Do-it yourself bells and more for your musical washboard.
When I first started to play the washboard there wasn’t much information to be found on the web about how to add extra sounds to a washboard. Since I don’t live in an area full of renown washboard players to try and learn from, but am not to shabby at doing stuff myself, I decided to make a page explaining how I had put a cymbal or bell on my board. It (Jazz Up Your Washboard) used to be posted on a different website but for reasons too long to get into I closed my account over there and moved the page here (to this blog).
However I should warn you that there are as many ways do do this as there are washboard musicians, which is pretty unique in the instrument world. And also that although I first imagined myself with a washboard covered with all kinds of cool stuff, as I learned to play and found my own style I realized that I actually prefer not having that many extra sounds to use.
But still, I truly love washboards. What other instrument encourages you to modify it however you want? And this page may hopefully still help encourage folks to give washboard playing a try. So don’t hesitate to experiment. It’s your instrument, fine tune it to suit your needs!
It also would be cool to hear whatever tips and advice you care to share so don’t hesitate to comment.
Washboards aren’t all made out of the same metal or material, zinc, brass and stainless steel are often used and even glass, and of course they don’t all sound the same.
You can also get different sounds from your washboard by using different materials to tap and scratch it. A wooden spoon will not sound like a wisp, and even thimbles made from different metals sound well… different. But washboards made of different metals also have very distinctive sounds:
On the first Zinc King #703 I bought, I added a bell, cymbal, bathtub drain plate bell and a small home-made woodblock. These are small washboards and since they are old have been used to wash clothes the wood can be very dry and brittle and then is very easy to crack and split!
This is true for most old washboards (and many new ones made in soft pine) so think twice about your do-it yourself skills before attempting anything. And if you do decide to add something, be extremely delicate: for instance drill small holes first and enlarge them bit by bit.
These are great washboards! The one that have a spiral crimp profile have a very smooth surface to tap and scratch and a distinctively sharp sound.
BTW: Beware that it seems there are Chinese made washboards that are also named “Authentic Musical Washboard “. I have read that they are made of an inferior wood and have the words “ Authentic Musical Washboard “ printed in brown ink on both sides instead of having the Columbus Washboard brand name, phone and email printed on the back.
It’s not hard to put stuff on your washboard, especially if you have a few power tools lying around. Just remember to use all the necessary protection!
Here’s a bell attached with a wing nut that I was able to fit in the space between the bell and its “handle”, but you could very well have the wing nut on the opposite side. Two lock washers help preventing the bell from turning too much.
If you have a bell from a drumset, you will be able to use …
A good way to bolt something on to a piece of wood is use a 4 prong T-nut. They have little spikes that prevent them from rotating when you screw in the bolt but watch out that you don’t split the wood while hammering them in. If necessary drill 4 tiny holes (smaller than the spike’s width) where the spikes will go.
A little glue to hold them in place is not a bad idea.
You need to drill a hole so figure out the best place to put it first..
I first drilled a hole that corresponds to the size of the bolt. Since this Bulb horn came with a accommodating “handlebar clamp”, all I needed to do was find a bolt that was long enough to go all the way through and leave enough room to tighten with a wing nut.
So: The bolt goes through the “handlebar clamp”, then I put a spring lock washer since it will help prevent the horn from moving too much, these are tightened with a nut to hold the horn correctly, then I put a thick spacer washer to put space between the horn and my washboard. And don’t forget to add a washer before screwing on the wing nut.
Washers against the wood will help reduce the risk of cracking it!
There don’t seem to be that many bulb horns on the market so if you want one you either need to search garage sales and antique shops or make life easy and order one from somewhere on the web (See Bone Dry Musical Instrument Co for instance). Back when I got mine, it took some searching to find them in Europe. Hint: In France, Germany and Switzerland they can be found on websites specialized in items for dogs.
Magnets don’t stick to my old Swiss or Zinc King washboards but they do on the stainless steel one bought from the Columbus Wasbboard Company!
