Introduction: Bucket Bass

This is a play on the idea of a washtub bass. A washtub bass is a simple instrument, but this version is even simpler -- and cheaper! It uses a 5 gallon bucket instead of a washtub, and some handy simple knots tie it all together and allow for easy adjustment. It's a great way to "get your feet wet" making and playing an instrument with minimal time and investment.

Step 1: Supplies and Tools


  • one 5 gallon bucket (other sizes can work too)*
  • one stick (a broomstick, a length of bamboo, or whatever)
  • some string (~ 6 ft of paracord works well)


  • saw
  • drill with bits
  • knife (optional)

* A 5 gallon bucket can be bought new for a few dollars, but you can often get them free from businesses that use them (such as food service businesses).

Step 2: Remove Bucket Handle

Pull off the bucket handle so that it is out of your way and won't rattle.

Step 3: Measure & Cut the Stick

I marked my stick with a pencil at about my height minus the height of the bucket. This is easy to do by setting the bucket upside down on the ground, standing the stick on top of it, and marking it at your height.

(The stick could probably be cut much shorter than this and still work just as well, maybe even better.)

Use a saw to cut the stick to length. (Tip: The bucket makes a good mini-workbench for this.)

Step 4: Notch the Stick

Cut a notch into the bottom of the stick using a knife or saw. This end will sit on the rim of the bucket with the rim in the notch. This creates a secure pivot point for the stick. You will want the notch to be deep enough to stay on the bucket rim, but not so deep that the stick touches the flat bottom of the bucket (the soundboard of the instrument).

Step 5: Drill a Hole in the Stick

Prepare to drill a hole in the upper end of the stick perpendicular to the notch in the bottom of the stick. With the notch of the stick straddling the rim of the bucket, mark the hole location on the side facing the center of the bucket. This will be the attachment point for the string. Drill the hole big enough to easily fit the string through.

I drilled the hole about 6 inches from the top end of the stick, but you could drill it lower or even drill several holes at different heights for different setup options.

Step 6: Drill a Hole in the Bottom of the Bucket

Drill a hole in the bottom of the bucket to receive the string. Make the hole just big enough to fit the string through.

Step 7: Attach String to Bucket

Push the string through the bottom of the bucket. From the inside of the bucket, make a figure eight knot in the end of the string.

Step 8: Attach String to Stick

Push the string through the hole in the stick. For the most flexibility, I secured it with an adjustable hitch as shown step-by-step in the pictures. This hitch allows for easy adjustment to the length of the string as needed, while holding securely when in use.

Step 9: Setup and Play

Set the bucket face down on the ground. The tone and volume will be better if you place a stick (such as the piece cut off earlier) under the bucket edge to lift one side off the ground. Adjust the string length using the adjustable hitch so that there is some tension on the string with the stick in place (stick roughly vertical with its notch on the rim). You will need to hold the bucket down with your foot on the rim. Pluck the string and play with the sound! The pitch is adjusted either by changing the tension by moving the angle of the stick, or by changing the length of the string by holding it at different points against the stick, or both.

It takes some practice, but it's easy to make and fun to play with!

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