Introduction: 2 String Paddle Bass

Picture of 2 String Paddle Bass

This bass is made from a wooden boat paddle, a piezo buzzer, weed eater strings and a few other odds and ends. For what it is and how little it costs (20-25 dollars with all new parts), the quality of sound is unbelievable. If you're thinking about taking up bass or already do and just want to have something different, this definitely would be worth making.

Here is a rough (aka bad) video to demonstrate how it sounds with no effects:

Also, here are some references and inspiration:

Step 1: Materials

Picture of Materials

42" paddle
machine heads
metal casing from hanging work light
1" piezo buzzer
1/4" jack
thick felt with adhesive back
two different gauge weed eater strings (I used .65 and .80 that I tuned to E and B)
various nails and screws
a pencil split down the middle

As far as the paddle goes, I used a SeaSense from Wal-Mart, but I'd suggest to try to get one from a sporting or camping store mainly because mine seems flimsier than others of the same brand but from another store.

Also, the machine heads can be either for a bass or guitar; a guitar machine head can hold a piece of .80 weed eater string with no problem.

Step 2: Drilling and Stringing

Picture of Drilling and Stringing

First things first, decide the scale length you want your bass to be (it probably shouldn't be under 30"). Next, measure that length from where the shaft starts tapering near the handle, because that is where the nut will be. An inch and a half behind the desired length, drill two small holes less than a half inch apart in the middle of the flat section of the paddle.

My scale is 32" but in the beginning I wanted 36". That didn't work for me because there were dead spots that won't make sounds for some reason. So I have holes drilled 5 inches behind were my piezo is, but it still works fine.

Now it's time to put in the machine heads. Find an appropriate size drill bit and start in the flat part of the handle. This isn't an exact science, just make sure the holes allow you to turn the key of the tuner and that both machine heads are pretty symmetrical looking. Once that's done, just screw them in.

Tie your strings into tight knots and send the untied end through the holes, over the split pencil/future nut and keep them loosely in place by only turning the machines once or twice.

Step 3: Finishing the Headstock

Picture of Finishing the Headstock

Trim down the pencil so it doesn't hang off the sides. If the strings are too close to the sides for you liking (which they probably will be) then put a screw into the handle on the outer sides of them. You may want to do this anyway because it seemed to work better for me than trying to cut slits into the pencil.

Step 4: Making the Piezo Pickup

Picture of Making the Piezo Pickup

you can either buy a piezo buzzer from somewhere like Radio Shack or take one from an small electric appliance, like an alarm clock. I bought a piezo and removed the black plastic cover so I could get to the good stuff.

Next, get that thick felt stuff (like the kind you put on the bottom of furniture) and cut two pieces to around 2" wide and 1" tall. Sandwich the piezo in the middle of the felt (metal side up) and place the front of the pickup at the end of the scale length and put two small nails on both sides to hold in place.

To check if it's working, just twist the wires around the connections on the jack (polarity doesn't matter) and if it's working and making sound, disconnect the piezo so you can put the cover on that holds the jack.

i have to give credit to the guy who made this:

Without this felt idea, this would be a screeching/popping mess. Trust me, I tried.

Step 5: Body Work

Picture of Body Work

The work light casting will cover the pick up and provide a simple place to put the jack. You can buy the metal part by itself for about 3 or 4 dollars. Use the pre-made hole closest to the pick up to drill large enough to place the jack. Flatten out the extended parts (check the picture) so the casting can cover the strings without touching them. Now, just use some random screws to hold it down, two in the flattened part and one on the top toward the back in another pre-made hole.

For a strap button on the body, I used a roofing nail (be careful- don't split the wood if you do this) I had a hundred of laying around. For the one on the neck, I put a big headed screw where it felt right for the bass to hang and not be too in the way.

Step 6: Finished and Other Ideas

Picture of Finished and Other Ideas

Now all you need to do is tune it up and plug it in!

But if you'd like to draw in some frets or even put some in (ambitious!) here's a good fret calculator.

If you can't stop at just frets, make a fret board. My bass still has a spot under the E string that won't make a decent sound (I think there may be a knot under it or something). A strip of 3/4" wide wood or metal glued on or flat screwed down seems good in theory, but I haven't tried anything yet.

Heck, why do you even need two strings? Just put one on!

If you're a fan of upright basses, I've been thinking that someone could rig a fix topped guitar stand to hold one of these- that would be interesting.