I think that it would be fun to have a variety of stuff that could quickly be stuck on for a song or two and since it’s “back side” is open, these could be easily stored there (if you see what I mean).
My plan here was to make a woodblock with a rimmed profile but I couldn’t find the a piece of wood that had a good shape for what I had in mind, I did have a chunk of Plexiglas however and figured it would have to do.
A word of caution: If you don’t know what you are doing: Be very, very careful! Plexiglas gets everywhere when you cut, sand and grind it and can be sharp. Eye protection is a must and not just your normal glasses, you really need something that protects your eyes from all sides as well as heavy clothes and gloves. Your tools should have all the adequate protection guards too! And BTW: Plexiglas will melts if overheated.
This is really just an example of how magnets can be useful, I could have just as well been made it out of wood. But Plexiglass does make good looking pictures! ;-)
As you can see, I grinded out a bridge shape to get a sharper sound. Filed the ribs, and drilled holes in which I epoxy glued three strong (Pull force 15 lbs) rare earth magnets. I added a layer of foam to reduce vibrations which also somewhat reduces the strength of the magnets, making it easier to remove.
The downside of this idea is that if you use steel thimbles, brushes, spoons or a wisp to play they will stick to the magnets too; funny but not very convenient. But it can be useful if you play with nylon brushes or other none magnetic materials.
This shop is specialized in Rhythm Bones but Scott is also constantly scouring the planet for Zinc King Lingerie Washboards, #703 as well as a few other kinds of National scrubbords. Unfortunately these are getting expensive as the get harder to find but depending on your playing style it might be worth it.
They also carry a great selection of fantastic looking bulb horns, cowbells and vintage tin cups from the turn-of-the-century not to mention a growing selection of thimbles made out of different metals, horn and even wood. So you may want to check out their Musical Washboards & Accessories section.
Ps: I not affiliated with this shop but Scott is a friend, plus I’ve ordered stuff from him and know he offers the best possible service.
If you know a drummer you may be in luck because they often have old equipment lying around. Otherwise small cymbals are easily found at music stores or ebay. Unfortunately, however, they often cost more than washboards.
There are certainly many ways and places to attach one. Just keep in mind to make sure it doesn’t get in your way. A traditional spot is to place it on the top left (or right) corner of the board, but it goes just as well on the bottom or stuck out in front; there are many cymbal holders in your favorite store’s drum hardware section that could be rigged up to have your cymbal horizontally out in front.
The easiest way to attach a cymbal is with a Mini Cymbal Stacker like the one in the picture. They come in both 4” and 6” height and are made to screw onto existing 8mm cymbal tilters. (6” model provides approximately 4” clearance between cymbals while the 4” model provides approximately 2” clearance.) I often use a 6” one but have never tried the 4”.
Beware that you will need a metric 8mm bolt sticking out of your washboard at the place you would like it to be attached.
If you want to do it your self, keep in mind that for a cymbal to sound good, it needs to be held between two peaces of thick felt. I once used the felt of of some old chair leg felt glides which worked fine. Sliced them off and put a hole through them big enough for your bolt.
I put a washer (not quite as wide as the felt), a piece of felt, the cymbal, a second piece of felt, another washer. It shouldn’t be too tight. I then used a hex coupling nut to screw it on to the nut I had coming out of the washboard. It had a tendency to become unscrewed, so perhaps a better way would be to use a 10” – 12” bolt, a 4 Prong T-Nut on the board and lock nuts on either side of that.
BTW: You can attach the cymbal “upside down” to gain a little space if needed, and also hit it from underneath by flipping your hand up!
Bathtub drain plates have different shapes, sizes and sounds. Put chimes on your washboard with a few well chosen ones! The upper overflow drain plate of old bathtubs can make a very clear sounding bell.
All you need is a hex bolt that fits through the drain plate and that is long enough to be attached to the board as well as give the bell the desired height, two metal washers, two rubber washers and two lock nuts that fit the bolt.
