At the risk of seeming immodest, I’d like to take a moment to plug my recent tome on how to play the washboard. It’s titled, appropriately enough, How to Play the Washboard, and I would like to think that it does a decent job of introducing the newbie to the world of washboarding.
Ten dollars (cheap!) on Amazon!
From the back cover: Continue reading
Robbert is the excellent harmonica player and multi-percussionist with George Cutter and Friends. Here he shares a pic and thoughts about his many and varied rigs:
Convocation of Instruments. Two are family size, one is pail size. They all follow a certain design that I eventually settled on, and all boards and accoutrements were acquired at thrift stores and yard sales. All accoutrements are screwed or bolted in place, often using brackets from old mechano sets and the like. A mix of antique and less antique components, depending on what the search yielded. I’ve used thimbles, brushes and even spoons as playing implements, depending on the situation. Thimbles are probably the all around best, for articulation and control. I prefer the cross strap to a neck strap even though the board can tilt a little. Of course, the primary playing surface is the board itself(think snare drum in a drum kit)with the various other elements acting as tom toms or mostly brass(ie: cymbals). I usually have two toy cymbals mounted together so they hit one another as a kind of manual hi hat, and then various other odds and ends that have pleasing tones. I try to put things on the board that sound good together and arrange them in a way that makes access easy and flowing. I generally try to find old squarish or oblong tea tins, and think of that as my bass drum, if I can find one with a deep enough tone. Even though washboard is not my main instrument, it is a very useful and valuable percussion component to one musical duo I perform in, and it always perks up an audience’s attention when it appears.
What we have here is the Behrens board used by Chunk, washboardiste of Gutter Puddle from up in Vancouver, BC. He describes his add-ons as follows:
I added 3 measuring cups all different sizes
The one mounted on the bottom makes a higher pitch splash sound
The one above the bell makes a deeper tone splash and the small one mounted on the side makes a high “pop” sound
My cowbell is also in the tone of g
Gutter Puddle is a really interesting trio with a washboard player, an accordionist, and a lead vocalist who also plays guitar, uke, and mandolin (and maybe more, for all I know).
Check out their version of “Saint James Infirmary” here. Highly recommended!
Everything but the kitchen sink (and that may be attached to a board we simply can’t see in this video)!
I guess this counts as washboard playing. Miranda Lambert, vocalist with Pistol Annies, is wearing a board during a performance of “Got My Name Changed Back.” Lambert is playing a pail-sized board à l’américaine with no add-ons. To be honest, I can’t tell a difference between when she’s playing it and when she’s not, but her hands are moving in what looks like an actual pattern.
Washboardiste Ian Foreman rocks it with some compadres in Rosarita, Mexico. Foreman plays the board à l’américaine, decked out with what looks like a bell and a can. The board fits in perfectly with this tune!
Foreman has posted videos of the process of attaching various add-ons to his board, including one where he bolts on the banana clip from a gun. (Of course, adding a clip is not going as all-out as adding an actual six-shooter to your board.)
Wow! This is the stuff! Brit Nicholas D. Ball, who runs the fascinating “Drums in the Twenties” site, lays it down in a trio called Horniblow’s Hot Three. In this video, they’re playing “Skoodlum Blues,” originally recorded by Jimmy O’Bryant’s Famous Original Washboard Band. Mr. Ball is playing a replica of Jasper Taylor’s wooden washboard, which he shows under construction here.
I could listen to these guys all day long.
Here’s another video of the supremely-skilled Deborah Tropez, whom we have previously featured in this space. As usual, she nails it down like a boss. I love her rig, which is a cross between à la française and à l’américaine.