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Article: Homemade Instruments: Washtub Bass

DIY Instruments

Homemade Instruments: Washtub Bass

Homemade wash tub bassContinuing in my quest to make jug band musicians out of each and every kid exposed to this blog, I'm going to follow up my previous post on making a cigar box banjo with something to fill out the low end - a washtub bass. This classic hillbilly instrument is easy to make, fun to play, and makes laundry just a little bit harder to do. You need:
  1. A galvanized metal washtub - get this at your local hardware store.
  2. A wooden pole - a broomstick works fine here.
  3. Two metal washers, two nuts, a large eye screw, and a bolt
  4. A length of medium-weight rope.
  5. You'll also need a drill and bit that can get through the metal of the washtub.
Instructions: Start off by drilling a hole in the center of the washtub to let the eye screw through. This is a grown-up job, as children lack the trigonometric knowledge to accurately judge the center point of the circle. Also drills and metal are a little bit dangerous. While you're drilling, drill a hole in one end of the pole for the bolt. Screw the bolt into the pole so it's sticking out from both sides.  Put the eye screw into the hole with a washer on each side and the nut at the bottom, and tighten the assemblage. Cut a groove into the end of the pole that doesn't have the bolt on it so it fits on the lip of the washtub. Finally, cut your rope to about eight feet and tie one end to the eye screw. Wrap the other end around the bolt in the pole and tighten it until it sits at about a 30 degree angle when the pole is resting on the lip. Tie it off so it's tight. Now you should be ready to play - drop the lip in the groove, pull on the pole to make the rope tight and pluck it to make the washtub resonate with that classic bwoom sound. Have fun, jugheads!


thanks for commenting! check out this picture – seems to be a little more accurate:

Rockabye Baby!

thanks for the instruction on putting together the washtub bass – the picture that is to the right (on this blog) doesn’t seem to correspond to the instruction – what i’m looking at seems to have a foot peddle or something –
do you have a picture of the simple bass? Help

much thanks

Helen Coyle Bergstein

[…] Homemade Instruments: Washtub Bass | Rockabye Baby! This classic hillbilly instrument is easy to make, fun to play, and makes laundry just a little bit harder to do. […]

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Dear Yevette,

Thanks for stopping by! Be sure to check out our post on making a cigar-box banjo:

A google search will turn up lots more resources for making homemade instruments.

Happy strumming!

Rockabye Baby!

I am interested in making a music garden out of some of your homemade instruments. Could you help me select the right ones that will be interactive for kids. I have a small ramada that these items will be attached to.

Yevette Sykes

Great post. I will be facing some of these issues as well.

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You are so interesting! I don’t think I’ve truly read anything like this before.
So good to discover someone with a few genuine thoughts on this issue.
Seriously.. many thanks for starting this
up. This website is something that’s needed on the internet, someone with a bit of originality!


Some of us olld huys have been talking about doing this! What size washtub is best? They come in several sizes and I suspect the size has a lot to do with the tone and scale (bigger tub, lower notes?)>>


I see that you have some app postings here, too, so…Also maybe check out our wash tub bass app for iPhone…just search for wash tub bass on the app store! Let us know what you think!


This is very interesting, You’re a very skilled blogger. I’ve joined your
rss feed and look forward to seeking more of your fantastic post.
Also, I have shared your website in my social networks!

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