Put a metal washer, a rubber (or felt) washer, the drain plate, a second rubber (or felt) washer and a metal washer on the bolt. Tighten them with a lock nut, just enough to prevent rattling but not too much or you will lose ring quality.
If your washboard is made with pine, you may want to use a 4 Prong T-Nut or a wingnut to attach it. Since mine is made of hard beech wood I just drilled a hole (slightly smaller than the bolt) and screwed it directly into the wood (on the side of the left washboard foot). The second lock nut is to adjust how high the bell is by preventing the bolt from screwing in too far.
“I recently bought a zinc king and was wondering what the best way to add a strap is? It seems that the wood is quite delicate I don’t want to crack it.”
First of all like everything else on this lens, this is a suggestion on my part and not necessarily the best way for you. I don’t like hanging things around my neck but if you are just using a small washboard, two eye screws and some thick or braided string attached to the top of the board may be all you need. The other extreme would be something like backpack shoulder straps that would hold a heavy and very jazzed up board in front of you. When I first started I had a couple of guitar straps and decided to use one of them. They work fine but do make the board hang slightly askew (I now prefer putting the left bolt were the top arrow is on the left side).
There are a variety guitar strap attachments you could use but if you’re looking for cheaper solution you can just use a Flat Head Carriage Bolt. Either way cracking is an issue, so you need to be very careful! Especially on a small washboard like the Zinc King.
For the maximum strength I think it’s best to put the bolt into one of the crossbars, on the top or above or below the metal which BTW you need to avoid hitting when drilling the hole.
First use a small drill bit, then one exactly the same size of your bolt (if you are doing this to a new washboard you can make a hole that is slightly smaller and screw the bolt in but in an old dry one chances are that it can crack it). You really need to be very careful, the first time I tried the bit hit the metal and made a big hole. My solution was to mix the dust/small chips of the drilled wood with some white glue, then place the bolt where I wanted it and fill in around it with the glue wood dust mixure (let it dry overnight). In any case you should put some glue in the hole, and then the bolt, so it holds in strong.
BTW: I wouldn’t recommend anyone buying a bell like the one that happens to be attach to the washboard in the picture. Either use a can or spend more for one that isn’t dependent on having a clapper. When hit with a thimble this one just clanks.
- The Columbus Washboard Company Manufacturer, Supplier, Wholesaler of Musical Instruments and Non-Electric Scrubbing Boards and Washing Machines made in the Hocking Hills. A manufacturer of tradition non-electric clothes washboards used as a percussive instrument for jazz, rhythm and blues performances.
- Show me your Washboard tambourine21’s YouTube playlist of 20 short videos more or less showing 19 washboards from the Jug Band Fest 2007 in I’m guessing, Tokyo. Some great jazzed up boards to be inspired from!
- Woogie Board The Memphis Tennessee manufacturer of Woogie Boards – the Electric Washboard. “Cody Dickinson has had a washboard around his neck and thimbles on his fingers for as long as anyone can remember.. It is the unique sounds that Cody discovered when combining the traditional North Mississippi blues sounds of the washboard with electricity and guitar effect pedals that are the origins of the Woogie Board…
- Traginer Wasboards The Electric Washboard is the product of years of dreaming, planning and testing; this is the reason the Traginer team makes each instrument in their workshop completely handcrafted with special dedication, precision and care…
(Feb: 2016) I’ve moved this page to the article section where it belongs. Sorry for the inconvenience!. I still need to update a bunch of stuff and add some new pictures.
First is a Columbus stainless steel washboard with bells, horns and a woodblock. It has a traditional spiral crimp profile which means that the metal is shaped with a series of horizontal round ribs going across it and each rib as a spiral like pattern on it. I like this board and its profile which has a smooth feeling that is accentuated by the stainless steel. It is very loud and has a plexiglas “woodblock” that I made and stuck on it with magnets.
