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June 2017 Giveaway

Tea Chest Bass

The British first cousin to the washtub bass, and an ancestor of the African earth bow, the tea chest bass is used to provide the low register in skiffle music. The bass is made from a pole, usually a broomstick, placed alongside (or into) a resonator, which is the aforementioned tea chest; a wooden chest with that was once used to deliver tea. In the US, where tea chests have not been common for centuries, an overturned washtub is used as a resonator. To construct the tea chest or washtub bass, one end of a cord is attached to the center of the tea chest (or washtub) while the other end is attached to the broomstick. The free end of the broomstick is braced against the lip of the chest/tub so the string is taut. Plucking or slapping the string produces musical tones. (One might argue that this may have been the inspiration for Larry Graham’s ubiquitous slapping technique that is so common in modern funk bass.) Changing pressure against the stick will vary the tension of the cord, which causes changes in pitch. Apart from its role in skiffle music, the American washtub version had found its way into the LA/Orange County folk-rock scene of the ’60s via Jimmie Fadden of Nitty Gritty Dirt Band fame. A band, incidentally, that in its earliest incarnation counted future Rock and Roll Hall of Famer Jackson Browne among its ranks.

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