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The double bass (), also known simply as the bass () (or by other names), is the largest and lowest-pitched bowed (or plucked)
string instrument String instruments, stringed instruments, or chordophones are musical instruments that produce sound from vibrating strings when a performer plays or sounds the strings in some manner. Musicians play some string instruments by plucking the ...
in the modern
symphony orchestra An orchestra (; ) is a large Musical ensemble, instrumental ensemble typical of classical music, which combines instruments from different families. There are typically four main sections of instruments: * bowed string instruments, such as the ...
(excluding unorthodox additions such as the
octobass The octobass is an extremely large and rare bow (music), bowed string instrument that was first built around 1850 in Paris by the French luthier Jean-Baptiste Vuillaume (1798–1875). It has three strings and is essentially a larger version of th ...
). Similar in structure to the cello, it has four, although occasionally five, strings. The bass is a standard member of the orchestra's string section, along with violins, viola, and cello, ''The Orchestra: A User's Manual''
, Andrew Hugill with the Philharmonia Orchestra
as well as the
concert band A concert band, also called a wind band, wind ensemble, wind symphony, wind orchestra, symphonic band, the symphonic winds, or symphonic wind ensemble, is a performing ensemble consisting of members of the woodwind instrument, woodwind, brass ...
, and is featured in
concertos A concerto (; plural ''concertos'', or ''concerti'' from the Italian plural) is, from the Late Baroque (music), late Baroque era, mostly understood as an instrumental composition, written for one or more solo (music), soloists accompanied by an or ...
, solo, and
chamber music Chamber music is a form of classical music that is composed for a small group of Musical instrument, instruments—traditionally a group that could fit in a Great chamber, palace chamber or a large room. Most broadly, it includes any art music ...
in
Western classical music Classical music generally refers to the art music of the Western world The Western world, also known as the West, primarily refers to the various nations and state (polity), states in the regions of Europe, North America, and Oceania.
.
Alfred Planyavsky Alfred Planyavsky (22 January 1924 – 18 June 2013) was an Austrian double-bassist and music historian. Born in Vienna, Planyavsky was a member of the boys choir Wiener Sängerknaben between 1933 and 1938. In 1946, he began studying as a tenor an ...

"Chamber music in the Vienna Double Bass Archive"
, September 1996, translated by James Barket
The bass is used in a range of other genres, such as
jazz Jazz is a music genre that originated in the African Americans, African-American communities of New Orleans, Louisiana in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, with its roots in blues and ragtime. Since the 1920s Jazz Age, it has been recog ...
, 1950s-style
blues Blues is a music genre and musical form which originated in the Deep South of the United States around the 1860s. Blues incorporated spiritual (music), spirituals, work songs, field hollers, Ring shout, shouts, chants, and rhymed simple narra ...
,
rock and roll Rock and roll (often written as rock & roll, rock 'n' roll, or rock 'n roll) is a Genre (music), genre of popular music that evolved in the United States during the late 1940s and early 1950s. It Origins of rock and roll, originated from Africa ...
,
rockabilly Rockabilly is one of the earliest styles of rock and roll music. It dates back to the early 1950s in the United States, especially the Southern United States, South. As a genre it blends the sound of Western music (North America), Western music ...
,
psychobilly Psychobilly is a rock music Rock music is a broad genre of popular music that originated as "rock and roll" in the United States in the late 1940s and early 1950s, developing into a range of different styles in the mid-1960s and later, partic ...
, traditional
country music Country (also called country and western) is a genre of popular music that originated in the Southern United States, Southern and Southwestern United States in the early 1920s. It primarily derives from blues, church music such as Southern gosp ...
, bluegrass,
tango Tango is a partner dance and social dance that originated in the 1880s along the Río de la Plata, the natural border between Argentina and Uruguay. The tango was born in the impoverished port areas of these countries as the result of a combinat ...
and
folk music Folk music is a music genre that includes #Traditional folk music, traditional folk music and the Contemporary folk music, contemporary genre that evolved from the former during the 20th-century folk revival. Some types of folk music may be c ...
. The bass is a
transposing instrument A transposing instrument is a musical instrument for which music notation is not written at concert pitch (concert pitch is the pitch on a non-transposing instrument such as the piano). For example, playing a written middle C on a transposing in ...
and is typically notated one
octave In music, an octave ( la, octavus: eighth) or perfect octave (sometimes called the Pythagorean interval, diapason) is the interval (music), interval between one musical Pitch (music), pitch and another with double its frequency. The octave rela ...
higher than tuned to avoid excessive ledger lines below the staff. The double bass is the only modern bowed string instrument that is tuned in fourths (like a
bass guitar The bass guitar, electric bass or simply bass (), is the lowest-pitched member of the string family. It is a plucked string instrument similar in appearance and construction to an Electric guitar, electric or an acoustic guitar, but with a lo ...
or
viol The viol (), viola da gamba (), or informally gamba, is any one of a family of bow (music), bowed, fretted, and stringed instruments, stringed instruments with hollow wooden bodies and Tuning mechanisms for stringed instruments, pegboxes where ...
), rather than fifths, with strings usually tuned to E1, A1, D2 and G2. The instrument's exact lineage is still a matter of some debate, with scholars divided on whether the bass is derived from the viol or the
violin family The violin family of musical instruments was developed in Italy in the 16th century. At the time the name of this family of instruments was viole da braccio which was used to distinguish them from the viol family (viole ''da gamba''). The standa ...
. The double bass is played with a bow (arco), or by plucking the strings (
pizzicato Pizzicato (, ; translated as "pinched", and sometimes roughly as "plucked") is a playing technique that involves plucking the strings of a string instrument. The exact technique varies somewhat depending on the type of instrument : * On bowed ...
), or via a variety of
extended techniques In music, extended technique is unconventional, unorthodox, or non-traditional methods of singing or of playing musical instruments employed to obtain unusual sounds or timbres.Burtner, Matthew (2005).Making Noise: Extended Techniques after Exper ...
. In orchestral repertoire and tango music, both arco and pizzicato are employed. In jazz, blues, and rockabilly, pizzicato is the norm. Classical music and jazz use the natural sound produced acoustically by the instrument, as does
traditional bluegrass Traditional bluegrass, as the name implies, emphasizes the traditional elements of bluegrass music Bluegrass music is a Music genre, genre of American roots music that developed in the 1940s in the Appalachian region of the United States. Th ...
. In funk, blues, reggae, and related genres, the double bass is often amplified.


Description

The double bass stands around from scroll to endpin.''Double Bass Sizing FAQ''
Bob Gollihur
However, other sizes are available, such as a or , which serve to accommodate a player's height and hand size. These sizes do not reflect the size relative to a full size, or bass; a bass is not half the length of a bass, but is only about 15% smaller. It is typically constructed from several types of wood, including maple for the back, spruce for the top, and ebony for the fingerboard. It is uncertain whether the instrument is a descendant of the
viola da gamba The viol (), viola da gamba (), or informally gamba, is any one of a family of bow (music), bowed, fretted, and stringed instruments, stringed instruments with hollow wooden bodies and Tuning mechanisms for stringed instruments, pegboxes where ...
or of the violin, but it is traditionally aligned with the violin family. While the double bass is nearly identical in construction to other violin family instruments, it also embodies features found in the older
viol The viol (), viola da gamba (), or informally gamba, is any one of a family of bow (music), bowed, fretted, and stringed instruments, stringed instruments with hollow wooden bodies and Tuning mechanisms for stringed instruments, pegboxes where ...
family. The notes of the open strings are E1, A1, D2, and G2, the same as an acoustic or electric bass guitar. However, the resonance of the wood, combined with the violin-like construction and long scale length gives the double bass a much richer tone than the bass guitar, in addition to the ability to use a bow, while the fretless fingerboard accommodates smooth
glissando In music, a glissando (; plural: ''glissandi'', abbreviated ''gliss.'') is a wikt:glide, glide from one pitch (music), pitch to another (). It is an Italianized Musical terminology, musical term derived from the French ''glisser'', "to glide". In ...
s and
legato In music performance and notation In linguistics and semiotics, a notation is a system of graphics or symbols, Character_(symbol), characters and abbreviated Expression (language), expressions, used (for example) in Artistic disciplines, art ...
s.


