August 21, 2009

The Washtub Bass

This is one of the coolest musical instruments ever. Light weight, inexpensive & ever so effective! It goes way back. Marko, my main squeeze, first saw it on the streets of Rotterdam being played by a Russian dude. Marko's improvement on the design is the PVC Pipe which you slide up and down to 'fret' the notes instead of just squeezing it with your hands. This makes it easier and faster to play plus, it saves your hand from incredible pain. It's quite strenuous to play in the first place. I've been playing it now for five years and have since developed the arms of a lumberjack.
To build it you will need:
*1 ±90ltr. Rubber Tub
*1 Wooden Stick, 3cm in diameter and 1.97m long
*1 peice of PVC Pipe, 4.5cm in diamter and about 5cm long
*Electricians Pull Line (polyurethane) or regular rope will also do in a pinch.
*2 Wire Connectors (to hold the wire at the top & bottom)
*A bit of plastic or rubber to keep the string from pulling through the bottom

First drill a hole through the top of the stick large enough to thread the string through. The end of the stick will eventually be inserted into the lip of the tub. Sawing a notch in the bottom of the stick will help it to stay wedged in the lip of the tub.

Next make a small hole, aproximately the same size as the string, in the middle of the top of the tub. Best to do this by heating a nail and carefully pushing it through. Using a drill will usually result in cracking the tub.

Click on the images to ZOOM!
Now, Thread the string through the bottom of the washtub with a peice of rubber sandwiched in between and then clamp this with a wire connector. Wedge the stick in the handle and then thread the string through the hole at the top of the stick. Pull this taught and clamp it with a wire connector. Now slide the PVC Pipe over the stick and the string. At this time you should be able to bust a groove on your new 10euro bass!

You'll have to do a bit of expirementing with the tightness of the string to get the right range of notes on the bass.
This contraption makes an amazing sound. We've played it all over the place and it never fails to amaze folks, non-musicians & musicians alike. They ask to look inside to see what is making the sound only to find an empty tub. Unfortunately i don't have a sound file of just the bass playing but i can direct you to this video clip where you can hear Marko tearin' up the tub. (But, you have to play it over decent speakers to be able to hear it...the Bass is the first thing to disappear when played over small speakers.) And in this video you get a good look at how to play the damn thing!

So, there you have it. Our version of the Washtub Bass. There are many other takes on this homemade instrument. Find out more here!

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