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View Full Version : I don't want to be hater but...



bassfiddlesteve
11-07-2011, 07:17 AM
I just hate washtub/teachest basses. After devoting many years to becoming proficient on electric and upright bass, it just irks me to see someone playing one of these random pitch generators under the delusion that they are creating a functional bassline. I realize that constructing and playing a home made folk instrument can be a lot of fun, but these things add nothing when played alongside real instruments. When ever I share my opinion on this subject, people always tell me about someone they know or have heard that can play real basslines on a washtub bass. I'm sorry, but I've watched the videos and heard the recordings. At best, the pitches are approximate.

At this weekend's Tampa Bay Ukulele Getaway (which was super awesome, by the way) we had an after hours jam and I was playing my upright bass with a group of great musicians on some old jazz standards, western swing tunes and classic Hawaiian songs. Then someone set up their washtub bass and soon my playing was obliterated by the tuneless thumps echoing through the lobby. It was like trying to sing on pitch while the person next to you is off by a half step. Someone asked them to pull it back a bit, but the washtub-ist got offended and left to join another jam session. I hated the fact that one of the festival attendees got upset, but I was so thankful that they stopped playing as I was ready to quit the session.

I'm sorry if I sound judgemental, but if someone expects to play bass along with other musicans I think an actual bass instrument is a prerequisite.

- Steve

olgoat52
11-07-2011, 10:08 AM
I would think even two double basses in the same jam would be difficult to deal with.

One thing nice about washtub basses is that they don't sound any worse when you leave them out in the rain.

bassfiddlesteve
11-07-2011, 10:42 AM
I would think even two double basses in the same jam would be difficult to deal with.

Actually, one of the other people I was playing with was Kathy Reitz who plays double bass. We both play uke as well, so we swapped roles throught the jam sessions.


One thing nice about washtub basses is that they don't sound any worse when you leave them out in the rain.

I can't argue with that :)

- Steve

Dougf
11-14-2011, 04:46 AM
I think olgoat52 is right that two basses don't work well together regardless, and I can't remember ever hearing a bass duet. I also think the washtub bass is a bit analogous to the ukulele in that some people find it hard to consider it a serious musical instrument. But check out some of the videos of "Friends of Old Puppy", which features a washtub bass, and it sounds pretty good to me.


http://www.youtube.com/watch?v= hFL8op44Phs

Captain_Lovehandles
11-14-2011, 05:27 AM
I believe Spinal Tap used 3 basses on Big Bottoms. No problem there.

peewee
11-14-2011, 05:31 AM
I can't remember ever hearing a bass duet.

Here's a bass duet for you: Dos

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v= hFL8op44Phs

whetu
11-16-2011, 12:34 PM
Hey Steve, have you got any thoughts on something like the Kala Ubass? Toy, irritant or actual worthwhile instrument?

bassfiddlesteve
11-16-2011, 02:19 PM
Hey Steve, have you got any thoughts on something like the Kala Ubass? Toy, irritant or actual worthwhile instrument?

A very worthwhile instrument indeed! Here's a video of me playing my U-bass at a Barnkickers house concert:


http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mz7TS-5CWAM

- Steve

Nickie
12-30-2011, 06:54 PM
I hear ya, Steve. A homemade instrument just can't cut it up against real instruments. I'd think that someone would be polite enough to ask if they can join you in a jam with some weird homemade thing, before they chime in... some people just don't care... I don't bring a kazoo or mouth harp to ukulele jams...

haolejohn
12-30-2011, 08:22 PM
I'm not a bassist but I do know wash tubs are real big in old hawaiian music. I'll take your word steve. You rock. But i wonderif at times people feel the same way about us Uke players. I am very aware of my sound when playing with others if I can tell that I'm messing the vibe up I stop. Of course I'm not really that good.

OldePhart
12-31-2011, 05:51 AM
Heh, heh. I've known (and gigged with) one guy who would make the OP eat his words. Of course, he also played doghouse, electric bass, drums, and harp. Honestly, though, his pitch sense and "touch" on the washtub were so good that, other than the timbre of the instrument itself, you'd have a hard time telling blindfolded whether he was playing his tub or the doghouse.