Playing style

Like other violin and viol-family string instruments, the double bass is played either with a bow (arco) or by plucking the strings (
pizzicato Pizzicato (, ; translated as "pinched", and sometimes roughly as "plucked") is a playing technique that involves plucking the strings of a string instrument. The exact technique varies somewhat depending on the type of instrument : * On bowed ...
). When employing a bow, the player can either use it traditionally or strike the wood of the bow against the string. In orchestral repertoire and tango music, both arco and pizzicato are employed. In jazz, blues, and rockabilly, pizzicato is the norm, except for some solos and occasional written parts in
modern jazz Bebop or bop is a style of jazz Jazz is a music genre that originated in the African Americans, African-American communities of New Orleans, Louisiana in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, with its roots in blues and ragtime. Since ...
that call for bowing. In classical pedagogy, almost all of the focus is on performing with the bow and producing a good bowed tone; there is little work done on developing significant pizzicato skills. Bowed notes in the lowest register of the instrument produce a dark, heavy, mighty, or even menacing effect, when played with a fortissimo dynamic; however, the same low pitches played with a delicate pianissimo can create a sonorous, mellow accompaniment line. Classical bass students learn all of the different bow articulations used by other string section players (e.g.,
violin The violin, sometimes known as a '' fiddle'', is a wooden chordophone (string instrument) in the violin family. Most violins have a hollow wooden body. It is the smallest and thus highest-pitched instrument ( soprano) in the family in regul ...
and
cello The cello ( ; plural ''celli'' or ''cellos'') or violoncello ( ; ) is a bowed (sometimes plucked and occasionally hit) string instrument String instruments, stringed instruments, or chordophones are musical instruments that produce sou ...
), such as détaché,
legato In music performance and notation In linguistics and semiotics, a notation is a system of graphics or symbols, Character_(symbol), characters and abbreviated Expression (language), expressions, used (for example) in Artistic disciplines, art ...
,
staccato Staccato (; Italian for "detached") is a form of Articulation (music), musical articulation. In modern notation, it signifies a note of shortened duration, separated from the note that may follow by silence. It has been described by theorists and ...
, sforzato, martelé ("hammered"-style),
sul ponticello A variety of musical terms are likely to be encountered in Sheet music, printed scores, music reviews, and program notes. Most of the terms Italian musical terms used in English, are Italian, in accordance with the Italian origins of many Europea ...
,
sul tasto A variety of musical terms are likely to be encountered in Sheet music, printed scores, music reviews, and program notes. Most of the terms Italian musical terms used in English, are Italian, in accordance with the Italian origins of many Europea ...
,
tremolo In music, ''tremolo'' (), or ''tremolando'' (), is a trembling effect. There are two types of tremolo. The first is a rapid reiteration: * Of a single Musical note, note, particularly used on String instrument#Bowing, bowed string instrument ...
, spiccato and sautillé. Some of these articulations can be combined; for example, the combination of sul ponticello and tremolo can produce eerie, ghostly sounds. Classical bass players do play pizzicato parts in orchestra, but these parts generally require simple notes (quarter notes, half notes, whole notes), rather than rapid passages. Classical players perform both bowed and pizz notes using
vibrato Vibrato (Italian language, Italian, from past participle of "wikt:vibrare, vibrare", to vibrate) is a musical effect consisting of a regular, pulsating change of pitch (music), pitch. It is used to add expression to vocal and instrumental music. ...
, an effect created by rocking or quivering the left hand finger that is contacting the string, which then transfers an undulation in pitch to the tone. Vibrato is used to add expression to string playing. In general, very loud, low-register passages are played with little or no vibrato, as the main goal with low pitches is to provide a clear
fundamental bass In music theory, the concept of root is the idea that a chord (music), chord can be represented and named by one of its Musical note, notes. It is linked to Harmony (music), harmonic thinking—the idea that vertical aggregates of notes can form ...
for the string section. Mid- and higher-register melodies are typically played with more vibrato. The speed and intensity of the vibrato is varied by the performer for an emotional and musical effect. In
jazz Jazz is a music genre that originated in the African Americans, African-American communities of New Orleans, Louisiana in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, with its roots in blues and ragtime. Since the 1920s Jazz Age, it has been recog ...
,
rockabilly Rockabilly is one of the earliest styles of rock and roll music. It dates back to the early 1950s in the United States, especially the Southern United States, South. As a genre it blends the sound of Western music (North America), Western music ...
and other related genres, much or all of the focus is on playing pizzicato. In jazz and
jump blues Jump blues is an up-tempo style of blues, usually played by small groups and featuring horn instruments. It was popular in the 1940s and was a precursor of rhythm and blues and rock and roll. Appreciation of jump blues was renewed in the 1990s as ...
, bassists are required to play rapid pizzicato
walking bass Bassline (also known as a bass line or bass part) is the term used in many styles of music, such as blues, jazz, funk, Dub music, dub and electronic music, electronic, traditional music, traditional, or classical music for the low-pitched Part ( ...
lines for extended periods. Jazz and rockabilly bassists develop virtuoso pizzicato techniques that enable them to play rapid solos that incorporate fast-moving triplet and sixteenth note figures. Pizzicato basslines performed by leading jazz professionals are much more difficult than the pizzicato basslines that classical bassists encounter in the standard orchestral literature, which are typically whole notes, half notes, quarter notes, and occasional eighth note passages. In jazz and related styles, bassists often add semi-percussive "
ghost note In music, a ghost note is a musical note with a rhythmic value, but no discernible pitch (music), pitch when played. In musical notation, this is represented by an "X" for a note head instead of an oval, or parentheses around the note head. It s ...
s" into basslines, to add to the rhythmic feel and to add fills to a bassline. The double bass player stands, or sits on a high stool, and leans the instrument against their body, turned slightly inward to put the strings comfortably in reach. This stance is a key reason for the bass's sloped shoulders, which mark it apart from the other members of the violin family—the narrower shoulders facilitate playing the strings in their higher registers.


