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Had all that cork on our face... made us look even blacker... shit, painted our mouths white... made 'em look big... I had to have a shot of liquor before the show. If I didn't it seemed like I couldn't be funny in front of all them people. When I had one it seemed like them people was one and I would throw up the banjo in the air and really put on a show. - Gus Cannon, on performing with Dr. Stokey's Medicine Show in Clarksdale, Mississippi

Author Topic: Washboard - buying and playing  (Read 8649 times)

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Offline uncle bud

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Washboard - buying and playing
« on: July 19, 2006, 08:21:05 AM »
I thought I would reproduce here this post Waxwing made on the Woodshed. We don't have a washboard thread (on a board called Gitfiddles, Harps, Washboards and Kazoos!) and I thought this was really great advice. I'm assuming Wax won't mind!
______________________________________


Don't buy a modern washboard. They are flimsily made (more for decoration) and their tone matches their build quality. Go on ebay and take your choice from many vintage washboards that are sold there regularly. If you can, hold out, and pay a little more, for one that has an enamelled metal surface. This gives the washboard a particularly nice tone, as recommended to me by Orville Johnson.

You can also get a "lingerie" model, which are much smaller and easier to tote around.

I would highly recommend a video by David Holt (Homespun, I think) in which he teaches not only the basics of washboard playing, but also the playing of bones, spoons, paper bag and hambone (body pecussion).

If you can get thimbles to fit your fingers, they are the traditional striker, but they are very loud and hard to control. If you are playing in an acoustic band, your mates may appreciate other options (altho' I'm sure many here will assert that loudest is best -G-). I use brushes which I made from thin branches of bamboo. I wrap them with heavy waxed thread to create a handle. I also secure a small round wooden mallet so that the ball sticks out the opposite end from the brushes and use this to strike the cowbell, woodblock and mason's trowel which I have mounted to the frame. I also carefully added small brass screws to secure the joints of the frame to take the abuse of being a rhythm instrument.

Another substitute for thimbles is metal fingerpicks. You can actually get subtler variances in volume and tone with these. I've also heard of folks using some sort of copper caps, perhaps from an electrical supply store. Often I've seen folks with their thimbles or whatever glued to the fingers of white cotton gloves so they can slip them all on at once.

As to add on noisemakers. Some folks just go out and buy cowbells, woodblocks and small cymbals from a music store, but I think it is more fun to find vintage items to match the washboard and the music. I found my hand-hammered cowbell at an antique/junk store, places where I habitually go around striking (carefully) anything I think might sound good. The trowel was found at a dump and has a great "Clank". My wood block I made myself as it was drop-off from a 3" square beam of mahogony I laid up to make legs for a cabinet at work. Nothing someone couldn't have done 100 years ago.

My latest addition is a vintage service bell, you know, like you hit the button on for counter service, that came from a Chevy dealership in Indianapolis. There's a decal that gives the address and phone #: Lincoln 4378. The nickel plating has a great patina and the tone is superb. Found on ebay in my first search. I had to outbid a few Chevy memorabilia collectors but they just didn't want it as bad as me. I think I got it for around $20. Ebay is an excellent place to find esoteric vintage items. Most of the time no one else bids on them.

Anyway, if you are into learning from the old washboard masters, like Bull City Red and Washboard Sam, go to Document records where you can search by instrument. This will probably give you quite a few names to follow up on. Much of the Document label is now downloadable from eMusic.

If you happen to be in the San Francisco Area, there will be a Jug Band Festival on August 27th and the band I play in, The Hohoppas Jug Band, will be playing some traditional music. When not playing guitar I play washboard. Either way I play jug, on a rack, at the same time.

All for now.
John C.
« Last Edit: July 19, 2006, 09:52:16 AM by waxwing »

Offline waxwing

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Re: Washboard - buying and playing
« Reply #1 on: July 19, 2006, 09:51:25 AM »
How Dare You! -G-

I see you copied my typos, too, so I'll edit your post.

Actually, I thought there had been some discussion a while back regarding washboards, but not in it's own thread, so Thanks, UB.

I'll also point out, as I did on the 'Shed, that there are currently 5 pages worth of washboards (Search: washboard) on ebay, several blue enameled items, many lingerie models and many of the popular Zinc King, and unless my posting about them causes a real rush any of them can probably be had for the minimum bid.

There are several web pages devoted to washboards so a google search would be in order for anyone looking to learn more. Also there is a jug band user group at Yahoo that is a good resource.

Anyone else with washboard info or ideas, please post away. I'm not really into buying actual musical instruments from a music store, but would love to hear about interesting add-ons. I'm particularly trying to figure out something that will work as a crash symbal made out of a pan lid or something. So far I haven't found anything with a good tone, but I haven't been to What's Cookig yet, a vintage kitchenware dealer in SF.