Next is a similar Columbus washboard but made with zinc, a none rusting metal, and possibly the most tradition metal used for making washboards. I didn’t like the sound of this board at first but recent playing made me realize that it was more my technique and also probably getting used to the resonance that this metal has. I think it’s even louder than the stainless steel, but with a delicate touch, that I am only beginning to master after 5 years of playing, these soapboards sound terrific!
This one is actually Dave’s and came from England, I stole it from him the other day to check it out since I don’t have a large size board with a regular “zig-zag” profile (if you see what I mean). Its ribs are slightly uneven, the top surface is shorter than the bottom so the down stroke is a tad more aggressive than the up stroke, which is nice.
I’m not into antiques and am not much of a collector and I hesitated in buying this old Columbus brass Maid Rite washboard because it seemed in too good a shape to be played on, which it is. It is cool actually and I do pick it up and occasionally play with brushes on it since it hangs out in my living room, but I’m not about to drill holes in it….
My son gave me this next one for my birthday, it’s an old Swiss washboard with a crossbow icon stamped into the metal on each side of the center decoration of two hands washing something. There are four stars too. I covered the soap shelf with a piece of wood in an attempt to get a better thunk from it which perhaps is the case. A different sound it makes but I’m not sure about better, very heavy duty. Most of the Swiss, and Austrian washboards I’ve seen are made from beech, I am not totally thrilled with their special profile but they are perfectly playable.
One of my two National Zinc King 703’s, I use this one pretty much every day for practice. The zinc rubbed through pretty quickly when I first started using it, all the “up” rib edges became open cracks, so I took it apart, covered the “front” of it with the Grey epoxy glue for metal and mounted it “backwards”. So far this has kept it in perfect working condition and whats more gave it a thunkier sound which I like a lot.
This is a National Brass Washboard 801 on which I stuck a few thing. I have it so that my small 8 inch cymbal and my bells, woodblocks, horns, etc… can be moved with more or less ease from one board to another so the ones I use have holes for that. Its one of the two washboards I use on stage and it sounds really good when played with nylon brushes. I have it so my second National Zinc King 703 snaps on to it with a magnet. This way I have two very different sounds to use. The Zinc King is a small “lingerie” sized board and has a much tighter profile that isn’t as “rough” as the bigger washboards which I love! It’s not a loud either which is nice for smaller rooms. It has a desk bell which looks cool but is easy to hit when I get sloppy.
Here they are assemble together. You can see that I have just enough room to hit and rub the brass board with my right hand, it has a much thicker deeper sound that is useful for emphasis among other things.
Feb. 2010: Last fall I played in concert a few times with just the Columbus zinc washboard pictured above and nylon brushes, holding it right side up while sitting down. I couldn’t help but notice how nice it was to have the board’s metal surface 5 inches lower for the “brush work” so I decided to reassemble my two main boards in that way. It took some time to figure out how to position everything since I took advantage of the circumstances to test various possibilities. But habits are hard to break and in the long run most of my bells & whistles ended up as close to where they had been than possible.
At the moment this “double” board has a bell made from a bathtub drain plate described on my Jazz up your Washboard page, as well as a couple of horns that I don’t honk very often but like to hit on, a cheap drum cowbell that I sawed in half but still sounds so-so, a cymbal and a desk bell, which as since been removed.
March 2011: I now have a National Midget that I bought along with a third Zinc King since the first two have been rubbed through. I’ve explained elsewhere how I repaired them so they are both still in use, but I was curious as to the sound of the midget. Its tone is a lot darker than the Zinc King, the rubbing surface has some sort of coating that seems slightly abrasive but since mine is rusty that may be due to the rust. In any case I like it a lot and can imagine that in a bright room the darker sound could be quite useful.
