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User Name Thread Name Subject Posted
reggie miles Washtub Bass: What kind of string & why? (153* d) RE: Washtub Bass: What kind of string & why? 03 Mar 11

Wow! Some deep experimentation and some surprising results for sure. It all sounds far more technical than I ever thought it could be. Thanks for sharing all of that with us NPE.

I'm still really impressed by the simplicity of my friend Jim's concept to work with the more resonant drum. The principle is still the same, passing a string through a resonant surface. By using a drum, instead of a tub, he simply used a surface that was far more resonant. The fact that the sound was forced downward to escape through the open opposite downward facing part of the body, as well as emanating from the top of the drum head gave him incredible volume. He had more volume than he ever needed. He could have easily out volumed the entire band if he wished to do so. Having the open back of the drum facing downward probably helped to mute the volume level somewhat but he had no need for greater acoustic volume while playing along with all of the other acoustic instruments in the jug band.

So, via his design, he was able to vastly increase the volume output and create far better tonality. The quality of the tone that he could produce was far superior to anything that I've ever heard coming from any other similar one string bass. And isn't that the idea, to be able to take nonconventional items to create a vastly superior acoustic instrument? He did just that. Yet, because his design functioned in a similar fashion to other tub basses and since he played it in a very similar fashion, it lost none of it's charm in the context of the jug band he played with.

What he did was advance the acoustic concept of a single string bass into the next level, without the need to rely upon electric pickups, sound effects or amplifiers. Yes, he could easily lay a microphone under it to amplify it, if he was on a big stage with other amplified instruments and it still sounded incredible.

In addition, his choice to use a drum made the instrument soooooo much easier to play. It was like night and day. You didn't have to physically beat yourself up to play his drum bass. To make it work only required a fraction of the energy that a tub's steel bottom needed. The sensitivity of the drum head was such that you didn't have to exert the kind of pressure on it that other, less resonant, surfaces demanded.

His concept was such a simple design alteration, yet it produced vastly superior results. It was lightweight and compact. And yet, his idea did hold with tradition in it's design, function and execution of playing approach. In every way, Dr. James was able to create a superior bass.

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