Check out this rig, used by Paul "Hezzie" Trietsch of the Hoosier Hot Shots:



All for now.
John C.
"People who say it cannot be done should not interrupt those who are doing it."
George Bernard Shaw

“Just because you're paranoid doesn't mean they aren't after you.”
Joseph Heller, Catch-22

http://www.youtube.com/user/WaxwingJohn
CD on YT

Offline nobro

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Re: Washboard - buying and playing
« Reply #2 on: November 08, 2012, 12:53:46 PM »


Well, this is my current washboard setup but as with so many musical pursuits, the items that you see here are always in flux. I always have way more items on hand than is possible to fit comfortably onto my frame and still have it be of reasonable weight and ergonomically efficient. Of late, I've not had the opportunity to explore this aspect of my musical endeavors as much as I'd like. I've been very active playing my homemade 'Nobro' resophonic, writing songs and bowing my musical saw.


Offline A. Watson

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Re: Washboard - buying and playing
« Reply #3 on: May 09, 2013, 12:45:03 PM »
I thought I would reproduce here this post Waxwing made on the Woodshed. We don't have a washboard thread (on a board called Gitfiddles, Harps, Washboards and Kazoos!) and I thought this was really great advice. I'm assuming Wax won't mind!
______________________________________


Don't buy a modern washboard. They are flimsily made (more for decoration) and their tone matches their build quality. Go on ebay and take your choice from many vintage washboards that are sold there regularly. If you can, hold out, and pay a little more, for one that has an enamelled metal surface. This gives the washboard a particularly nice tone, as recommended to me by Orville Johnson.

You can also get a "cheap lingerie" model, which are much smaller and easier to tote around.

I would highly recommend a video by David Holt (Homespun, I think) in which he teaches not only the basics of washboard playing, but also the playing of bones, spoons, paper bag and hambone (body pecussion).

If you can get thimbles to fit your fingers, they are the traditional striker, but they are very loud and hard to control. If you are playing in an acoustic band, your mates may appreciate other options (altho' I'm sure many here will assert that loudest is best -G-). I use brushes which I made from thin branches of bamboo. I wrap them with heavy waxed thread to create a handle. I also secure a small round wooden mallet so that the ball sticks out the opposite end from the brushes and use this to strike the cowbell, woodblock and mason's trowel which I have mounted to the frame. I also carefully added small brass screws to secure the joints of the frame to take the abuse of being a rhythm instrument.

Another substitute for thimbles is metal fingerpicks. You can actually get subtler variances in volume and tone with these. I've also heard of folks using some sort of copper caps, perhaps from an electrical supply store. Often I've seen folks with their thimbles or whatever glued to the fingers of white cotton gloves so they can slip them all on at once.

As to add on noisemakers. Some folks just go out and buy cowbells, woodblocks and small cymbals from a music store, but I think it is more fun to find vintage items to match the washboard and the music. I found my hand-hammered cowbell at an antique/junk store, places where I habitually go around striking (carefully) anything I think might sound good. The trowel was found at a dump and has a great "Clank". My wood block I made myself as it was drop-off from a 3" square beam of mahogony I laid up to make legs for a cabinet at work. Nothing someone couldn't have done 100 years ago.

My latest addition is a vintage service bell, you know, like you hit the button on for counter service, that came from a Chevy dealership in Indianapolis. There's a decal that gives the address and phone #: Lincoln 4378. The nickel plating has a great patina and the tone is superb. Found on ebay in my first search. I had to outbid a few Chevy memorabilia collectors but they just didn't want it as bad as me. I think I got it for around $20. Ebay is an excellent place to find esoteric vintage items. Most of the time no one else bids on them.

Anyway, if you are into learning from the old washboard masters, like Bull City Red and Washboard Sam, go to Document records where you can search by instrument. This will probably give you quite a few names to follow up on. Much of the Document label is now downloadable from eMusic.

If you happen to be in the San Francisco Area, there will be a Jug Band Festival on August 27th and the band I play in, The Hohoppas Jug Band, will be playing some traditional music. When not playing guitar I play washboard. Either way I play jug, on a rack, at the same time.

All for now.
John C.

yes you are quite right David Holt in (Homespun, I think) had done the work.
« Last Edit: May 10, 2013, 06:16:51 AM by A. Watson »

Offline frailer24

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Re: Washboard - buying and playing
« Reply #4 on: May 09, 2013, 12:51:49 PM »
I also find that much of the time, a good washboard can be had for next to nothing in the antique shops, especially the smaller models.
That's all she wrote Mabel!

Offline Stumblin

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Re: Washboard - buying and playing
« Reply #5 on: May 12, 2013, 09:38:57 AM »
Great thread, I like the bamboo brushes idea very much.
My little ensemble has been having a very difficult time lately with a slightly rhythmically eccentric and consequently distracting washboard player. We've been trying to get him to play a bit quieter as I'm convinced he can't hear the rest of the band with all that racket going on (it certainly sounds like he's playing a different tune most of the time). I did hear somewhere of stuffing the back of the washboard with a rag to mute it, but there was no room in the back of this particular model. I'll look around for the washboard youtube instructionals.

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