I’ve also cut off (oh the shame of it) the legs of the two washboard I use the most, leaving a small stump, so that I can move more freely while at the drum set. Updated to add:That one has been stuck into a new frame and amplified. If you add to that a choice of shakers, home made and bought, a tambourine or two and now rhythm bones, that pretty much covers what I have around to make noise with and I can’t begin to say how great an activity percussion playing is…
This is a series of 20 short videos from YouTube user tambourine21 that more or less show 19 washboards from the Jug Band Fes(T?) 2007 in, I guess, Tokyo Japan (You can move from one to another with the right – left scrolling arrows). “I guess” because the info is in Japanese, a language I unfortunately do not read or speak, “more or less” because not all the videos really show the player’s washboard and 19 because one of them is a spoon player.
Hardly anyone actually plays their board but as you can see watching these videos, they were mostly taken by surprise with the demand that they “show their washboard”. That said, I really enjoyed watching this series! It’s a cultural trip in many ways: the washboards are really cool, some jazzed up with many bells, horns and whistles, lots of great ideas! And the videos where taken in a variety of locations, a true “behind the Japanese jug band fest” washboard documentary.
Many thanks to tambourine21 for posting these! It would be great if someone made a similar documentation of the washboards found at one of the US washboard festival… hint, hint… ;-)
I had been thinking about cutting down the Columbus zinc washboard I use when playing electric blues with Swamp Train because it’s a fact that these days I mostly playing sitting at the drum set. And the old National 801 brass board I use for playing with friend Dave’s acoustic blues is slightly shorter than the Columbus and the more I switch between them, the more I notice how nice it is to have that little bit of extra space above the thighs, freeing up my legs for drumming. But I wasn’t quite sure how I wanted to go about it, keep the wood logo plank for knocking or not, bell and whistles maybe, until last Sunday that is… You can see how I was directly inspired by Washboard Jackson’s washboard seen in the Trainreck video posted 3 days ago!
BTW: It has aluminum tape on the sides to prevent splinters, plus that gives it more shine!
Not much info about these guy besides that it’s a Grateful Dead tune… And that there is absolutely great washboard playing by Paul Wolf!
I’m off this weekend to visit some family and take advantage of the Bluegrass festival that takes place each year in the town where they live… (http://web.mac.com/christopherhw/LRBGF/Welcome.html). We went last year and I was browsing through a selection of old lp’s at the market and asked if they had any bluegrass bands with washboard players. “Washboard, bluegrass? Y’a pas de washboard dans le bluegrass.” (It’s in France so it was French: “no washboard playing in bluegrass”) Sure wish I had this video underhand to show him! :P
As I’ve probably already written here, I’m finally comfortable with my washboard playing enough to begin working on my nonexistent drum technique. Plus having a snare drum these last two months has also put more pressure on getting some decent bass drum action. So it’s been practice, practice and practice some more which may have been okay if I hadn’t overdone it; but I did; Thursday an unexpected pain in the knee added a high octane dose of anxiety to my stage fright. Still there is never much choice, if you can get out of bed than there it is…
The sound check went well, although as usual amplification changed our great [ ;-) ] acoustic sound into something different, and so off Dave and I went to find something edible; did you say pizza?
The concert was recorded through the table so hopefully we’ll receive a recording one day and I’ll be able to post a tune or two especially since we forgot to turn on the video camera during the whole first set… A real disappointment since most of my rhythm bone playing was done then and I did want to have a new bone video or two to post. Otherwise it went well, and late too since we played from 10pm to nearly 3am with just a couple of breaks. I admit that by midnight I was avoiding hitting the Bass Drum with any power, which will probably sound terrible on the recording but at least brought its share of unexpected entertainment.