History

The double bass is generally regarded as a modern descendant of the string family of instruments that originated in Europe in the 15th century, and as such has been described as a ''bass Violin.''''The Double Bass''
Jacob Head
Before the 20th century many double basses had only three strings, in contrast to the five to six strings typical of instruments in the viol family or the four strings of instruments in the violin family. The double bass's proportions are dissimilar to those of the violin and cello; for example, it is deeper (the distance from front to back is proportionally much greater than the violin). In addition, while the violin has bulging shoulders, most double basses have shoulders carved with a more acute slope, like members of the viol family. Many very old double basses have had their shoulders cut or sloped to aid playing with modern techniques. Before these modifications, the design of their shoulders was closer to instruments of the violin family. The double bass is the only modern bowed string instrument that is tuned in fourths (like a viol), rather than fifths (see Tuning below). The instrument's exact lineage is still a matter of some debate, and the supposition that the double bass is a direct descendant of the
viol The viol (), viola da gamba (), or informally gamba, is any one of a family of bow (music), bowed, fretted, and stringed instruments, stringed instruments with hollow wooden bodies and Tuning mechanisms for stringed instruments, pegboxes where ...
family is one that has not been entirely resolved. In his ''A New History of the Double Bass'', Paul Brun asserts that the double bass has origins as the true bass of the
violin family The violin family of musical instruments was developed in Italy in the 16th century. At the time the name of this family of instruments was viole da braccio which was used to distinguish them from the viol family (viole ''da gamba''). The standa ...
. He states that, while the exterior of the double bass may resemble the viola da gamba, the internal construction of the double bass is nearly identical to instruments in the
violin family The violin family of musical instruments was developed in Italy in the 16th century. At the time the name of this family of instruments was viole da braccio which was used to distinguish them from the viol family (viole ''da gamba''). The standa ...
, and very different from the internal structure of viols. Double bass professor Larry Hurst argues that the "modern double bass is not a true member of either the violin or viol families". He says that "most likely its first general shape was that of a violone, the largest member of the viol family. Some of the earliest basses extant are violones, (including C-shaped sound holes) that have been fitted with modern trappings." Some existing instruments, such as those by Gasparo da Salò, were converted from 16th-century six-string contrabass violoni.


Terminology

A person who plays this instrument is called a "bassist", "double bassist", "double bass player", "contrabassist", "contrabass player" or "bass player". The names contrabass and double bass refer to the instrument's range and use one
octave In music, an octave ( la, octavus: eighth) or perfect octave (sometimes called the Pythagorean interval, diapason) is the interval (music), interval between one musical Pitch (music), pitch and another with double its frequency. The octave rela ...
lower than the cello (i.e. doubling on cello). The terms for the instrument among classical performers are contrabass (which comes from the instrument's Italian name, contrabbasso), string bass (to distinguish it from brass bass instruments in a
concert band A concert band, also called a wind band, wind ensemble, wind symphony, wind orchestra, symphonic band, the symphonic winds, or symphonic wind ensemble, is a performing ensemble consisting of members of the woodwind instrument, woodwind, brass ...
, such as
tuba The tuba (; ) is the lowest-pitched musical instrument in the brass instrument, brass family. As with all brass instruments, the sound is produced by lip vibrationa buzzinto a mouthpiece (brass), mouthpiece. It first appeared in the mid-19th&n ...
s), or simply bass. In
jazz Jazz is a music genre that originated in the African Americans, African-American communities of New Orleans, Louisiana in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, with its roots in blues and ragtime. Since the 1920s Jazz Age, it has been recog ...
,
blues Blues is a music genre and musical form which originated in the Deep South of the United States around the 1860s. Blues incorporated spiritual (music), spirituals, work songs, field hollers, Ring shout, shouts, chants, and rhymed simple narra ...
,
rockabilly Rockabilly is one of the earliest styles of rock and roll music. It dates back to the early 1950s in the United States, especially the Southern United States, South. As a genre it blends the sound of Western music (North America), Western music ...
and other genres outside of classical music, this instrument is commonly called the upright bass, standup bass or acoustic bass to distinguish it from the (usually electric)
bass guitar The bass guitar, electric bass or simply bass (), is the lowest-pitched member of the string family. It is a plucked string instrument similar in appearance and construction to an Electric guitar, electric or an acoustic guitar, but with a lo ...
. In
folk Folk or Folks may refer to: Sociology *Nation *People * Folklore ** Folk art ** Folk dance ** Folk hero ** Folk music *** Folk metal *** Folk punk *** Folk rock ** Folk religion * Folk taxonomy Arts, entertainment, and media * Folk Plus or Folk ...
and
bluegrass music Bluegrass music is a Music genre, genre of American roots music that developed in the 1940s in the Appalachian region of the United States. The genre derives its name from the band Bill Monroe, Bill Monroe and the Blue Grass Boys. Like Country ...
, the instrument is also referred to as a "bass fiddle" or "bass violin" (or more rarely as "doghouse bass" or "bull fiddle" ). As a member of the violin-family of instruments, the construction of the upright bass is quite different from that of the
acoustic bass guitar The acoustic bass guitar (sometimes shortened to acoustic bass or initialized ABG) is a bass instrument with a hollow wooden body similar to, though usually larger than a steel-string acoustic guitar. Like the traditional electric bass guitar an ...
, as the latter is a derivative of the electric bass guitar, and usually built like a larger and sturdier variant of an
acoustic guitar An acoustic guitar is a musical instrument in the string family. When a string is plucked its vibration is transmitted from the bridge, resonating throughout the top of the guitar. It is also transmitted to the side and back of the instrument, ...
. The double bass is sometimes confusingly called the
violone The term violone (; literally "large viol" in Italian, "wikt:-one#Italian, -one" being the augmentative suffix) can refer to several distinct large, bowed musical instruments which belong to either the viol or violin family. The violone is som ...
,
bass violin Bass violin is the modern term for various 16th- and 17th-century Bass (sound), bass instruments of the violin family, violin (i.e. ''Viola da braccio (instrument), viola da braccio'') family. They were the direct ancestor of the modern cello. Ba ...
or
bass viol The viol (), viola da gamba (), or informally gamba, is any one of a family of bowed, fret A fret is any of the thin strips of material, usually metal wire, inserted laterally at specific positions along the Neck (music), neck or fretboa ...
. Other colourful names or nicknames are found in other languages. In Hungarian, the double bass is called ''nagybőgő'', which roughly translates as "big crier", referring to its large voice.


