is pictured on the back deck of the home of Russ and Wilma Myers of Brightwood, VA in September 25, 1999. The Rhythm Bones Society was founded at Bones Fest III on that very same deck.
Metal Bones are Great and they Will Leave their Mark on You
"Note as you play these things," advises Parker, "there will be a smudge of tarnish on your hands which is easily washed off with mild soap & water."