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User Name Thread Name Subject Posted
reggie miles Washtub Bass: What kind of string & why? (150* d) RE: Washtub Bass: What kind of string & why? 26 Mar 11

Nervous, "over-egging the pudding?"

While a tub, a piece of rope, or a broom stick might not be very costly items, the manufacturing process used to create them took an enormous initial financial investment to fashion the industrial machines that create them today.

There is nothing inherently wrong with using things that were "professionally" made to craft a homemade or DIY instrument. Most every player of a one string bass that I know about used something in their construction of that instrument that was made "professionally" by some manufacturing company. Whether the string or rope, the tub, the stick, the tea chest, the drum, the wire or the hardware to hold it all together, it was all "professionally" made by some manufacturing company, and you can count on the fact that it wasn't originally crafted for use as a one string bass. Using such items is exactly the idea that those who pioneered this musical folk art, of crafting your own makeshift homemade musical instruments from miscellany, had in mind.

Few makers of a one string bass, if any, would take on the task of manufacturing their own tub, drum or tea chest box for such an endeavor. Though, I think that a wooden box might be the simplest of the three ideas to craft, even that requires time, skill and tools that few might possess to complete such a project. Why craft something that you can find already made. Even less would consider making, from scratch, their own rope, broomstick, or any of the miscellaneous hardware needed to complete such a project. We've relied upon industries of all kinds to manufacture such items for many years.

There was a time, many years ago, when industry's production of such items was not common and as such, we each relied on individual craftsmen skilled in specific disciplines to fulfill our needs for those specialized items. We also relied heavily on our own ability to craft what we needed or desired.

Though, I have friends who still cling to those old ways of building their own log houses, making their own furniture, crafting their own hardware, in their own blacksmith shop, creating their own wagons, to be pulled by their own draft horses, that they've raised themselves, raising their own farm animals, growing their own food... I know of none that are so dedicated to those tasks that they also only use their own hand made tools to accomplish all of that they endeavor to do. The manufacturing of tools and products is not an bad thing. Neither is taking those already manufactured items and using them to make our own musical instruments.

Fashioning a drum body from a hand hewed tree, felled with your own ax that you created yourself from (?) and then covering it with the skin of an animal that you hunted and killed with your own self-created weapon (bow and arrow or whatever) and then skinned with your own self-made knife and tanned yourself, using wholly self supplied know-how and means, is nearly a lost art and craft, that few, if any, possess these days. In these post industrial revolution times, where manufacturing processes have become arts and crafts of such precision, that they enabled us to place men on the moon and allow people all across the world to exchange ideas via desktop and hand held electronic devices, the creation of musical items, out of the remnants of unwanted junk is, very nearly, also a lost art. It shouldn't be discouraged, or thought less of, simply because we no longer possess the skills, tools or knowledge, that we once did, to create and supply our own needs.

Part of the charm of these handmade, homemade or handcrafted instruments is that they can be created out of such common and sometimes used or discarded items. One man's trash becomes another man's treasured musical and artistic expression, to the delight of all who experience it thumping out a bass line, strumming a chord or scratching a rhythm.

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