<< Chapter < Page Chapter >> Page >
A brief introduction to the largest, lowest-sounding stringed instrument of the orchestra.

Introduction

The double bass, often called the string bass or upright bass, is the largest, lowest-sounding instrument in the string section of the orchestra. Like its close relatives in that section, the violin , viola, and cello, it is classified as a chordophone .

The instrument

Like the other orchestral strings, the double bass has four strings stretched over an unfretted neck and a hollow wooden body. The body of the instrument resonates with and amplifies the sound of the strings, which would otherwise be too soft to be heard in a concert situation.

To play this large instrument, the bassist must either sit on a tall stool or stand. The bass rests on an adjustable peg on the floor.

The four strings of a violin, (or viola or cello) are tuned in fifths ; in other words, each string is tuned a perfect fifth from the previous string. The strings of the double bass are tuned in fourths , to reduce the stretch that the left hand must make to get from one note to the next. Even so, with its large size and long, heavy strings, the double bass is a very physically demanding instrument to play.

A small but vocal minority of bass players prefers to tune the instrument in fifths, CGDA instead of EADG. They feel that any fingering difficulties are outweighed by the advantages of this tuning, including being able to play the low C, and subtle differences in tuning and harmonics that allow them to better blend with the other orchestral strings.

Bass string tuning

The strings of the bass are usually tuned in fourths, rather than the fifths of the other orchestral strings.

The double bass is usually played by drawing a bow across the strings, but the strings may also be plucked with the fingers, and this plucking technique, called pizzicato , is the more common technique in some types of music, such as jazz.

History

Double-bass-like instruments have been around since the early 1500's. The earliest large string instruments were part of the viol family. Violin, viola, and cello are all considered part of the violin family of instruments, since they are shaped, constructed, and played very similarly. Viols were a different family of bowed string instruments that were very popular in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. Viols came in a variety of sizes; each had a fretted neck and six strings. The body shape of a viol was similar to that of a violin, but the violin has a louder, more insistent sound than the viol. Viols were better suited for playing in smaller, quieter ensembles, so as large orchestras became more popular, the sound of the violin and its family came to be preferred, and viols basically disappeared.

Meanwhile, there was quite a bit of variety in the bass instrument of the string section. Instruments came and went that had three, four, five, or six strings and various tunings. The instrument that was finally settled on was fretless and four-stringed like a violin, but tuned in fourths (more like a viol) and with the steeply sloping shoulders (the top of the body) of the viol family. The sloping shoulders are probably more to allow the player to reach around the instrument to play it than a remnant of the instrument's history, but in fact, the double bass is the only one of the orchestral strings that still does not have a standardized shape.

Practical information for composers and arrangers

Written range of the bass

The double bass sounds an octave lower than written. Some bassists have a range that extends to a low C, either because their bass has an extension or a fifth string, or because they are tuning in fifths, but it is not a good idea to assume your bassist will be able to play below the E.

In popular musics and jazz, the double bass typically carries the bass line . Given nothing more than the chord progression , a very experienced bassist will be able to construct a typical bass line in the style that he normally plays in, but you should not count on less experienced players to be able to do this. In orchestras and other large ensembles, the bass section also typically plays the bass line, but also may play low melodies and countermelodies or engage in complex interplay with other instruments.

The sound of the double bass is resonant but not loud. It is capable of playing solos, but if you give a solo to a double bass, make sure the rest of the arrangement is very quiet so that the solo can be heard.

On the other hand, the very resonant pizzicato of the double bass is much more easily heard than that of the smaller strings, and can be used to great effect in a variety of musical styles.

Because of the physical demands of playing on large, heavy strings, bassists cannot play with as much agility as the smaller strings. If large, fast leaps or long passages of very fast notes are wanted in the bass, it may be a good idea to divide the part into two more easily playable parts, each to be played by half of the basses.

Questions & Answers

Is there any normative that regulates the use of silver nanoparticles?
Damian Reply
what king of growth are you checking .?
Renato
What fields keep nano created devices from performing or assimulating ? Magnetic fields ? Are do they assimilate ?
Stoney Reply
why we need to study biomolecules, molecular biology in nanotechnology?
Adin Reply
?
Kyle
yes I'm doing my masters in nanotechnology, we are being studying all these domains as well..
Adin
why?
Adin
what school?
Kyle
biomolecules are e building blocks of every organics and inorganic materials.
Joe
anyone know any internet site where one can find nanotechnology papers?
Damian Reply
research.net
kanaga
sciencedirect big data base
Ernesto
Introduction about quantum dots in nanotechnology
Praveena Reply
what does nano mean?
Anassong Reply
nano basically means 10^(-9). nanometer is a unit to measure length.
Bharti
do you think it's worthwhile in the long term to study the effects and possibilities of nanotechnology on viral treatment?
Damian Reply
absolutely yes
Daniel
how to know photocatalytic properties of tio2 nanoparticles...what to do now
Akash Reply
it is a goid question and i want to know the answer as well
Maciej
characteristics of micro business
Abigail
for teaching engĺish at school how nano technology help us
Anassong
Do somebody tell me a best nano engineering book for beginners?
s. Reply
there is no specific books for beginners but there is book called principle of nanotechnology
NANO
what is fullerene does it is used to make bukky balls
Devang Reply
are you nano engineer ?
s.
fullerene is a bucky ball aka Carbon 60 molecule. It was name by the architect Fuller. He design the geodesic dome. it resembles a soccer ball.
Tarell
what is the actual application of fullerenes nowadays?
Damian
That is a great question Damian. best way to answer that question is to Google it. there are hundreds of applications for buck minister fullerenes, from medical to aerospace. you can also find plenty of research papers that will give you great detail on the potential applications of fullerenes.
Tarell
what is the Synthesis, properties,and applications of carbon nano chemistry
Abhijith Reply
Mostly, they use nano carbon for electronics and for materials to be strengthened.
Virgil
is Bucky paper clear?
CYNTHIA
carbon nanotubes has various application in fuel cells membrane, current research on cancer drug,and in electronics MEMS and NEMS etc
NANO
so some one know about replacing silicon atom with phosphorous in semiconductors device?
s. Reply
Yeah, it is a pain to say the least. You basically have to heat the substarte up to around 1000 degrees celcius then pass phosphene gas over top of it, which is explosive and toxic by the way, under very low pressure.
Harper
Do you know which machine is used to that process?
s.
how to fabricate graphene ink ?
SUYASH Reply
for screen printed electrodes ?
SUYASH
What is lattice structure?
s. Reply
of graphene you mean?
Ebrahim
or in general
Ebrahim
in general
s.
Graphene has a hexagonal structure
tahir
On having this app for quite a bit time, Haven't realised there's a chat room in it.
Cied
what is biological synthesis of nanoparticles
Sanket Reply
Got questions? Join the online conversation and get instant answers!
Jobilize.com Reply

Get the best Algebra and trigonometry course in your pocket!





Source:  OpenStax, A parent's guide to band. OpenStax CNX. Jun 25, 2007 Download for free at http://cnx.org/content/col10428/1.1
Google Play and the Google Play logo are trademarks of Google Inc.

Notification Switch

Would you like to follow the 'A parent's guide to band' conversation and receive update notifications?

Ask