The wild, fantastic and wacky devices of West Virginia

    The wild, fantastic and wacky devices of West Virginia

    CLARKSBURG, W.Va. (WBOY) — Appalachian music is a West Virginia staple, proper up there with coal mining and pepperoni rolls. The devices used to make it are a few of the most original and fascinating of any style, a few of which you’ll by no means have heard of.

    In response to West Virginia Tourism, Appalachian music in West Virginia traces its origins again primarily to the Scots-Irish settlers who first got here and settled within the mountains with easy devices and tunes they introduced from their dwelling nation.

    With the huge quantity of touring that the settlers had been doing, it was essential for the devices they was easy, moveable and straightforward to restore. Due to this fact many of those devices had been initially constructed from instruments and components that the common particular person would have laying round.

    West Virginia Tourism compiled a listing in 2022 of what they thought of to be essentially the most influential devices utilized in Appalachian music.


    A traditional in any Western or rural fiction piece, the spoons are precisely what they are saying they’re, two spoons. Performed by inserting the backs of them collectively and slapping them in opposition to your thigh, this simple-looking instrument is way more durable to play effectively than it seems. Polyrhythms and numerous syncopations can shortly throw a novice off their sport however look extremely simple within the palms of a professional.

    Washtub Bass

    Drums and percussion aren’t quite common in conventional mountain music. Items from Bluegrass and the like sometimes use bass devices to maintain a beat and drive the music ahead, such because the upright bass fiddle. Huge devices like this are clearly tough to move and as such, settlers needed to discover a workaround. Look no additional than one other family merchandise within the washtub bass.

    The one-string washtub bass is just created by attaching a skinny twine to the center underside of a giant metallic washtub, flipped the wrong way up in fact, after which to the highest of a broomstick that you simply brace onto the bathtub. You then place your foot on the bathtub to carry it down and regulate the pitch as you pluck the string for numerous notes. A picture demonstrating this may be discovered under.

    The wild, fantastic and wacky devices of West Virginia
    A unidentified particular person performs a washtub bass alongside a path within the Rainbow Household encampment Tuesday, July 1, 2014, within the Uinta Nationwide Forest, Utah. About 4,000 members of a counterculture group often called the Rainbow Household have poured into the woods about 60 miles east of Salt Lake Metropolis for an annual competition that culminates in a four-day celebration starting Tuesday. (AP Photograph/Rick Bowmer)


    That is one you’ve in all probability heard of. The banjo traces its origin to stringed devices with gourd our bodies that African slaves introduced over to America. Whereas used not often exterior of nation and bluegrass music, the banjo has nonetheless made sufficient of a cultural affect to have a presence as a family title.

    West Virginia additionally has its personal distinctive model of banjo taking part in often called “clawhammer” which entails strumming down as an alternative of up, making a softer, down-to-earth sound than the standard perky pluckiness of conventional banjo taking part in.

    Mountain Dulcimer

    The primary of our devices created in Appalachia, the mountain/Appalachian dulcimer is one other string instrument that has a less complicated design in comparison with the frequent fiddle of the time, thus making it simpler to provide in your house.

    (Photograph Credit score: West Virginia Division of Tourism)

    The dulcimer has a really ethereal and blissful sound most much like a harp, making it distinctive amongst conventional bluegrass devices that characteristic a sharper plucky sound. You additionally play it in your lap relatively than holding it in your shoulder like a fiddle.


    The European-made mandolin may very well be thought of a cousin to the extra standard guitar because it shares many qualities to it such because the model of strumming and related fretting. The principle distinction stems from the scale distinction between the 2.

    Caterina Lichtenberg releases on-line classical mandolin classes via (Photograph: Enterprise Wire)

    Mandolins are a lot smaller and due to this fact extra moveable than their standard cousins which made them a key choose for touring immigrants.


    Similar to the spoons, a washboard is strictly what it feels like, a typical family merchandise repurposed for the creative worth that lies inside. Additionally just like the spoons, the washboard is used primarily as a high-pitched percussion instrument.

    The washboard is performed in quite a lot of methods with completely different kinds and strategies seemingly various from individual to individual. The strategy of creating sounds on the board can also be as much as creative interpretation, be it via spoons, bottle openers, and many others. The most typical method of creating music on a washboard although, is by tapping the board with thimbles in your fingers to maintain a gentle, tinny rhythm.


    I wouldn’t blame you for those who’ve by no means seen this one, or not less than didn’t understand it by title because it’s probably essentially the most obscure instrument on this listing. The psaltery has its origins in Eire and got here with the Scots-Irish that immigrated to West Virginia.

    Similar to its dulcimer cousin, the psaltery is performed in your lap and performed with a bow like a violin, making it a wierd mix of different completely different devices. West Virginia Tourism described the psaltery as “like a mixture of a dulcimer and a violin, and hauntingly lovely.”