Ok, so, imagine you had a one-stringed violin, except that rather than press your fingers on the string, you used a lever, kinda like a whammy bar. Does anybody know of such an instrument? Otherwise, there's a possibility I'll end up making one.

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    A washtub bass. It does have some limitations. – user16935 Dec 31 '16 at 21:23
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    Seems like you could use a guitar slide and a regular violin with one string on it ... not sure why though :P – user28 Dec 31 '16 at 23:09
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    Did you try Hurdy-gurdy? – teodozjan Jan 1 '17 at 0:14
  • Something like a pedal steel guitar, with knee levers, and a bowed string? – Tim Jan 1 '17 at 13:07
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    Why not rather make something similar to an Erhu? Also a violin-like instrument without fingerboard, but still better controllable in pitch. – leftaroundabout Jan 3 '17 at 15:18

As pointed out, a washtub bass is what you are thinking of: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Washtub_bass

Though the most common way to play it is to pluck the string, I have seen it played with a cello bow. The sound difference is instead of a steady thump, you get a cello like sound, but with a more primitive rattle.

  • Where do you go to see this instrument performed? – General Nuisance Jan 3 '17 at 22:47
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    It was on PBS 40 years ago. I was a kid so I have no info beyond that. – Sensii Miller Jan 3 '17 at 23:18

Made one!

It's...pretty rough. And I don't have a bow. And it's harder to control than I hoped. And you guys are right; it only has about an octave of feasible range. But! It does kinda work, and science has been done. Thanks for your inputs.

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    Hey, I recognize the melody. That's not that easy. Congrats. – Scott Wallace Jan 4 '17 at 11:29
  • You could add a second string, thinner than the first to make higher notes. Physics should tell you how much thinner you need to play an octave higher. Congrats on making your vision. I do similar things with stained glass...I envision the image, then make it. I also do other things, like I am making chainmail designer clothes. (For the prototypes, I am doing butted chain because it is faster, but once I prove the concept, riveted for anything that is available to the public.) – Sensii Miller Jan 4 '17 at 22:13

Many years ago I built a one-stringed instrument which didn't have a whammy bar, but similar: you pressed the string down in a trough between two glass rods at the top of the neck, thus changing its pitch.

While fun, it had severe limitations: the useable range was only about an octave, it was very difficult to control the intonation (especially at the bottom of its range) and the string had much less tension at the bottom (a fourth that of an octave higher), making it weak. But don't let me discourage you.

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