Blowing the ‘Ole Jug
If you’ve been following this blog a bit, you’ll know I’m completely in love with music powered by the breath. Beatboxing, overtone singing, and now…the Jug. My good friend Salty Dog Martin, whom I play music with in Rock Creek Steel Drum’s Birth of the Steel Drum program, told me that I should get into playing jugs. I said “huh?” Clearly I needed some background. Youtube to the rescue again. Turns out jug playing goes way back in the Dixie jazz tradition. As far as I can tell, the jug served the role of bass instrument in ensembles with banjos, violins and the occasional clarinet. Vocal harmonies also appear front and center, with the jug blasting away underneath. It’s an awesome combination of sound. Check out the Dixieland Jug Blowers’ “Boodle-am-shake” from 1926:
The jug sounds like a baritone sax or something! Incredible.
The jug, contrary to popular belief, is not played by blowing across the opening. In fact, the sound originates through buzzing the lips directly into the hole about an inch or two from the opening. The jug simply serves as a resonant vessel. Therefore, the bigger the bassier. In Whistler’s Jug Band’s “Foldin’ Bed” You can get a good look at the technique involved in playing a jug:
I searched around for a while and, while on our way to Cape Henlopen not too long ago, found a beautiful old jug for sale along the highway. So stay tuned for my jug updates coming soon….