Design

In general, there are two major approaches to the design outline shape of the double bass: the ''violin form'' (shown in the labelled picture in the construction section); and the ''viola da gamba'' form (shown in the header picture of this article). A third less common design, called the ''busetto'' shape, can also be found, as can the even more rare ''guitar'' or ''pear'' shape. The back of the instrument can vary from being a round, carved back similar to that of the violin, to a flat and angled back similar to the viol family. The double bass features many parts that are similar to members of the violin family, including a wooden, carved
bridge A bridge is a structure built to span a physical obstacle (such as a body of water, valley, road, or rail) without blocking the way underneath. It is constructed for the purpose of providing passage over the obstacle, which is usually someth ...
to support the strings, two
f-hole A sound hole is an opening in the body of a string instrument, stringed musical instrument, usually the upper Sound board (music), sound board. Sound holes have different shapes: * round in flat-top guitars and traditional bowl-back mandolins; ...
s, a tailpiece into which the ball ends of the strings are inserted (with the tailpiece anchored around the endpin mount), an ornamental
scroll A scroll (from the Old French ''escroe'' or ''escroue''), also known as a roll, is a roll of papyrus, parchment, or paper containing writing. Structure A scroll is usually partitioned into pages, which are sometimes separate sheets of papyrus ...
near the pegbox, a nut with grooves for each string at the junction of the fingerboard and the pegbox and a sturdy, thick sound post, which transmits the vibrations from the top of the instrument to the hollow body and supports the pressure of the string tension. Unlike the rest of the violin family, the double bass still reflects influences from, and can be considered partly derived, from the
viol The viol (), viola da gamba (), or informally gamba, is any one of a family of bow (music), bowed, fretted, and stringed instruments, stringed instruments with hollow wooden bodies and Tuning mechanisms for stringed instruments, pegboxes where ...
family of instruments, in particular the
violone The term violone (; literally "large viol" in Italian, "wikt:-one#Italian, -one" being the augmentative suffix) can refer to several distinct large, bowed musical instruments which belong to either the viol or violin family. The violone is som ...
, the lowest-pitched and largest bass member of the viol family. For example, the bass is tuned in fourths, like a viol, rather than in fifths, which is the standard in the violin group. Also, notice that the 'shoulders' meet the neck in a curve, rather than the sharp angle seen among violins. As with the other violin and viol family instruments that are played with a bow (and unlike mainly plucked or picked instruments like guitar), the double bass's bridge has an arc-like, curved shape. This is done because with bowed instruments, the player must be able to play individual strings. If the double bass were to have a flat bridge, it would be impossible to bow the A and D strings individually. The double bass also differs from members of the violin family in that the shoulders are typically sloped and the back is often angled (both to allow easier access to the instrument, particularly in the upper range). Machine tuners are always fitted, in contrast to the rest of the violin family, where traditional wooden friction pegs are still the primary means of tuning. Lack of standardization in design means that one double bass can sound and look very different from another.


Construction

The double bass is closest in construction to violins, but has some notable similarities to the violone ("large viol"), the largest and lowest-pitched member of the viol family. Unlike the violone, however, the fingerboard of the double bass is unfretted, and the double bass has fewer strings (the violone, like most viols, generally had six strings, although some specimens had five or four). The fingerboard is made of
ebony Ebony is a density, dense black/brown hardwood, coming from several species in the genus ''Diospyros'', which also contains the persimmons. Unlike most woods, ebony is dense enough to sink in water. It is finely textured and has a mirror finish ...
on high-quality instruments; on less expensive student instruments, other woods may be used and then painted or stained black (a process called "ebonizing"). The fingerboard is radiused using a curve, for the same reason that the bridge is curved: if the fingerboard and bridge were to be flat, then a bassist would not be able to bow the inner two strings individually. By using a curved bridge and a curved fingerboard, the bassist can align the bow with any of the four strings and play them individually. Unlike the violin and viola, but like the cello, the bass fingerboard is somewhat flattened out underneath the E string (the C string on cello), this is commonly known as a Romberg bevel. The vast majority of fingerboards cannot be adjusted by the performer; any adjustments must be made by a luthier. A very small number of expensive basses for professionals have adjustable fingerboards, in which a screw mechanism can be used to raise or lower the fingerboard height. An important distinction between the double bass and other members of the violin family is the construction of the
pegbox A variety of methods are used to tune different stringed instruments String instruments, stringed instruments, or chordophones are musical instrument A musical instrument is a device created or adapted to make Music, musical sounds. In ...
and the tuning mechanism. While the violin,
viola The viola ( , also , ) is a string instrument that is bow (music), bowed, plucked, or played with varying techniques. Slightly larger than a violin, it has a lower and deeper sound. Since the 18th century, it has been the middle or alto voice of ...
, and cello all use friction pegs for tuning adjustments (tightening and loosening the string tension to raise or lower the string's pitch), the double bass has metal
machine head A machine head (also referred to as a tuning machine, tuner, or gear head) is a geared apparatus for tuning stringed musical instruments by adjusting string tension. Machine heads are used on mandolins, guitars, double basses and others, and ar ...
s and gears. One of the challenges with tuning pegs is that the friction between the wood peg and the peg hole may become insufficient to hold the peg in place, particularly if the peg hole become worn and enlarged. The key on the tuning machine of a double bass turns a metal ''worm'', which drives a
worm gear A worm drive is a gear train, gear arrangement in which a worm (which is a gear in the form of a Screw thread, screw) meshes with a worm wheel (which is similar in appearance to a gear#Spur, spur gear). The two machine element, elements are als ...
that winds the string. Turning the key in one direction tightens the string (thus raising its pitch); turning the key the opposite direction reduces the tension on the string (thus lowering its pitch). While this development makes fine tuners on the tailpiece (important for violin, viola and cello players, as their instruments use friction pegs for major pitch adjustments) unnecessary, a very small number of bassists use them nevertheless. One rationale for using fine tuners on bass is that for instruments with the low C extension, the pulley system for the long string may not effectively transfer turns of the key into changes of string tension/pitch. At the base of the double bass is a metal rod with a spiked or rubberized end called the endpin, which rests on the floor. This endpin is generally thicker and more robust than that of a cello, because of the greater mass of the instrument. The materials most often used in double bass construction for fully carved basses (the type used by professional orchestra bassists and soloists) are
maple ''Acer'' () is a genus of trees and shrubs commonly known as maples. The genus is placed in the family Sapindaceae.Stevens, P. F. (2001 onwards). Angiosperm Phylogeny Website. Version 9, June 2008 nd more or less continuously updated since h ...
(back, neck, ribs),
spruce A spruce is a tree of the genus ''Picea'' (), a genus of about 35 species of coniferous evergreen trees in the family Pinaceae, found in the northern temperate and boreal ecosystem, boreal (taiga) regions of the Earth. ''Picea'' is the sole gen ...
(top), and
ebony Ebony is a density, dense black/brown hardwood, coming from several species in the genus ''Diospyros'', which also contains the persimmons. Unlike most woods, ebony is dense enough to sink in water. It is finely textured and has a mirror finish ...
(fingerboard, tailpiece). The tailpiece may be made from other types of wood or non-wood materials. Less expensive basses are typically constructed with
laminate Lamination is the technique/process of manufacturing a Raw material, material in multiple layers, so that the composite material achieves improved strength of materials, strength, stability, sound insulation, visual appearance, appearance, or ...
d (
plywood Plywood is a material manufactured from thin layers or "plies" of wood veneer that are glued together with adjacent layers having their wood grain rotated up to 90 degrees to one another. It is an engineered wood from the family of manufactured ...
) tops, backs, and ribs, or are hybrid models produced with laminated backs and sides and carved solid wood tops. Some 2010-era lower- to mid-priced basses are made of
willow Willows, also called sallows and osiers, from the genus ''Salix'', comprise List of Salix species, around 400 speciesMabberley, D.J. 1997. The Plant Book, Cambridge University Press #2: Cambridge. of typically deciduous trees and shrubs, found ...
, student models constructed of
Fiberglass Fiberglass (American English American English, sometimes called United States English or U.S. English, is the set of variety (linguistics), varieties of the English language native to the United States. English is the Languages of the Unit ...
were produced in the mid-20th century, and some (typically fairly expensive) basses have been constructed of
carbon fiber Carbon fiber-reinforced polymers ( American English), carbon-fibre-reinforced polymers ( Commonwealth English), carbon-fiber-reinforced plastics, carbon-fiber reinforced-thermoplastic (CFRP, CRP, CFRTP), also known as carbon fiber, carbon com ...
. Laminated (plywood) basses, which are widely used in music schools,
youth orchestra A youth orchestra is an orchestra An orchestra (; ) is a large Musical ensemble, instrumental ensemble typical of classical music, which combines instruments from different families. There are typically four main sections of instruments: * ...
s, and in popular and folk music settings (including
rockabilly Rockabilly is one of the earliest styles of rock and roll music. It dates back to the early 1950s in the United States, especially the Southern United States, South. As a genre it blends the sound of Western music (North America), Western music ...
,
psychobilly Psychobilly is a rock music Rock music is a broad genre of popular music that originated as "rock and roll" in the United States in the late 1940s and early 1950s, developing into a range of different styles in the mid-1960s and later, partic ...
,
blues Blues is a music genre and musical form which originated in the Deep South of the United States around the 1860s. Blues incorporated spiritual (music), spirituals, work songs, field hollers, Ring shout, shouts, chants, and rhymed simple narra ...
, etc.), are very resistant to humidity and heat, as well to the physical abuse they are apt to encounter in a school environment (or, for blues and folk musicians, to the hazards of touring and performing in bars). Another option is the hybrid body bass, which has a laminated back and a carved or solid wood top. It is less costly and somewhat less fragile (at least regarding its back) than a fully carved bass. The soundpost and bass bar are components of the internal construction. All the parts of a double bass are glued together, except the soundpost, bridge, and tailpiece, which are held in place by string tension (although the soundpost usually remains in place when the instrument's strings are loosened or removed, as long as the bass is kept on its back. Some luthiers recommend changing only one string at a time to reduce the risk of the soundpost falling). If the soundpost falls, a luthier is needed to put the soundpost back into position, as this must be done with tools inserted into the f-holes; moreover, the exact placement of the soundpost under the bridge is essential for the instrument to sound its best. Basic bridges are carved from a single piece of wood, which is customized to match the shape of the top of each instrument. The least expensive bridges on student instruments may be customized just by sanding the feet to match the shape of the instrument's top. A bridge on a professional bassist's instrument may be ornately carved by a luthier. Professional bassists are more likely to have adjustable bridges, which have a metal screw mechanism. This enables the bassist to raise or lower the height of the strings to accommodate changing humidity or temperature conditions. The metal tuning machines are attached to the sides of the pegbox with metal screws. While tuning mechanisms generally differ from the higher-pitched orchestral stringed instruments, some basses have non-functional, ornamental tuning pegs projecting from the side of the pegbox, in imitation of the tuning pegs on a cello or violin. Famous double bass makers come from around the world and often represent varied national characteristics. The most highly sought (and expensive) instruments come from Italy and include basses made by
Giovanni Paolo Maggini Giovanni Paolo Maggini (c. 1580 - c. 1630), was a luthier born in Botticino (Brescia), Italy. Maggini was a pupil of the most important violin maker of the Brescian school, Gasparo da Salò. Maggini's early instruments are now considered very desi ...
, Gasparo da Salò, the Testore family (Carlo Antonio, Carlo Giuseppe, Gennaro, Giovanni, Paulo Antonio), Celestino Puolotti, and Matteo Goffriller. French and English basses from famous makers are also sought out by players.