Also, you could drill the string holes at the top of the handle and the machine heads at the bottom for more of a headless look and better balance (although the regular way has a good balance anyway).

Well, have fun and good luck with your new bass!


owatson (author)2015-03-22

if you had more than 2 strings and only one pickup the outside strings might be quieter than the middle ones.

steve howe (author)2010-10-26

I never saw a bass like this before!
You can make music out of anything!
You can get individual machine heads and bass strings at Janikas Music Shop


st.paul (author)steve howe2011-05-23

thanks for the head's up!

coolguy2015 (author)2010-11-23

Dude where did u get those machine heads from??

st.paul (author)coolguy20152010-11-23

from guitar center. i didnt put on the little metal cover that goes over the gears.

coolguy2015 (author)st.paul2011-03-20

How much do they cost??

st.paul (author)coolguy20152011-03-21

they were 20 when i got them, but i wont be surprised if they are more now.

ajleece (author)2011-01-25

This looks awesome, i want one!

st.paul (author)ajleece2011-01-27


nareto (author)2011-01-03

great project! just made one myself (had all parts at home) - it sounds incredible for how it's made. Only thing not so good is machine heads, I used those from an old classical guitar, but they're too small for bass cords..

You say you got your machine heads from guitarcenter, but the lowest machine head I can find there is for 59€, and you said total cost is 20-25$... could you give a link to the machine heads?

st.paul (author)nareto2011-01-05

thanks, i'm glad you like it! idk what has happened with machine heads in the last year or so but they have sky rocketed in price. not just at guitar center but also every other store that i have looked at. i couldn't find any other heads like the exact kind i bought so as far as a place to buy them, i can only suggest to check ebay's 'buy it now' prices (or bid if that's your thing) for a good price. i just did a quick search (on the US and UK ones) and found quiet a few sets of four fairly cheap with free shipping. i hope that helps.

MikeMazing (author)2010-11-24

hey im thinking of doing this project. great idea dude! so did you have the low string e and the high b or the other way around? cause i was thinking of making it like the bottom two strings on a bass (low e and the a). What would you recommend for a bridge other than the felt stuff? cause i know thats just gonna mute it. and how are the weed wacker strings quality? would you recommend i get regular bass strings?

st.paul (author)MikeMazing2010-11-24

thanks, they are tuned low b and low e. for something different on the bridge i would try something like thing (especially if you are going to use metal strings), but only notching the bridge piece
as for weed wackers vs metal, i like the weed wackers for this project because they have a mellower sound, are easier to fret, and have less tension needed. that being said, i have a regular bass for using metal strings and using frets, so i mostly use my paddle as an upright and sometimes for that fretless bass guitar voicing.

dimmaz88 (author)2010-11-02

Hi, I love this instructable. I'm planning to make one of my own.
However, I'm going to cut the body out of pine instead of using a paddle.
Is pine ok? If not, could you recommend anything else?

MikeMazing (author)dimmaz882010-11-24

well ive never seen a bass made out of pine, the cheapest ive seen is basswood so id go for that. i dont play bass i play guitar and mahogany is my preference.

st.paul (author)dimmaz882010-11-02

thanks, im glad you like it. as far as what to make it out of, i have to admit i really do not know much about carpetry or woodtones. that being said, pine seems fine, but i would suggest doing some research just to be safe. good luck!

mrmerino (author)2010-10-19

so if you're playing your bass on a canoe,and you hit rough waters, you should make it water-proof :P

st.paul (author)mrmerino2010-10-28

i do love playing a tasty groove in the white waters...

st.paul (author)2010-10-26

hm didnt know they needed to be clean too, i think love buzz is the only one on that list doesnt curse.

st.paul (author)2010-10-26

ok, idk if these are your kind of style but here are some easy songs for bass:
god hates a coward by tomahawk
sugar by system of a down
love buzz by nirvana
longview by green day
and of course every bass player ought to know seven nation army by the white stripes

st.paul (author)2010-10-24

yea i play. that's cool about your wah pedal, they sound awesome. i only have a DS-1 distortion pedal- it's pretty alright for the price. do you mean songs to play on a paddle or regular bass?

st.paul (author)2010-10-22

hm, the first thing that comes to mind is to attach them together with sometime from behind, like a piece of wood smaller than the paddles or maybe use some of those thin pre-drilled metal bar connector things.