By then the crowd had metamorphose from folks that had come to hear us to those creatures who live the night with a desire to be banged on with pneumatic hammerings. Obviously I wasn’t delivering the goods, so it was fine with me when Dave encouraged a young lady to come replace me at the drums. Her rowdy boyfriends had been shouting her merits for some time… By then Dave had also invited a guitar playing friend of his onstage to jam with him, which they where, if fact with the help the whiskey deity a lot of ground was being covered… This all changed as the young lass proceeded to beat the shit hell out of my little set! :-)
She really got them running back to form a straight line; fortunately for them it was hard to hear anything above the drums. Two – three songs later Dave asked me to come back but I must say I was enjoying the scene too much to really want to. Luckily another drummer stepped up to proposed his services. “Be my guest!”
I did join them for the last song or two though. Lot of fun really!
Three/four years ago while first looking for washboard players on the web I stumbled on the website of Jimmy Sweetwater which is filled with good music and pictures of cool washboards, and it was one of those that I thought I recognized while browsing through a few recently uploaded washboard videos last Sunday.
Sure enough it was the same board, and in good company too! Hope the next time I make it to San Francisco I’ll be lucky enough to catch an evening with The Mission Three.
A friend recently brought back and gave me this African washboard from a trip to Sierra Leone. As you can see it’s a wooden board with the shape and profile sawed out. It is so rough that I can’t imagine washing cloths with it but perhaps they sand it down before using it or maybe it’s first used for heavy duty stuff and then as the wood gets smother, finer garments. Perhaps. Need I say the obvious: how it blatantly illustrates the gap between the rich and the poor… and what do you do with that? Even a short glance at the history of this small republic reported on the wikipedia page about Sierra Leone reveals its drama; slavery, corruption, civil war, diamonds and poverty.
So perhaps the fact that this washboard could rip your skin open if you attempt to play it, which I did, and are unfortunate enough to rub in the wrong places, which I haven’t yet, is part of a whole of some sort and maybe in the coming years mankind will learn to be less greedy and our global wealth will be more evenly spread among its citizens…
2010 is just around the corner after all, have to keep the spirits positive!
BTW: It has some awesome sounds, straight from the (romanticized idea us northern hemisphere folks have of it) jungle!
Concert wise, things are beginning to move. It seems that Dave was playing pretty much every week in New Zealand and is finding our empty schedule a tad overbearing so we have been surprisingly active in looking for venues.
Unfortunately Denis is not available next Friday so we renamed the band for the occasion, a concept that has it’s pros and cons….
In the mean time we might just end up like last night, Dave invited me to join him at the ABC, a cafe near my place, with my washboard. He had his guitar of course and we played a few songs which went well, even though it’s hard to play the washboard silently (I had some nylon drum brushes which helped). However for once Dave seemed worried to overdo our welcome so we took a break, too quickly in my view; it always takes me a few songs to warm up.
Some guy came over to ask about my washboard, turns out he was into old time Appalachian dulcimer music had once ordered a Columbus washboard and found it so loud as to be impossible to play so we chatted, as you would, exchanging thoughts and favorite bands and such, turns out there’s a Blues Festival in France not that far from here that’s already at it’s 19th edition. (update: actually it’s farther than I thought, down past Geneva, not surprising I didn’t know about it)
Anyway, we played a few more songs after that before calling it a night. These didn’t go too well for me, too much beer? Having a hard time finding a groove I liked, sometimes it would be nice to have a “switch channel” dial on the forehead…
I could say that since I’m stuck in front of the screen instead of traveling the world this summer I’ve decided to go on a wild world web washboard trip. However it was only after stumbling on this fun band from Fukuoka, Japan that this idea came to be.
Ladies and gents: The Choinure Boys, for your pleasure!
a washboard video a day will keep the blues away… or something like that ;-)
Dave, his son and myself went to play some Blues in the streets of Bern yesterday morning. It was the first time I’ve ever busked and because the news has recently been filled with articles about the growing amount of beggars in swiss cities, the fact that many pretended to be street musicians and what the authorities where doing about it, I was a bit worried. Especially since I felt that Dave wasn’t about to be bothered by any official regulations. Not that there is really any risk here, a fine perhaps, but I guess my tendency is play by the rules which means knowing them, which I didn’t.
