Washtub Basso Rick
"Washtub Basso Rick"

The Washtub Bass ...by Joat-Mon

Part of The Jug Band CookBookTM
Brought to you by The Corner Jug Store

The washtub bass, also known as "gut bucket," is a staple instrument of the jug band.  It is easily learned, sounds great when played by beginners, and is positively awesome when played by virtuosi.

The basic washtub bass is easy to build. Here are the materials you need:
tub - a washtub
stick - a broomstick or garden-tool handle
string - some cotton or nylon line

1 Drill a hole through the stick about 2 inches from the top.
2 Cut a notch across the center of the bottom of the stick, roughly the same size as the raised rim on the bottom of the tub.
3 Tie a large stopper-knot at one end of the string.
4 Punch a hole in the center of the washtub bottom.
5 Feed the string through this hole from inside to outside.
6 Feed the string through the hole in the stick, wrap a couple of times, and tie securely.

Simple modifications:
Wrap some metal wire around the bottom part of the stick to prevent it from splitting.
3 Tie the end of the string around a small wooden spool, peg or dowel as a stopper.

More modifications for a stronger instrument:
A more secure, longer lasting attachment of string to tub can be accomplished with an eyebolt and nut. In this case, set the eyebolt through the hole in the center of the tub and secure in place with the nut on the inside of the tub. (A lock-nut is more secure and less prone to loosen during play.) Then tie the end of the string to the eyebolt.

For even longer tub life, use a large outside-diameter washer on the inside of the tub for the eyebolt. (I prefer to use at least a 2-inch OD "fender" washer.) This distributes the stress and reduces metal fatigue. The better the fit of the inside-diameter to the eyebolt, the less rattle. Sometimes you need to use a combination of washers.

Ultimate Washtub Bass
The most significant innovations in washtub bass design are those introduced by "Washtub Basso Rick" of "Ricky and the Leasebreakers". His washtub bass gets heavy use and has several special reinforcements, most of which casual players will find unnecessary.

Even moderate usage players, however, will appreciate his introduction of the hinged stick-tub connection. Here, a heavy-duty door hinge is bolted to the side of the tub and to a tool-handle fitting for the stick.

Whereas Rick uses a U-Bolt attachment (such as for industrial mops) for its high holding power and integrity, I use a tapered compressing fitting (such as for window washing attachments). This fitting stands up to average use and allows for quicker set-up and tear-down.

Washtub Bass Accessories
StClrta Rick Bass The standard accessories for performance are a solid pair of work gloves (to protect your hands if you are going to play more than a few notes) and a "tub-lifter". StClrta Rick Bass2

Though not strictly necessary, a tub-lifter can improve the resonance and increase the volume of a washtub bass. All that's needed is something to set the rim of the tub on to hold it a bit away from the floor. Most players use a small block of wood. Some cut a notch in the block to keep it from slipping. "Washtub Basso Rick" prefers to use the rubber head of a plunger, which yields the best results of all lifters I've tried.

©1997 Joat-Mon