Diddley Bows from Montgomery High School

Montgomery High School are one of the many wonderful schools who took up the recent challenge to trial a set of the Movie Themed activities which STEM Learning released earlier this year. They chose to do the Movie Music theme for 11-14 year olds. Along the journey they had much joy, fun, excitement, laughter and learning and perhaps gained a new appreciation for how STEM subjects can be different from what they expected. The club asked that we post this video of two of their members playing the diddly bows they built in the club.

So, what is a diddly bow?

It’s an American instrument which is traditionally played in the South. Consisting of a single string tensioned between two nails on a wooden board, the string passes over a glass bottle which acts not only as a bridge but as the means to magnify the instruments sound. The diddly bow player uses a metal, ceramic or glass slide on one hand to vary the pitch whilst the other plucks the string. This single stringed instrument might not be a violin or a classical guitar but it does have a claim to fame. It helped to create the unique sound that is the Blues, with many blues singers learning to build and play the diddly bow as children. It is still played in Blues music and could be a worthy inclusion to any school orchestra!  

The Montgomery team tackled the challenge with gusto, turning out a collection of diddly bows and hand-made plectrums before starting the journey in learning how to play. Their end goal is to use the diddly bow in the soundtrack to a promotional video for their club.

Many thanks to Montgomery High STEM Club for sharing this enjoyable introduction to music…. diddly bow style!

Club leaders from the trial have shared lots of useful hints and tips in the STEM Club Activity Trial discussion including photos and helpful templates if you are interested in having a go. And if you want to know just what a diddly bow can do, then check out Steve Johnson playing Amazing Grace!

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Subject(s)Computing, Creative arts and media, Cross curricular, Design and technology, Science, Practical work, Outside the classroom
Age7-11, 11-14, 14-16
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