Travel instruments

Several manufacturers make travel instruments, which are double basses that have features which reduce the size of the instrument so that the instrument will meet airline travel requirements. Travel basses are designed for touring musicians. One type of travel bass has a much smaller body than normal, while still retaining all of the features needed for playing. While these smaller-body instruments appear similar to
electric upright bass The electric upright bass (EUB) is an instrument that can perform the musical function of a double bass. It requires only a minimal or 'skeleton' body to produce sound because it uses a pickup and electronic amplifier and loudspeaker. Therefore, ...
es, the difference is that small-body travel basses still have a fairly large hollow acoustic sound chamber, while many EUBs are solid body, or only have a small hollow chamber. A second type of travel bass has a hinged or removable neck and a regular sized body. The hinged or removable neck makes the instrument smaller when it is packed for transportation.


Strings

The history of the double bass is tightly coupled to the development of string technology, as it was the advent of overwound gut strings, which first rendered the instrument more generally practicable, as wound or overwound strings attain low notes within a smaller overall string diameter than non-wound strings. Professor Larry Hurst argues that had "it not been for the appearance of the overwound gut string in the 1650s, the double bass would surely have become extinct", because thicknesses needed for regular gut strings made the lower-pitched strings almost unplayable and hindered the development of fluid, rapid playing in the lower register. Prior to the 20th century, double bass strings were usually made of
catgut Catgut (also known as gut) is a type of cord that is prepared from the natural fiber Natural fibers or natural fibres (see Spelling differences#-re, -er, spelling differences) are fibers that are produced by geology, geological processes, or ...
; however, steel has largely replaced it, because steel strings hold their pitch better and yield more volume when played with the bow.Article on bass strings by the Double Bass Workshop
Gut strings are also more vulnerable to changes of humidity and temperature, and break more easily than steel strings. Gut strings are nowadays mostly used by bassists who perform in
baroque The Baroque (, ; ) is a Style (visual arts), style of Baroque architecture, architecture, Baroque music, music, Baroque dance, dance, Baroque painting, painting, Baroque sculpture, sculpture, poetry, and other arts that flourished in Europe from ...
ensembles,
rockabilly Rockabilly is one of the earliest styles of rock and roll music. It dates back to the early 1950s in the United States, especially the Southern United States, South. As a genre it blends the sound of Western music (North America), Western music ...
bands, traditional
blues Blues is a music genre and musical form which originated in the Deep South of the United States around the 1860s. Blues incorporated spiritual (music), spirituals, work songs, field hollers, Ring shout, shouts, chants, and rhymed simple narra ...
bands, and bluegrass bands. In some cases, the low E and A are wound in silver, to give them added mass. Gut strings provide the dark, "thumpy" sound heard on 1940s and 1950s recordings. The late Jeff Sarli, a blues upright bassist, said that "Starting in the 1950s, they began to reset the necks on basses for steel strings." Rockabilly and bluegrass bassists also prefer gut because it is much easier to perform the " slapping" upright bass style (in which the strings are percussively slapped and clicked against the fingerboard) with gut strings than with steel strings, because gut does not hurt the plucking fingers as much. A less expensive alternative to gut strings is nylon strings; the higher strings are pure nylon, and the lower strings are nylon wrapped in wire, to add more mass to the string, slowing the vibration, and thus facilitating lower pitches. The change from gut to steel has also affected the instrument's playing technique over the last hundred years. Steel strings can be set up closer to the fingerboard and, additionally, strings can be played in higher positions on the lower strings and still produce clear tone. The classic 19th century Franz Simandl method does not use the low E string in higher positions because older gut strings, set up high over the fingerboard, could not produce clear tone in these higher positions. However, with modern steel strings, bassists can play with clear tone in higher positions on the low E and A strings, particularly when they use modern lighter-gauge, lower-tension steel strings.


Bows

The double bass bow comes in two distinct forms (shown below). The "French" or "overhand" bow is similar in shape and implementation to the bow used on the other members of the orchestral string instrument family, while the "German" or "Butler" bow is typically broader and shorter, and is held in a "hand shake" (or "hacksaw") position. These two bows provide different ways of moving the arm and distributing force and weight on the strings. Proponents of the French bow argue that it is more maneuverable, due to the angle at which the player holds the bow. Advocates of the German bow claim that it allows the player to apply more arm weight on the strings. The differences between the two, however, are minute for a proficient player, and modern players in major orchestras use both bows.


