The whamola is a rare string instrument that is mostly used in jazz, rock and funk. It is a one-string bass instrument that resembles an upright double bass with a pickup. Unlike many chordophone instruments, the whamola string is hit instead of plucked to create a vibrating sound as a pulley lever system changes the pitch of the string.
History of the Whamola
The history of the whamola starts with its early ancestors, the washtub bass or tea chest bass. These early string instruments were believed to have originated with African American communities that were also responsible for developing instruments like the banjo. The rudimentary materials to hand meant that bass instruments were constructed using buckets, tea chests, jugs and tubs as a resonator and a wooden neck was manipulated to change the pitch of an attached string. The use of these instruments became common in skiffle and folk bands of the 1950s, but was later usurped by the double bass. In the early 2000s, Les Claypool of the American rock band Primus further developed this design to include a lever system at the top of the neck that would allow the player to change the pitch with an electronic pick completing the sound. The whamola would go on to feature on his projects Primus and Les Claypool’s Frog Brigade. A song written for the latter, appears on the American sitcom ‘South Park’ introduction theme. The whamola has not yet achieved mainstream popularity and so has not been mass-produced or commonly adopted by luthiers.
Inventor: Les Claypool

Where to Buy

£300 - £600

Hear the Whamola

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How to Play

A stringed instrument played by hitting the string(s) with a drum stick or a pick to create sound.

In Popular Music

American rock band Primus have been known to use the whamola on stage and front man Les Claypool has also used the whamola in his side project Les Claypool's Fearless Flying Frog Brigade. A song by Primus that includes the whamola is famous for featuring in the introduction theme to American sitcom South Park.

Famous Players

Les Claypool, Michael Manring

Close Relations

Washtub Bass, Double Bass
Video Credit: Ádám S
Understanding the Whamola


United States


21st century






Instruments of Music

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