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Washboard (Instrument)

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Musical washboard players

Washboard players from Portland's Sasparilla and Conjugal Visitors play at Pickathon Roots Music Festival

photo: Kim Ruehl/About.com
Definition: The musical washboard is a percussion instrument played by scratching or tapping the metal washing surface up and down in rhythm. Players often guard their fingers with thimbles or metal guitar finger-picks. The washboard is a popular percussion instrument in all kinds of folk musics from around the world, but is most often seen in America in the context of jug bands, old time music, and zydeco.

Adding instruments to the washboard

Often, particularly in jug bands and old time bands, washboard players will attach other accouterments to the wood part of the washboard. These additions can include tin cans, cymbals, lunch bells, cowbells, wood blocks, or other found items that help add variety to their one-person percussion section.

The Frottoir

The frottoir is a specially crafted washboard-like instrument that consists solely of the metal washboard surface, and is used for zydeco music. It's played with found objects such as spoon handles, and was developed by zydeco pioneer Clifton Chenier and metalworker Willy Landry.
Also Known As: washboard, frottoir, zydeco rub-board
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