German bow

The German bow (sometimes called the Butler bow) is the older of the two designs. The design of the bow and the manner of holding it descend from the older viol instrument family. With older viols, before
frogs A frog is any member of a diverse and largely Carnivore, carnivorous group of short-bodied, tailless amphibians composing the order (biology), order Anura (ανοὐρά, literally ''without tail'' in Ancient Greek). The oldest fossil "proto-f ...
had screw threads to tighten the bow, players held the bow with two fingers between the stick and the hair to maintain tension of the hair. Proponents of the use of German bow claim that the German bow is easier to use for heavy strokes that require a lot of power. Compared to the French bow, the German bow has a taller frog, and the player holds it with the palm angled upwards, as with the upright members of the
viol The viol (), viola da gamba (), or informally gamba, is any one of a family of bow (music), bowed, fretted, and stringed instruments, stringed instruments with hollow wooden bodies and Tuning mechanisms for stringed instruments, pegboxes where ...
family. When held in the traditionally correct manner, the thumb applies the necessary power to generate the desired sound. The index finger meets the bow at the point where the frog meets the stick. The index finger also applies an upward torque to the frog when tilting the bow. The little finger (or "pinky") supports the frog from underneath, while the ring finger and middle finger rest in the space between the hair and the shaft.


French bow

The French bow was not widely popular until its adoption by 19th-century virtuoso
Giovanni Bottesini Giovanni Bottesini (22 December 1821 – 7 July 1889) was an Italian Romantic composer, conductor, and a double bass The double bass (), also known simply as the bass () (or #Terminology, by other names), is the largest and lowest-pitched ...
. This style is more similar to the traditional bows of the smaller string family instruments. It is held as if the hand is resting by the side of the performer with the palm facing toward the bass. The thumb rests on the shaft of the bow, next to the frog while the other fingers drape on the other side of the bow. Various styles dictate the curve of the fingers and thumb, as do the style of piece; a more pronounced curve and lighter hold on the bow is used for virtuoso or more delicate pieces, while a flatter curve and sturdier grip on the bow sacrifices some power for easier control in strokes such as detaché, spiccato, and staccato.


Bow construction and materials

Double bass bows vary in length, ranging from . In general, a bass bow is shorter and heavier than a cello bow.
Pernambuco Pernambuco () is a States of Brazil, state of Brazil, located in the Northeast Region, Brazil, Northeast region of the country. With an estimated population of 9.6 million people as of 2020, making it List of Brazilian states by population, sev ...
, also known as Brazilwood, is regarded as an excellent quality stick material, but due to its scarcity and expense, other materials are increasingly being used. Inexpensive student bows may be constructed of solid
fiberglass Fiberglass (American English American English, sometimes called United States English or U.S. English, is the set of variety (linguistics), varieties of the English language native to the United States. English is the Languages of the Unit ...
, which makes the bow much lighter than a wooden bow (even too light to produce a good tone, in some cases). Student bows may also be made of the less valuable varieties of brazilwood.
Snakewood Snakewood is a common name of several different plants: * ''Acacia'' species (family Fabaceae) in Australia, ''Acacia eremaea'', ''Acacia intorta'', ''Acacia xiphophylla' * ''Brosimum guianense'' (= ''Piratinera guianensis'') (family Moraceae) (Let ...
and
carbon fiber Carbon fiber-reinforced polymers ( American English), carbon-fibre-reinforced polymers ( Commonwealth English), carbon-fiber-reinforced plastics, carbon-fiber reinforced-thermoplastic (CFRP, CRP, CFRTP), also known as carbon fiber, carbon com ...
are also used in bows of a variety of different qualities. The frog of the double bass bow is usually made out of
ebony Ebony is a density, dense black/brown hardwood, coming from several species in the genus ''Diospyros'', which also contains the persimmons. Unlike most woods, ebony is dense enough to sink in water. It is finely textured and has a mirror finish ...
, although snakewood and buffalo horn are used by some
luthiers A luthier ( ; AmE also ) is a craftsperson who builds or repairs string instrument String instruments, stringed instruments, or chordophones are musical instruments that produce sound from vibrating strings when a performer plays or so ...
. The
frog A frog is any member of a diverse and largely Carnivore, carnivorous group of short-bodied, tailless amphibians composing the order (biology), order Anura (ανοὐρά, literally ''without tail'' in Ancient Greek). The oldest fossil "proto-f ...
is movable, as it can be tightened or loosened with a knob (like all violin family bows). The bow is loosened at the end of a practice session or performance. The bow is tightened before playing, until it reaches a tautness that is preferred by the player. The frog on a quality bow is decorated with
mother of pearl Nacre ( , ), also known as mother of pearl, is an organicinorganic composite material produced by some molluscs as an inner seashell, shell layer; it is also the material of which pearls are composed. It is strong, resilient, and Iridescence, ...
inlay. Bows have a leather wrapping on the wooden part of the bow near the frog. Along with the leather wrapping, there is also a wire wrapping, made of
gold Gold is a chemical element with the Symbol (chemistry), symbol Au (from la, aurum) and atomic number 79. This makes it one of the higher atomic number elements that occur naturally. It is a Brightness, bright, slightly orange-yellow, dense, s ...
or
silver Silver is a chemical element with the Symbol (chemistry), symbol Ag (from the Latin ', derived from the Proto-Indo-European wikt:Reconstruction:Proto-Indo-European/h₂erǵ-, ''h₂erǵ'': "shiny" or "white") and atomic number 47. A soft, whi ...
in quality bows. The hair is usually
horsehair Horsehair is the long hair growing on the Mane (horse), manes and Tail (horse), tails of horses. It is used for various purposes, including upholstery, brushes, the Bow (music), bows of musical instruments, a hard-wearing Textile, fabric called ...
. Part of the regular maintenance of a bow is having the bow "rehaired" by a
luthier A luthier ( ; AmE also ) is a craftsperson who builds or repairs string instruments that have a neck and a sound box. The word "luthier" is originally French language, French and comes from the French word for lute. The term was originally us ...
with fresh horsehair and having the leather and wire wrapping replaced. The double bass bow is strung with either white or black horsehair, or a combination of the two (known as "salt and pepper"), as opposed to the customary white horsehair used on the bows of other string instruments. Some bassists argue that the slightly rougher black hair "grabs" the heavier, lower strings better. As well, some bassists and luthiers believe that it is easier to produce a smoother sound with the white variety. Red hair (chestnut) is also used by some bassists. Some of the lowest-quality, lowest cost student bows are made with synthetic hair. Synthetic hair does not have the tiny "barbs" that real horsehair has, so it does not "grip" the string well or take rosin well.


Rosin

String players apply
rosin Rosin (), also called colophony or Greek pitch ( la, links=no, pix graeca), is a solid form of resin obtained from pines and some other plants, mostly Pinophyta, conifers, produced by heating fresh liquid resin to vaporize the Volatility (chemis ...
to the bow hair so it "grips" the string and makes it vibrate. Double bass rosin is generally softer and stickier than violin rosin to allow the hair to grab the thicker strings better, but players use a wide variety of rosins that vary from quite hard (like violin rosin) to quite soft, depending on the weather, the humidity, and the preference of the player. The amount used generally depends on the type of music being performed as well as the personal preferences of the player. Bassists may apply more rosin in works for large orchestra (e.g., Brahms symphonies) than for delicate chamber works. Some brands of rosin, such as Wiedoeft or Pop's double bass rosin, are softer and more prone to melting in hot weather. Other brands, such as Carlsson or Nyman Harts double bass rosin, are harder and less prone to melting.