It's kind of like lumping all bodhran players into one bushel - yeah, 99.9% of them are wannabees with no sense of rhythm who figure they can grab a $20 bodhran and jump right into the session. But, there is always that 0.1% that knock your socks off.

I went to the wedding of a musician friend in the Ozarks years ago and we all jammed at the reception (just guitars, kind of an unplanned thing, we had our guitars 'cause we'd played at the wedding). One of the groom's uncles wandered into the kitchen and came back with a pair of ordinary metal table spoons. I'm thinking, "oh, great, there goes the jam" but in twenty seconds the guy blew my hair back and we suddenly had a rhythm section that rocked.

Frankly, for every wannabee on a tub I've seen ten people with very expensive "real" instruments who couldn't play their way out of a paper bag (shoot, sometimes I've been that person LOL). I'd rather play with someone who has a tub, talent, and mojo than with somebody who has $5k worth of equipment and no talent! Music is kind of the great leveler - you can't buy talent or skill. That dude on table spoons brought more to the music that day than some people I've known could bring with a full kit.

John

Ukulele JJ
12-31-2011, 06:18 AM
Yeah, I agree that the guy's real "jam violation" was barging into a situation where there already was a bass. That's the crux of the problem.

So what if he was playing a washtub bass? And so what if he was playing it poorly? I can deal with that in a jam, no problem. Jams should be welcoming to people at all levels, as long as they're considerate and approach things with a bit of humility and taste.

Sounds like this guy didn't do any of that, and therein lies the fail. I wouldn't be so quick to blame the instrument. What matters is the music that comes out of an instrument and the enjoyment that it brings to the world. Not whether it's a "real bass" or a "real" anything. I'd think that we ukulele players would be a bit more sensitive to dismissing instruments outright, seeing as how often it's done to us.

(And I don't think that it even takes a virtuoso to "legitimize" an instrument. I'd still think the uke was worthwhile, even if the Jakes and Smecks and John Kings of the world didn't exist.)

JJ

ichadwick
01-01-2012, 05:58 AM
Could have been worse. Might have been a bagpipe player.

cb56
01-01-2012, 08:43 AM
Could have been worse. Might have been a bagpipe player.
made me laugh! thanks.
I've heard some upright players that play the same way though. Couldn't play root / 5th if you put a gun to their head. Not because they were fancy jazz players or something. They just didn't have a clue.
I remember A few years back my Dad and I were comparing notes on our previous night's gigs. He said "I played a gig last night with a bass player that didn't play one right note all night, not even by accident"!

OldePhart
01-01-2012, 09:48 AM
A few years back my Dad and I were comparing notes on our previous night's gigs. He said "I played a gig last night with a bass player that didn't play one right note all night, not even by accident"!

What's your dad's name, sounds like I might have played with him once... LOL

OldePhart
01-01-2012, 09:56 AM
Could have been worse. Might have been a bagpipe player.

ROFL. But, hey, what have you got against pipers (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EZWRXZsvxHM&feature=related)?

bassfiddlesteve
01-02-2012, 06:52 PM
I realize there are actual two issues addressed in my original post/rant. One was jam ettiquette. There were three bassists at this session and we took turns playing upright bass throughout the evening. Since we all play ukulele too we could swap roles and no one had to sit out. The washtub player simply set up and started thumping along without a word to anyone and took offense when someone asked her to pull back. I've been at many jam sessions ranging from jazz to bluegrass and it's common courtesy for bass players to take turns or agree to play together if that's even possible. Either way, you shouldn't just show up with another bass instrument and join in like you can with a ukulele.

The second issue is the musical qualities of the washtub, bass which I still maintain are lacking. Yes, it might sound a bit like an upright bass...one being played badly. Even the best washtub players produce approximate pitches most of the time which wounds up sounding like the "clueless" bass players cb65 mentioned. Ukuleles may be regarded with disdain by some, but we know they are real instruments that can create real music. Until I'm shown otherwise, I don't feel that description fits the washtub bass.

- Steve

Ukulele JJ
01-03-2012, 02:01 AM
Ukuleles may be regarded with disdain by some, but we know they are real instruments that can create real music. Until I'm shown otherwise, I don't feel that description fits the washtub bass.