In any case besides being told that we weren’t allowed to play where we were first placed ourselves, which made us move across the street, nothing eventful happened so my worries were as useless as worries usually are. We lucked out with the weather too since it was warm and sunny which it mostly hasn’t been lately.
Dave is a good musician and has a charisma that quickly gathered a small crowed so all anxieties quickly became rhythmical and focused on making my washboard hopefully sound like it belonged there. It mostly went well and was a nice experience, all the more since lately playing has often been frustrating by the difficulty in acquiring the skills I can now feel but can not really do. I used Dave’s washboard which I enjoy more and more each day, no bells, woodblocks, cymbals or anything. It really seems to help at the moment to removing all of the choices that come with each element that you add on.
We played last night for the private party of an aerodrome club in nearby France. It was fun even if I still drag along a feeling of not playing well enough for the rest of the band. Uselessly stressful and probably somewhat the cause of my not playing as well as I can in a relaxed setting. Something to work on in any case.
Since I would like to do some street playing with Dave, I have been practicing a lot with just my washboard – no bass drum or hi-hat. It’s nice and in a way more satisfying, however it makes a difference in the way a song is played and last night I found myself confused at times: my brain going for both the newly practiced and the “bass drum, hi-hat” way of playing; often in contradiction with each other. Fortunately towards the end of the evening I loosened up and just played with a small English made washboard of Dave’s, that is completely devoid of bells and whistles. I really like this washboard, it is double sided and has both a heavy duty (2 ribs/inch) and a delicate wash profile (3 ribs/inch) which is a true pleasure to play. I suspect I will be using it a lot in the near future just by itself.
Another factor that made it an exciting evening was my having spent some time gluing elastic bands to my thimbles so they wouldn’t slip off anymore. I found this tip on the web and have explained it how to do it on my washboard lens. Last night was the first time using them and it’s amazing how much it helps playing!
What I'd give to be able to go to the Washboard Music Festival in Logan Ohio next weekend! Now that looks like a place to go to meet washboard musicians and have a good time.
Speaking of that, I believe yesterdays little concert for my folks was well appreciated. And I really am beginning to feel more confident and relaxed, although there is still a lot to get better at. And we really lucked out with the only sunny day all week.
Picture added June 16th: Bill, me and Dave at The Refuge
When we passed into France yesterday, the customs officer looked into the car and could see that it was filled with bizarre stuff like cymbals, drums and guitars. Anything to declare? Dave says: “No, not at all, we’re going to play a concert at the bistrot in Crouzet-Migette this evening”. “You know where Crouzet-Migette is?” he asked surprised and it’s a fact that it is absolutely nowhere. “…I live near there”. “Yes of course I do, I’ve played there quite a few times” say Dave with his accent from England which perhaps explained the surprise. “So… what type of music do you play? Folklore music?” Whatever that is… “No sir, we play the Blues!”
And so we did, 3 hours of it as a matter of fact!
I just wish we get other audiences as good-natured as that one. The place was full, mostly with folks who had reserved for the concert, and if the trout we had earlier that evening is a good example of the menu than they where well fed and inclined to be agreeable. I’m sure it helps!
When inspired, Dave’s skills in emotional communication can largely overcome any lacking he may have as a guitar technician, and last night he was. We also had a good friend of his, Denis, on bass guitar so I had a lot of support for the lower end percussion spectrum. Plus an unexpected “surprise guest”, a friend of a friend from the audience on harmonica for the second set… And I’m pretty sure that almost no one here really knows what a washboard can sound like in the hands of a good musician so… More than fun!
Wish I had a picture to post, next time I’ll try and get someone to take one.
Update March 31st 2008: Little did we know that this setup would become the Crawfish Blues Band!
You know the word Pimp, now being used for just about anything, well yes it's cool and all that, sure.., right. And it is interesting to follow how words have their meanings change over the years and all that.
