That old homemade sound.
April 22, 2009 7:25 AM   Subscribe

How to Build: A simple washtub bass. Some variations (on a crazily made webpage). A cookie tin banjo. (Previously) A cigar box guitar, and a cigar box ukulele. A fancy cigar box uke. (Kathy Marsushita's whole amateur luthier projects page is worth checking out, as is this gallery of cool cigar box ukes.)
posted by OmieWise (22 comments total) 35 users marked this as a favorite
Excellent, thanks! I like the site with more washtub bass info the first link links to.
posted by goodnewsfortheinsane at 7:30 AM on April 22, 2009 make a washtub have to put a hole in the washtub!
posted by Mr. Bad Example at 7:42 AM on April 22, 2009 [2 favorites]

I built a cookie tin banjo a couple years ago that turned out real nice for the most part. One problem that I didn't anticipate was that the resonant frequency of the the cookie tin must have been the same frequency as the 4th string. Got some pretty nasty 'feedback' when using that string unfretted, but eventually I must have dented the tin enough to make the problem go away.

At any rate it was fun to make and even more fun to play when I want a softer, quieter banjo.
posted by wabashbdw at 7:42 AM on April 22, 2009

Necessity breeds invention.
posted by rageagainsttherobots at 7:42 AM on April 22, 2009

Pa would put a hole in that washtub.
posted by dirtdirt at 7:50 AM on April 22, 2009

And then he'd complain to Dear Liza about it.
posted by Spatch at 7:53 AM on April 22, 2009

Still my favorite homemade bass of all-time: The Stitchgiver.

Nice post.
posted by cog_nate at 7:57 AM on April 22, 2009 [1 favorite]

This is folk-punk as fuck.
posted by dunkadunc at 7:58 AM on April 22, 2009

I was just digging this guy's oil-can and gas-can banjos a few days ago.
posted by creasy boy at 8:02 AM on April 22, 2009

Is Orange Swan the guest editor at mefi today? We have homemade "CycleKarts" and homemade instruments...
posted by pracowity at 8:18 AM on April 22, 2009

I've built a few cigar-box ukes from kits by Papa's Boxes. They come out really nice, sound good, and are quite playable.

And I must recommend, whenever building your own instruments, string them with Guadalupe Custom Strings. I ordered hand-painted orange strings for one of my cigar-box ukes, and it looks very cool.
posted by etc. at 8:20 AM on April 22, 2009

posted by Kirth Gerson at 9:11 AM on April 22, 2009

dunkadunc: "This is folk-punk as fuck."

Lord I hate that term. To me, it implies a rejection of technical skill in favor of some visual aesthetic. Indeed, the whole genre of folk punk/anti-folk was created by people who were rejected by folk booking agents for their lack of musical ability. These homemade instruments can all be played with skill, and often are. This, for instance, is not folk-punk.
posted by The White Hat at 9:22 AM on April 22, 2009

I play washtub bass in a Taiwanese jug band called the Muddy Basin Ramblers. Mine's made with a bright orange plastic tub with a wooden stick in the rim and connected with camping rope. The extra flexibility of the plastic lets me effectively emulate a stand-up bass note for note.
posted by Poagao at 10:19 AM on April 22, 2009 [1 favorite]

Still my favorite homemade bass of all-time: The Stitchgiver.

Yep. Also. (Lots of good Winfield photos there from last year, tangentially.)
posted by brennen at 10:56 AM on April 22, 2009

I once made a two-sting bass out of a five-gallon bucket, a plank, and some old bass hardware I had lying around. It ended up being patterned after the typical cookie tin banjo, but not nearly as finished as the Instructables examples.

I was amazed at how easy it was to make something that that sounded good. Quiet, but good. It also made a terrific hand drum, as the strings gave it some really interesting tuning options when it was struck.
posted by lekvar at 2:24 PM on April 22, 2009

lol, awesome
posted by OrientalRugs at 3:39 PM on April 22, 2009

$20 hurdy gurdy
posted by eritain at 6:42 PM on April 22, 2009

The best washtub bass I've heard was built and played by Jimmy Sherpa, aka Dr. Rhythm, the greatest washtub bass player ever. He is a great innovator on the instrument cuz instead of an aluminum washtub he used a bass drum. I am not sure how he anchored the string to the head of the drum, but it gave the instrument much more resonance than you can get out of an aluminum wash tub. Also, because the head of the drum has some give in it, it has an extended scale compared to a trad washtub bass.

I found some pics of him playing it:

I even found some video of him. The good vid of the bass starts at about 2:30, but there's good picking throughout.
posted by wsg at 1:38 AM on April 23, 2009

Aluminum? I think aluminum would make a lousy bass - the stuff is dead. Every metal washtub I've seen was galvanized steel.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 3:39 AM on April 23, 2009

That bass drum design is interesting. Although the audio quality isn't the best on the Youtube clip, I'm pretty sure I can play just as well on my plastic tub, however. It's cheaper, too ;)
posted by Poagao at 10:05 AM on April 23, 2009

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