Well, that gets into the rather esoteric question of "what is real music?"

A few weeks back I was in Phoenix, Arizona and wound up visiting the Musical Instrument Museum. If anyone gets the chance to go there, I highly recommend it, by the way.

Anyway, it's not a showcase for rare or famous instruments (although they did have one of Jake's ukes!) It's really more a collection of everyday instruments from around the world, from different cultures, across different periods of time. You come away with a strong sense of the basic, human connection we all have--and have always had--to music in all its forms.

Some of the instruments were exquisitely crafted, and some were basically made of junk: Animal bladders stretched over a frame with a stick poking out and a single gut string drawn taut along the length, played with an equally crude and simple bow. There were drums made out of hacked up logs and old barrels. Other random things made out of washboards, or tin cans, or animal bones.

Are these "real" instruments? Could any of these make "real" music? Maybe not by modern standards, to western ears. Maybe we'd consider it to be tuneless thumping and out-of-pitch twanging.

But they sure as heck made perfectly legitimate music and were considered perfectly legitimate instruments in the culture from which they came. People sang, danced, cried, and laughed to these instruments and the music they made... and in some cases, in some places, people still do.

That's real enough for me.

JJ

Dougf
01-03-2012, 04:35 AM
Ukuleles may be regarded with disdain by some, but we know they are real instruments that can create real music. Until I'm shown otherwise, I don't feel that description fits the washtub bass.

- Steve

My previous post about "Friends of Old Puppy" apparently hasn't convinced you, but check this one out. I'm not a bassist, but it sounds pretty good to me.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OYteeiF2wek

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OYteeiF2wek

bassfiddlesteve
01-03-2012, 05:31 AM
My previous post about "Friends of Old Puppy" apparently hasn't convinced you, but check this one out. I'm not a bassist, but it sounds pretty good to me.

That's a nice performance with some good musicianship. The washtub bass does give the impression of a bass line being played on an upright bass, but most of the notes are outside of the chord progression and key center. Listen to the actually notes the bass is producing. Occasionally it seems to be in the same key as the rest of the musicians, but imagine how much better this would sound with a solid bass part with discernable pitches that supported the harmony with chord tones and connecting scale passages. The washtub bass is quiet enough so that the off notes don't intrude and spoil the performance, but I think this group would benefit immensely from the addition of real bass instrument of some kind like an upright or U-bass. At least that’s my opinion.

- Steve

SailingUke
01-03-2012, 06:07 AM
To me the real issue is joining in where there is a bass player.
More than one bass in a jam in most cases is a no-no.
Maybe if the bass players know each other and practice together it may work.
I have played in many a jam with a washtub player. Most of the time as long as they are close in pitch it is ok.
What is really bad is when they have no timing. I have also heard some where the sound is over powering.
Most of the time the bass frequency is so low it will blend in and add some nice bottom to a ukuleles.
Bass adds a lot to ukulele jams, otherwise it can be like a choir with all soprano voices.

bassfiddlesteve
01-03-2012, 08:25 AM
I have played in many a jam with a washtub player. Most of the time as long as they are close in pitch it is ok.

That's just it. "Close in pitch" is the best you can hope for.


What is really bad is when they have no timing.

I actually saw a video of a ukulele group with a washtub player who was plucking the string on beats 2 and 4. It was sort of an unintentional reggae groove.:rolleyes:

- Steve

OldePhart
01-03-2012, 08:43 AM
I actually saw a video of a ukulele group with a washtub player who was plucking the string on beats 2 and 4. It was sort of an unintentional reggae groove.:rolleyes:

- Steve
How do you know it was unintentional? ;)

Dougf
01-14-2012, 05:14 AM
One thing about the gutbucket is that it is really good for bending notes. And hitting the exact note is often NOT what you want to do in a song -- jazz and blues singers often slide up to a note, and sometimes intentionally leave it just a shade flat. And consider vibrato, a much richer sound than hitting the exact note.

In my book, the washtub bass is a legit musical instrument, perhaps just waiting for a virtuoso to confer that legitimacy.

MadMatt
01-26-2012, 08:43 PM
I believe Spinal Tap used 3 basses on Big Bottoms. No problem there.

