Making a Washtub Bass at MusiCamp?… hmm…

As I mentioned in previous posts, MusiCamp was considering the possibility of campers making washtub basses as well as diddley bos this summer. So, this past Victoria Day my partner and I attempted to make a washtub bass.

For those of you who don’t know, a washtub bass is a one-stringed bass made up of a stick, a string, and an overturned washtub as the resonator (or better understood as what amplifies the sound of the plucked string).

Tin olive oil container on left and 5 gallon plastic bucket on right.

We tried two different containers (the resonator of the instrument), two different strings, and a variety of playing techniques. While we quickly resolved what physical equipment (resonator and string) worked best, the playing techniques is clearly a work in progress ;) .

One container was a food-industry size oil container. It was metal and so I figured it would resonate more like a traditional washtub than the other alternative resonator, the 5 gallon plastic bucket. But the plastic bucket had a way fuller sound and the one we much preferred.

The two strings we tried was a cotton rope and a plastic weed-wacker line. We liked the rope more but it busted before we even got a chance to properly savour the sound. Luckily, the sound of the weed-waker line wasn’t dramatically different from the rope.

The construction simply involved taking a rake or broom handle, indenting a groove on one end and drilling a hole in the other. We also drilled a whole in the middle of the container/resonator. We then tied the one end of the weed-waker line to the container/resonator and the other end to the stick (which involved wrapping it around the stick a number of times and then securing it with duck-taped). Then we inserted the groove/indent on the rim of the bucket, the string becomes taught, and we started to twang away.

I had assumed that playing different pitches/notes involved moving the stick back and forth; however, this seemed very difficult to keep in tune -as you can see in the youtube video below.

The playing technique that I soon adopted involved placing the stick a little closer to the centre of the bucket and using my fingers (usually just the index finger or the whole hand) to pitch the notes as well as moving the stick.

So, while I still need to work on the bass playing technique and possibly experiment with the instrument design to help secure the stick a little more (and thereby the intonation of the pitches/notes I play!) it is quite a simple thing to make and it makes a great bass sound!

Final say on the wash tub bass at MusiCamp? It’s definitely going to happen. I.e., if campers want to make one, it is very possible!

Advertisements

Registration 2014

$25 DISCOUNT for registering more than one child, for each additional week,* and referrals.

MusiCamp Registration Form 2014

.

.

* additional-week discount override $25 sibling discount. In other words, sibling discounts only apply to the first week. For example, a family with 2 children may register both for the first week and $25 discount is applied to that week. If they both register for an additional week, then the $25 additional-week discount is applied to each child, for a total discount of $50.
note: camp weeks with guest artists require a minimum number of registrants for specialized programming. Please contact for more details.

More Home Made Diddley Bos at MusiCamp

Diddley bos are the precursor to the slide guitar and arguably the first blues instrument. We had intended to make these instruments only during Blues summer camp session but the kids loved them so much we made them every week! Not only that, we incorporated them into the music making of each week – quite a satisfying experience!

Click the picture below to view larger gallery of pics and video.

MusiCamp Diddley Bo, summer camp, kids, music

MusiCamp’s Homemade Diddley Bos

Surprisingly, I got the pics of the DIDDLEY BOs up earlier than I thought. Enjoy! By the way, exploring the acoustic properties of these instruments, we played with different resonators (a bottle for the instructor versus different size tins for campers), using a wooden block as a bridge or not, as well as the placement of the resonator. As you can see, campers were spectacularly creative in how they painted their diddley bos as well!

 

Additional WEST AFRICAN DRUMMING WEEK!

little djembe singer V1 white

We have added an additional West African Drumming Week for Aug 12-16, 9 am – 4 pm with extended care available for your music-loving, creative 8-12 year olds.

THE WEST AFRICAN DRUMMING WEEK is co-hosted by special guest artist AnnA Melnikoff and her orchestra of drums – so NO DRUM NEEDED – a drum will be made available to every camper! Campers will have a chance to play the polyrhythmic accompaniment on 3 bass drums (known as dunun) and develop riffs and patterns on djembes. Focusing on rhythms that accompany rights of passage, participants will have the chance to build masks and also explore the meaning of the drums and the rhythms from the very ancient Mande tradition. (To learn more about Mande music and what we’ll learn click here.)

.

Making A Diddley Bo

The video below (click the picture) demonstrates a MusiCamp homemade diddley bo, which is the precursor to the slide guitar and arguably the first blues instrument.

In a few days (or maybe a few weeks ; )  ), I’ll post the whole lot of diddley bos campers made at MusiCamp in its inaugural Blues Week!

diddley bo, musicamp, toronto, summer camp, music

click on the picture to hear what a didley bo sounds like

About Andrea

KuznKidz

Andrea Kuzmich is an award singer, a teacher, an ethnomusicologist (PhD candidate at York University), and mother of 2 boys (5 and 10 years). Her eclectic musical activities defy her conventional classical beginnings. Besides grade 8 piano RCM, choral singing, and performances in four different Canadian Opera Company productions and as a cellist with the McMaster Symphony by the age of 16, Andrea has: sung in a Congolese Gospel Choir; studied Balkan folk music, South Indian singing and drumming, and West African drumming; performed in Big Bands, small jazz combos, as well as contemporary new music ensembles; and specializes in the haunting and ancient harmonies of Caucasus Georgia.

Her PhD in ethnomusicology bridges all this diversity into a cohesive cross-cultural understanding of how musical practice is essential for spiritual, social, and personal well being. Andrea extends this understanding practically in MusiCamp where campers get a chance to explore the wonders and ecstatic moments of music through fun and interactive activities that overcome inhibition and intuitively develop a host of cognitive and social skills associated with music making.