<< 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

Application of nanotechnology in medicine
what is variations in raman spectra for nanomaterials
Jyoti Reply
I only see partial conversation and what's the question here!
Crow Reply
what about nanotechnology for water purification
RAW Reply
please someone correct me if I'm wrong but I think one can use nanoparticles, specially silver nanoparticles for water treatment.
Damian
yes that's correct
Professor
I think
Professor
what is the stm
Brian Reply
is there industrial application of fullrenes. What is the method to prepare fullrene on large scale.?
Rafiq
industrial application...? mmm I think on the medical side as drug carrier, but you should go deeper on your research, I may be wrong
Damian
How we are making nano material?
LITNING Reply
what is a peer
LITNING Reply
What is meant by 'nano scale'?
LITNING Reply
What is STMs full form?
LITNING
scanning tunneling microscope
Sahil
how nano science is used for hydrophobicity
Santosh
Do u think that Graphene and Fullrene fiber can be used to make Air Plane body structure the lightest and strongest. Rafiq
Rafiq
what is differents between GO and RGO?
Mahi
what is simplest way to understand the applications of nano robots used to detect the cancer affected cell of human body.? How this robot is carried to required site of body cell.? what will be the carrier material and how can be detected that correct delivery of drug is done Rafiq
Rafiq
if virus is killing to make ARTIFICIAL DNA OF GRAPHENE FOR KILLED THE VIRUS .THIS IS OUR ASSUMPTION
Anam
analytical skills graphene is prepared to kill any type viruses .
Anam
what is Nano technology ?
Bob Reply
write examples of Nano molecule?
Bob
The nanotechnology is as new science, to scale nanometric
brayan
nanotechnology is the study, desing, synthesis, manipulation and application of materials and functional systems through control of matter at nanoscale
Damian
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
hi
Loga
what does nano mean?
Anassong Reply
nano basically means 10^(-9). nanometer is a unit to measure length.
Bharti
how did you get the value of 2000N.What calculations are needed to arrive at it
Smarajit Reply
Privacy Information Security Software Version 1.1a
Good
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