The way we perceive the world has a lot to do with the way we project ourselves on it. So when we start using words to mean their antonym, or, as in the case of pimp, to describe a value that is a colorful take on a concept, we change the way we understand that word and our perception of it and what it represents is modified. For good or bad? Depends, the issue is more in ones being aware of that process and to act in accordance with your ethics.
The way pimp is used to describe something that is decorated or embellished, is actually pretty funny. But since it’s apparently based on Hollywood’s characterized extravagant young man in furs, it has nothing to do with the sex slavery we can find in most cities nowadays. Do we really want to buy into that image?
I’ve decided to prefer the word Primp, not quite as cool but funny in its own way, and as promised in yesterdays post have put some pictures of my magnetized, primped up board.
Don’t hesitate to comment if you have another suggestion, or think primp has issues.
Regular readers know that for the last year and a half I have been teaching myself how to play the washboard. Although I have a good enough sense of rhythm, learning the basics and keeping it steady yet flowing have become the daily challenge, all the more since playing in public with Messing Around, an Organic Blues Band is slowly becoming a regular thing. That said, I have been having tremendous fun with this both because rhythms are addictive, and because I am free to jazz up my board however I want.
Last week I put a series of magnet underneath the metal at strategic spots so that I can just pop a small bell or other piece of trash on to it. That way it can be quickly modified to sound different for a specific song. I wanted to put a picture but as things would have it, my camera battery ran out as I turned it on and it need to be recharged. I’ll add them tomorrow.
This last week I’ve been working on J.B. Lenoir’s “Down in Mississippi”. His 1965 recording with Freddie Below and Willie Dixon is really fabulous, IMHO better then any more recent renderings of this great song. In fact the whole of the Alabama Blues album is a masterpiece.
(Update March 31st 2008) Funny to read this since it took until this month, a year later, to actually get “our” version of Down in Mississippi ready.
About two years ago my life was considerably changed by sheer chance: I was asked to replace the rhythm guitarist in a blues trio for a gig in a local bar. Having not touched my guitar in more years than I care to say and with only had two weeks to get ready it was a crazy idea. But my friends, bless them, were insistent and playing music with other people a life long dream so…
It was a disaster waiting to happen, and truly would of been if I hadn’t spotted an old washboard in a corner of the workshop where we rehearsed.
OK if I try this? I asked… “Sure”.
I really don’t have exceptional rhythmic skills, but at that moment they seemed better than my guitar playing. And anyway my friends weren’t paying much attention to what I was doing, seems it was all just to have fun at my expense!
That dreaded evening they started playing the first song twice as fast as planned, there was simply no way I could follow. Pride does have it’s importance however so instead of melting with embarrassment, I put my guitar down as calmly as my shaking hands were able to, picked up the washboard and put a few thimbles on my fingers.
As I hit the washboard, the thimbles flew off my fingers and on to the floor. Little did I realize that I was already on the road to washboard playing. Who else makes the crowd laugh with delight?
After replacing the thimbles with more care however, I was able to mostly keep them on my fingers and make a lot of noise throughout the evening. The concert was actually a success but most important was that I was hooked!
Last night I joined my good friend and fantastic blues player Dave for a short concert at an outdoor picnic organized by a local institution for the handicapped. For me it was only the third time that I have face a public with my washboard so I was considerably stressed. And although I wish I could say otherwise, I don’t think I did a very good job of it. After clapping for the first few songs, the crowd seemed more interested in their own discussions and food.
I have been playing for a year now and am far from good, to say the least, but it is so much fun to be playing music with other people – instead of the usual solitary confinement of my studio – that I am willing brave all embarrassments.
When I first started it seemed easier, for me that is since I don’t know how anyone else put up with my racket. But now, that I’ve done my best to learn about basic rhythms and stuff it is a lot of work since I can hear how I mess them up, turn ‘em around or simply get lost.
I mention this because I wanted to post a picture of my washboard today, instead of the usual t-shirt design.