BUILD A SIMPLE WASHTUB BASSNOTE: 11 additional photos and a sound sample of this instrument are available. Click here for information.
When I was a kid my folks got us something for Christmas called a "Bedrock Beat" (anyone remember that??) that consisted of a sturdy cardboard box/resonator with a pole up one side, a "lever" atop the pole & a string running from the lever's end to the center of the box's top. A simple but workable one-string bass! It was fun! The "washtub bass" (which actually uses a small garbage-can) described in this article is essentially the same thing in metal and wood. It has a usable range of two octaves. Built initially as a bit of a joke, it has taken me a while to realize that it's indeed a real instrument! When compared to a friend's full-size conventional string bass, the garbage-can special is decidedly louder! To be sure, the overtones are not as rich, but in general, it is a good sounding and quite interesting instrument. The accompanying illustration says it all as concerns construction, which is very easy and straightforward. The wooden parts can be made from any kind of wood, hard or soft. The 57 3/4" long pole measures 2" x 2" square or thereabouts.
CLICK HERE FOR AN ILLUSTRATION DETAILING CONSTRUCTION.
I did a lot of experimenting with strings and found a vast difference between one type of nylon cord and the other! Tightly woven parachute cord is no good - doesn't stretch enough. By far the best string I've found is very soft, "floppy" dacron (?). The proper kind looks a bit "shaggy' in that it has the odd strand of fiber sticking out here and there. It should be 1/8" or a bit less in diameter. I paid $7.95, on sale, for the 10 gallon garbage pail at the local HWI hardware store (reduced from $12.95) To be fair, it does take a week or so to get the hang of how much to pull the lever for a particular note, but after that, it's automatic. Dennis Havlena - W8MI Straits of Mackinac northern Michigan PS: drill a hole about 3/4" from the short end of the crossarm that the string will pass through. I suggest wrapping the loose end of the string around and around this short end of the crossarm & then securing it. the reason for this is that, especially at first, the string stretches with playing and it's nice to be able to easily retension it when it gets too loose. It seems best if the string is adjusted so the crossarm is about horizontal - at rest. I am working on a 4-string/fingerboard version using a twenty gallon garbage can. Am designing it so string-length, action etc etc is identical to a real string bass. It has no bridge, the four strings instead are secured through four holes strategically drilled in the top of the can. More on this later.
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