Mechanism of sound production

Owing to their relatively small diameters, the strings themselves do not move much air and therefore cannot produce much sound on their own. The vibrational energy of the strings must somehow be transferred to the surrounding air. To do this, the strings vibrate the bridge and this in turn vibrates the top surface. Very small amplitude but relatively large force variations (due to the cyclically varying tension in the vibrating string) at the bridge are transformed to larger amplitude ones by combination of bridge and body of the bass. The bridge transforms the high force, small amplitude vibrations to lower force higher amplitude vibrations on the top of the bass body. The top is connected to the back by means of a sound post, so the back also vibrates. Both the front and back transmit the vibrations to the air and act to match the impedance of the vibrating string to the
acoustic impedance Acoustic impedance and specific acoustic impedance are measures of the opposition that a system presents to the acoustic flow resulting from an acoustic pressure applied to the system. The International System of Units, SI unit of acoustic impedan ...
of the air.


Specific sound and tone production mechanism

Because the acoustic bass is a non-fretted instrument, any string vibration due to plucking or bowing will cause an audible sound due to the strings vibrating against the fingerboard near to the fingered position. This busing sound gives the note its character.


Pitch

The lowest note of a double bass is an E1 (on standard four-string basses) at approximately 41 Hz or a C1 (≈33 Hz), or sometimes B0 (≈31 Hz), when five strings are used. This is within about an octave above the lowest frequency that the average human ear can perceive as a distinctive pitch. The top of the instrument's fingerboard range is typically near D5, two octaves and a fifth above the open pitch of the G string (G2), as shown in the range illustration found at the head of this article. Playing beyond the end of the fingerboard can be accomplished by pulling the string slightly to the side. Double bass symphony parts sometimes indicate that the performer should play
harmonics A harmonic is a wave with a frequency that is a positive integer multiple of the ''fundamental frequency'', the frequency of the original periodic signal, such as a sinusoidal wave. The original signal is also called the ''1st harmonic'', the ...
(also called flageolet tones), in which the bassist lightly touches the string–without pressing it onto the fingerboard in the usual fashion–in the location of a note and then plucks or bows the note. Bowed harmonics are used in contemporary music for their "glassy" sound. Both natural
harmonics A harmonic is a wave with a frequency that is a positive integer multiple of the ''fundamental frequency'', the frequency of the original periodic signal, such as a sinusoidal wave. The original signal is also called the ''1st harmonic'', the ...
and
artificial harmonic Playing a string harmonic (a flageolet) is a string instrument musical technique, technique that uses the node (physics), nodes of natural harmonics of a musical string (music), string to isolate Overtone, overtones. Playing string harmonics prod ...
s, where the thumb stops the note and the octave or other harmonic is activated by lightly touching the string at the relative node point, extend the instrument's range considerably. Natural and artificial harmonics are used in plenty of virtuoso concertos for the double bass. Orchestral parts from the standard Classical repertoire rarely demand the double bass exceed a two-octave and a minor third range, from E1 to G3, with occasional A3s appearing in the standard repertoire (an exception to this rule is Orff's ''
Carmina Burana ''Carmina Burana'' (, Latin Latin (, or , ) is a classical language belonging to the Italic languages, Italic branch of the Indo-European languages. Latin was originally a dialect spoken in the lower Tiber area (then known as Latium) arou ...
'', which calls for three octaves and a perfect fourth). The upper limit of this range is extended a great deal for 20th- and 21st-century orchestral parts (e.g.,
Prokofiev Sergei Sergeyevich Prokofiev; alternative transliterations of his name include ''Sergey'' or ''Serge'', and ''Prokofief'', ''Prokofieff'', or ''Prokofyev''., group=n (27 April .S. 15 April1891 – 5 March 1953) was a Russian composer ...
's '' Lieutenant Kijé Suite'' (1933) bass solo, which calls for notes as high as D4 and E4). The upper range a
virtuoso A virtuoso (from Italian language, Italian ''virtuoso'' or , "virtuous", Late Latin ''virtuosus'', Latin ''virtus'', "virtue", "excellence" or "skill") is an individual who possesses outstanding Aptitude, talent and technical ability in a partic ...
solo player can achieve using natural and artificial harmonics is hard to define, as it depends on the skill of the particular player. The high harmonic in the range illustration found at the head of this article may be taken as representative rather than normative. Five-string instruments have an additional string, typically tuned to a low B below the E string (B0). On rare occasions, a higher string is added instead, tuned to the C above the G string (C3). Four-string instruments may feature the C extension extending the range of the E string downwards to C1 (sometimes B0). Traditionally, the double bass is a
transposing instrument A transposing instrument is a musical instrument for which music notation is not written at concert pitch (concert pitch is the pitch on a non-transposing instrument such as the piano). For example, playing a written middle C on a transposing in ...
. Since much of the double bass's range lies below the standard
bass clef A clef (from French: 'key') is a Musical notation, musical symbol used to indicate which Musical note, notes are represented by the lines and spaces on a musical staff (music), stave. Placing a clef on a stave assigns a particular pitch to ...
, it is notated an octave higher than it sounds to avoid having to use excessive ledger lines below the staff. Thus, when double bass players and cellists are playing from a combined bass-cello part, as used in many Mozart and Haydn symphonies, they will play in octaves, with the basses one octave below the cellos. This transposition applies even when bass players are reading the
tenor A tenor is a type of classical music, classical male singing human voice, voice whose vocal range lies between the countertenor and baritone voice types. It is the highest male chest voice type. The tenor's vocal range extends up to C5. The lo ...
and
treble clef A clef (from French: 'key') is a Musical notation, musical symbol used to indicate which Musical note, notes are represented by the lines and spaces on a musical staff (music), stave. Placing a clef on a stave assigns a particular pitch to ...
(which are used in solo playing and some orchestral parts). The tenor clef is also used by composers for cello and low brass parts. The use of tenor or treble clef avoids excessive ledger lines above the staff when notating the instrument's upper range. Other notation traditions exist. Italian solo music is typically written at the sounding pitch, and the "old" German method sounded an octave below where notation except in the treble clef, where the music was written at pitch.