I recall seeing a live video of them at a festival somewhere where they had at least 30 bassist on the stage playing that song. I found it pretty awesome! :drool:

Wicked
01-27-2012, 08:22 AM
I always view the washtub as a percussion instrument, whether they are plunking a big string or smacking it with a shoe. Once you take that frame of reference, they are easier to accept in the ensemble.

PhilUSAFRet
03-08-2012, 03:15 PM
I was at that jam session and observed the whole thing. All of the musicians playing were either professional or professional quality musicians. A few people took out their ukes, but when they listened for a few minutes, they determined that this jam session was too advanced, and put their uke away. About 15 or 20 of us just listened for a while, enjoying the great music when the "attendee" showed up with her washtub bass and unhesitatingly started to try and play along. It was clear she was having a great time and was oblivious to her "boundry violation." She just wanted to have fun and as far as she was concerned, the Jams at the festival were for everyone to join in. It was unfortunate that her feelings got hurt, but no one was actually "mean" to her. As Steve said, she went off to another jam session and proceeded to have a great time. It's good to remember that there are players at all levels at Uke Festivals, and that sometime folks want to "Jam" with a more advanced player (many of us see that as a great way to learn), but, yes, finally my point......The Aloha Spirit Must Prevail" Just My Opinion!

floydsuke
03-08-2012, 04:40 PM
Hey Steve, I am an upright bass player ,now uker. I have uploaded 2 tunes using my upright and hope to do more. check out my channel, If you get a chance, check out my channel! - FLOYD A.

Nickie
03-08-2012, 05:24 PM
Well, time for me to season and eat my words. I didn't BRING a kazoo to a jam session, but a gal at our table did, a whole bag of them, and passed them out to each of us at her table. We got pretty silly, but nobody complained. Don't think I'd make a habit of it, though. The darn thing is still in my case...
A jam session is about having fun, I think, but there is such a thing as etiquette, too. Try not to mess up somone else's good time.

tommyrot
09-16-2013, 03:47 AM
Feel the need to weigh in on this one.
Here's some evidence that - in the right hands (which admittedly could be a rare thing!) - a washtub bass is more than a "random pitch generator"

Wack on some headphones and listen to the bass solo from 1:36 - very tastefully done with lots of musicality I'm sure you'll agree?
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gR1WIfnpbVU

By the way - digging the barnkickers!

PhilUSAFRet
09-16-2013, 07:26 AM
Maybe not the best example.

bassfiddlesteve
09-16-2013, 09:50 AM
Feel the need to weigh in on this one.
Here's some evidence that - in the right hands (which admittedly could be a rare thing!) - a washtub bass is more than a "random pitch generator"

Wack on some headphones and listen to the bass solo from 1:36 - very tastefully done with lots of musicality I'm sure you'll agree?
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gR1WIfnpbVU

By the way - digging the barnkickers!

Thanks for the compliment about The Barnkickers (http://www.amandalynnsings.com/index.html).

I listened to that video clip, and while he does do a decent job of playing the melody during his solo, most of the pitches he plays during the accompaniment are approximate, and accompaniment is a bass players #1 job. If you were to listen to that and imagine a double bassist playing those same "notes", you would think that the they didn't know what they were doing. To say that a washtub bass player is doing a god job because they come close to hitting the actual pitches 50% or even 75% of the time is just lowering musical standards for novelty's sake in my opinion. The uke has it's share of novelty value in some people's eyes, but I see it as a legitimate musical instrument and there are plenty of great players out there proving it.

- Steve

strumsilly
02-25-2014, 07:35 AM
I am coming to dislike washtub "basses" . just saying

tattoobabaloo
02-25-2014, 07:54 AM
That dude on table spoons brought more to the music that day than some people I've known could bring with a full kit.

John[/QUOTE]


That's such a good line.

CeeJay
02-25-2014, 12:13 PM
ROFL. But, hey, what have you got against pipers (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EZWRXZsvxHM&feature=related)?


Nothing at all ....provided they are Maris Pipers.....

they can , boil ,mash ,roast and make great chips........oh sorry ...fries ........

Nickie
03-24-2014, 01:15 PM
Steve, no respectable Bluegrass band would use anyhting but a real stand-up (double) bass....