ski4jesus (author)2010-10-17

hahahahahaha yes sick idea mann

MrSalvador (author)2010-08-26

Very nice project, but I think I might try to make one with a different object, flat for a fretboard? Anyway, it taught me a lot that will help. Who knew guitars were so simple :P ?

st.paul (author)MrSalvador2010-09-02

thanks, good luck with your project!

sprockette (author)2010-07-18

My friend moved here from Barbados last year for school, and is constantly slappin the bass. I think I will make this from a canoe paddle for his birthday, in Canadian spirit and all.

st.paul (author)sprockette2010-07-21

awesome, have fun! also you saying that made me think of... lol

sprockette (author)st.paul2010-07-22

hahahaha :P

Valeil (author)2010-07-10

Instead of using 2 weed eater strings, is it possible to fit 4 actual bass strings? just curious, because I've been meaning to learn to play bass and this seems like a pretty cool way to do it.

st.paul (author)Valeil2010-07-12

maybe on a plank or something wider, but not a paddle.

Valeil (author)st.paul2010-07-15

Alrighty (:

st.paul (author)Valeil2010-07-13

maybe something like this

natman (author)2010-07-07

do u have to use a paddle? like could you use something else?

st.paul (author)natman2010-07-08

no, you could use anything you want and think you can play on- like a hockey stick, sturdy 1x2, whatever. of course, you'll probably have to change a thing or two on the build depending on what you do but that's part of the fun of making something original!

sjo232 (author)2010-07-06

what would you recommend using if you cant find the light cover?

st.paul (author)sjo2322010-07-07

really anything that fits the criteria of covering the pickup while letting the strings ring and be used as a mounting point for the jack. maybe a vertically halved hard plastic cup, just off the top of my head- you can probably find a better fix.

Vulpes-Aurum (author)2010-05-08

What do you use for the bridge? The felt would mute the strings, so it can't be that, right?

st.paul (author)Vulpes-Aurum2010-05-09

no it is felt- it's to work like a vibration filter for the piezo.  but you are probably right, i'm sure it does mute it some but i use mine mainly as an upright bass substitute so i works out good for me.

sjo232 (author)st.paul2010-07-01

did you just wrap the piezo in felt or something? Im having a little trouble understanding how the felt and piezo go together

st.paul (author)sjo2322010-07-01

basically, the felt is self-adhesive and i put i square of it on both sides of the piezo.

sjo232 (author)st.paul2010-07-06

ok sounds great! thanks a lot!

Grimnr (author)2010-07-04

I think our bass player would freak if we made one of these for him...gotta build it.

Omwa (author)2010-06-29

This looks awsome man. Gonna start building right now, just a few questions first: I'm not from the us, so a piezo is one of those things that makes a bzzt bzzt sound like on an alarm clock right? second, I just thought instead of a paddle I'd use a big ol' wood plank. So I could get four strings, so I thought, again I don't live in the us so dunno if finland has weed hackers, we have something similar propably, but could I just use some real bass strings? sorry for the long sentance and all the sos.

st.paul (author)Omwa2010-06-29

yes thats a piezo. if you use regular bass strings i would suggest putting the piezo under what you are using as a bridge in something like a hole made for it just deep enough for the piezo to touch the bridge and still have some force on it. that way, all the pressure of the strings (over 100 pounds- or 45 kg- of force) doesnt break the pickup. or another idea would be to make that plank and strings as is and then find a place on the plank that the piezo can pick up a lot of vibrations, like against the wood in front of the bridge. i just tried that last one with my paddle and it works ok but its nowhere near as loud. i hope that helps you and good luck on your bass!

Omwa (author)st.paul2010-07-02

huh. looks like machine heads are 20€ a piece in my local music store. Buying fore would be as expensive as re-buying my current bass. Is there anything else I could use as machine heads? like screwss or something?

st.paul (author)Omwa2010-07-02 i cant testify to how well this works since ive never done it, but its the first plans i could find. i hope this helps

st.paul (author)2010-07-01

OH MY GOD, that double neck idea sounds like the best thing i think i have ever heard- please post a picture here when you get it done! lol thanks for the love also.

justa_person (author)2010-06-29

Favored and I'll be making this as soon as I have the time/money... Great thanks!

st.paul (author)justa_person2010-06-29

thank you!

JavaNut13 (author)2010-06-29

love it. don't play bass, but still wicked!

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