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Washtub bass

Discussion in 'Basses [BG]' started by thedoctor, Jul 22, 2005.

  1. thedoctor


    Jun 20, 2005
    I just had to stuff this into the forum because I know there are more people that have played one then will admit it. I admit it and recommend it. Find a washtub (15-22 gallon), install a 3/8" eyebolt in the center of it, cut a broomstick to YOUR hieght, slot the bottom of the broomstick so it will catch on the rim of the bottom of the washtub, cut a groove for a piece of clothesline-cord to ride through the top of the broom-handle and secure with a hose clamp, tie the other end to the eyebolt, throw a microphone under the tub and wail. Put your foot opposite the "neck", or broomstick, and get your sounds/notes/tones by pulling the neck towards yourself and moving your fretting hand (glove recommended) up and down the broom handle. Don't knock it until you have tried it. There are people (Tom Richards comes to mind) that are absolute MASTERS of this form of bass. String material can be varied from real gut strings to aircraft cable but the point is find what works for you. I like old piano strings in the low E range but it is hard to find them long enough.
  2. I was at the Amazing Things Art Center last week to hear Paul Rishell & Annie Raines - the opening act was "Watermelon Slim" Homans and "Washtub" Robbie Phillips. I'd seen "Washtub" Robbie a number of times here in the North East, and his playing is really impressive. He let me try his washtub bass, and it was as much as I could do to get a note out of it. Very impressive player. Great evening, fabulous music!

    - Wil
  3. danman


    May 18, 2004
    Philadelphia, PA
    I think I have a new project!!

  4. Fealach

    Fealach Guest

    Apr 23, 2003
    Gone to a better place
    GAS attack anyone?
    I want one. For some reason it's more compelling than a lot of the $9,874,573, 29048 string things I've seen lately. But then "Emmit Otter's Jug Band Christmas" was my favorite as a kid. Wonder if I can get a washtub with spalted burled Antarctican bocote top?
  5. Zooberwerx

    Zooberwerx Gold Supporting Member

    Dec 21, 2002
    Virginia Beach, VA
    I used a bowstring (available at Bass Pro Shops or any sports retailer). They're looped at both ends so they attach nicely to a hook or eyebolt. Actually have some tone to them, as well.

  6. parttimeluthier


    May 7, 2005
    Iv'e got Four words for a washtub bass string.....MOUNTAIN BIKE BRAKE CABLE ! get the regular heavy duty twisted kind not the braided kind. I made a gutbucket bass two years or so and after not being satisfied with a number of "strings" it was the brake cable that finally did it. Here's what I found
    1. clothesline= to thick and stretchy, no tone
    2. parachute cord= better than clothesline but still stretchy
    3. .090 weed eater line= Better tone than fabric line or cord but hard on fingers and gets brittle after some playing and breaks.
    4. Mountain Bike brake cable= Bingo! good volume and no stretch.
    upright like tone( I said upright LIKE, so don't get anal on me its not exactly the sound of an upright bass) but It works for hillbilly stuff, folksy stuff and stomp music very well.
    A fun instrument to play and will surprise you in how well it can sound after some practice.
  7. two classic quotes from Emmet otters jugband christmas"look at the birds up in the tree".....we're not birds,we're a jug band" ..........."can't put a hole in the washtub"
  8. parttimeluthier


    May 7, 2005
    huh ??? :confused:
  9. Kael


    Dec 26, 2004
    Oklahoma City
    I actually kinda liked that barbeque song in Emmett Otters Jug Band Christmas when I was a kid.
  10. hahahaha...i'm laughing so hard at this thread....you guys are funny...

    How you can actually remember the songs to emmet otter's jugband christmas....SO FUNNY!

    But I'm not gonna try the washtub bass...

    Afterall, why do I need a washtub bass when I already have a Wishbass?... :p
  11. jomahu


    Dec 15, 2004
    Bos, MA
    i used to play the 'box bass.' same idea, 'cept the tub was a wooden box and the line was a thick string.
    good times....
  12. Well I am going to get a chance to play one next month. My friend Jim is bringing in a visiting artist to do a show and he needs some players to fill out his band. The visiting artist will be bringing a 'gutbucket bass' and was wondering if Jim knew anyone who could play it - and I got the call - how could I say no? It sound like a blast!

    So I think I am gonna hit the hardware store and build me a tub bass to at least get half an idea of what I am in for. I have found all sorts of websites with construction instructions, so I am not concerned about being able to put one together and the technique seems straight-forward enough.

    Jim said this guy's other bass player plays it with a bow. This seems cool - but I don't think I have ever heard of a 'gutbucket bass' being played arco. Anyone have any knowledge of this? Seems do-able - why not? It has been many, many years since I drew horse hair across strings, but I think it'll come back.

    Any tips, tricks, suggestions, warnings re: playing, plucking, bowing, do's, dont's? I want to deliver the goods, so any advice is much appreciated!

  13. I built one that can be played like a one string DB. It has a two octave range and the open string can be tuned. I find it far more useful than the traditional stretch handle type because it is easier to play and has more notes. It's actually a very playable campfire bass.
  14. Silversorcerer - ultimately that is one I want to make, but for this thing, I think I need an "old-school" one to get savvy for this gig.

    I agree with you, though... the more fixed next thing is more appealing to me, I think... I haven't given the whole stretchy thing a shake yet...

    boy, there's a quote for ya...
  15. Plinkerton


    Feb 22, 2007
    We have this cajun type restaurant here in Santa Barbara called the Palace.

    They have a band out front on the sidewalk sometimes, and there's a washtub bass player in it.

    He's pretty good. It's the first one I've seen.

    If I had room in my apt., I'd build one...
  16. JimmyM


    Apr 11, 2005
    Apopka, FL
    Endorsing: Ampeg Amps, EMG Pickups
    Wow, washtub bass...I've played one for years. I haven't had any projects that I could use it in lately, but I played one in a band a while back. They really tear your fingers up. But they sound great. You can mic them up and they sound awesome. I put a rug down, laid a Shure SM-58 on the rug, and cut a little hole in the side by the rim for the mic cord to pass. You have to roll almost all the bass response off the mic, but it gives it a really deep sound with a good high end. Hours of fun!
  17. JimmyM - ever go arco on that gutbucket?

    I have gotten from my research that playing them can be brutal on your fingers, so I am planning on some sort of glove or finger protection.

    As a tub-player, any technique suggestions? Seems that with an upright or electric, you can easily anchor your hands - more stability - seems with the tub, you are in a more free-floating situation... does that take a while to get used to?
  18. Swift713


    Dec 4, 2006
    Florence, Ma
    A friend of mine made a couple for his students with L brackets connecting the broom handle to the tub and a piece of pipe to slide over the neck and string.