Tuning


Regular tuning

The double bass is generally tuned in fourths, in contrast to other members of the orchestral string family, which are tuned in fifths (for example, the violin's four strings are, from lowest-pitched to highest-pitched: G–D–A–E). The standard tuning (lowest-pitched to highest-pitched) for bass is E–A–D–G, starting from E below second low C (
concert pitch Concert pitch is the pitch (music), pitch reference to which a group of musical instruments are musical tuning, tuned for a performance. Concert pitch may vary from musical ensemble, ensemble to ensemble, and has varied widely over music history. ...
). This is the same as the standard tuning of a bass guitar and is one
octave In music, an octave ( la, octavus: eighth) or perfect octave (sometimes called the Pythagorean interval, diapason) is the interval (music), interval between one musical Pitch (music), pitch and another with double its frequency. The octave rela ...
lower than the four lowest-pitched strings of standard guitar tuning. Prior to the 19th-century, many double basses had only three strings; "Giovanni Bottesini (1821–1889) favored the three-stringed instrument popular in Italy at the time", because "the three-stringed instrument as viewed asbeing more sonorous". Many cobla bands in
Catalonia Catalonia (; ca, Catalunya ; Aranese Occitan: ''Catalonha'' ; es, Cataluña ) is an autonomous community of Spain, designated as a ''nationalities and regions of Spain, nationality'' by its Statute of Autonomy of Catalonia of 2006, Statute ...
still have players using traditional three-string double basses tuned A–D–G. Throughout classical repertoire, there are notes that fall below the range of a standard double bass. Notes below low E appear regularly in the double bass parts found in later arrangements and interpretations of
Baroque music Baroque music ( or ) refers to the period or dominant style of Western classical music composed from about 1600 to 1750. The Baroque style followed the Renaissance period, and was followed in turn by the Classical period after a short transi ...
. In the Classical era, the double bass typically doubled the cello part an octave below, occasionally requiring descent to C below the E of the four-string double bass. In the Romantic era and the 20th century, composers such as
Wagner Wilhelm Richard Wagner ( ; ; 22 May 181313 February 1883) was a German composer, theatre director, polemicist, and conductor who is chiefly known for his operas (or, as some of his mature works were later known, "music dramas"). Unlike most op ...
, Mahler, Busoni and
Prokofiev Sergei Sergeyevich Prokofiev; alternative transliterations of his name include ''Sergey'' or ''Serge'', and ''Prokofief'', ''Prokofieff'', or ''Prokofyev''., group=n (27 April .S. 15 April1891 – 5 March 1953) was a Russian composer ...
also requested notes below the low E. There are several methods for making these notes available to the player. Players with standard double basses (E–A–D–G) may play the notes below "E" an octave higher or if this sounds awkward, the entire passage may be transposed up an octave. The player may tune the low E string down to the lowest note required in the piece: D or C. Four-string basses may be fitted with a "low-C extension" ( see below). Or the player may employ a five-string instrument, with the additional lower string tuned to C, or (more commonly in modern times) B, three
octave In music, an octave ( la, octavus: eighth) or perfect octave (sometimes called the Pythagorean interval, diapason) is the interval (music), interval between one musical Pitch (music), pitch and another with double its frequency. The octave rela ...
s and a
semitone A semitone, also called a half step or a half tone, is the smallest interval (music), musical interval commonly used in Western tonal music, and it is considered the most Consonance and dissonance#Dissonance, dissonant when sounded harmonically ...
below
middle C C or Do is the first note (music), note and semitone of the C major musical scale, scale, the third note of the A minor scale (the Relative key, relative minor of C major), and the fourth note (G, A, B, C) of the Guidonian hand, commonly Pitch (mu ...
. Several major European orchestras use basses with a fifth string.


C extension

Most professional orchestral players use four-string double basses with a ''C extension''. This is an extra section of fingerboard mounted on the head of the bass. It extends the fingerboard under the lowest string and gives an additional four semitones of downward range. The lowest string is typically tuned down to C1, an octave below the lowest note on the cello (as it is quite common for a bass part to double the cello part an octave lower). More rarely this string may be tuned to a low B0, as a few works in the orchestral repertoire call for such a B, such as Respighi's ''The Pines of Rome''. In rare cases, some players have a low B extension, which has B as its lowest note. There are several varieties of extensions: In the simplest mechanical extensions, there are no mechanical aids attached to the fingerboard extension except a locking nut or "gate" for the E note. To play the extension notes, the player reaches back over the area under the scroll to press the string to the fingerboard. The advantage of this "fingered" extension is that the player can adjust the intonation of all of the stopped notes on the extension, and there are no mechanical noises from metal keys and levers. The disadvantage of the "fingered" extension is that it can be hard to perform rapid alternations between low notes on the extension and notes on the regular fingerboard, such as a bassline that quickly alternates between G1 and D1. The simplest type of mechanical aid is the use of wooden "fingers" or "gates" that can be closed to press the string down and fret the C, D, E, or E notes. This system is particularly useful for basslines that have a repeating
pedal point In music, a pedal point (also pedal note, organ point, pedal tone, or pedal) is a sustained Musical note, tone, typically in the bass note, bass, during which at least one foreign (i.e. consonance and dissonance, dissonant) harmony is sounded in ...
such as a low D because once the note is locked in place with the mechanical finger the lowest string sounds a different note when played open. The most complicated mechanical aid for use with extensions is the mechanical lever system nicknamed the ''machine''. This lever system, which superficially resembles the keying mechanism of reed instruments such as the bassoon, mounts levers beside the regular fingerboard (near the nut, on the E-string side), which remotely activate metal "fingers" on the extension fingerboard. The most expensive metal lever systems also give the player the ability to "lock" down notes on the extension fingerboard, as with the wooden "finger" system. One criticism of these devices is that they may lead to unwanted metallic clicking noises. Once a mechanical "finger" of the wooden "finger" extension or the metal "finger" machine extension is locked down or depressed, it is not easy to make microtonal pitch adjustments or
glissando In music, a glissando (; plural: ''glissandi'', abbreviated ''gliss.'') is a wikt:glide, glide from one pitch (music), pitch to another (). It is an Italianized Musical terminology, musical term derived from the French ''glisser'', "to glide". In ...
effects, as is possible with a hand-fingered extension. Five-string basses, in which the lowest string is normally B0, may use either a two semitone extension, providing a low A, or the very rare low G extension.


Other tuning variations

A small number of bass players tune their strings in fifths, like a cello but an octave lower (C1–G1–D2–A2 low to high). This tuning was used by the jazz player Red Mitchell and is used by some classical players, notably the Canadian bassist Joel Quarrington. Advocates of tuning the bass in fifths point out that all of the other orchestral strings are tuned in fifths (violin, viola, and cello), so this puts the bass in the same tuning approach. Fifth tuning provides a bassist with a wider range of pitch than a standard E–A–D–G bass, as it ranges (without an extension) from C1 to A2. Some players who use fifths tuning who play a five-string bass use an additional high E3 string (thus, from lowest to highest: C–G–D–A–E). Some fifth tuning bassists who only have a four string instrument and who are mainly performing soloistic works use the G–D–A–E tuning, thus omitting the low C string but gaining a high E. Some fifth tuning bassists who use a five-string use a smaller scale instrument, thus making fingering somewhat easier. The Berlioz–Strauss Treatise on Instrumentation (first published in 1844) states that "A good orchestra should have several four-string double-basses, some of them tuned in fifths and thirds." The book then shows a tuning of E1–G1–D2–A2) from bottom to top string. "Together with the other double-basses tuned in fourths, a combination of open strings would be available, which would greatly increase the sonority of the orchestra." In classical solo playing the double bass is usually tuned a whole tone higher (F1–B1–E2–A2). This higher tuning is called "solo tuning", whereas the regular tuning is known as "orchestral tuning". Solo tuning strings are generally thinner than regular strings. String tension differs so much between solo and orchestral tuning that a different set of strings is often employed that has a lighter gauge. Strings are always labelled for either solo or orchestral tuning and published solo music is arranged for either solo or orchestral tuning. Some popular solos and concerti, such as the '' Koussevitsky Concerto'' are available in both solo and orchestral tuning arrangements. Solo tuning strings can be tuned down a tone to play in orchestra pitch, but the strings often lack projection in orchestral tuning and their pitch may be unstable. Some contemporary composers specify highly specialized
scordatura Scordatura (; literally, Italian for "discord", or "mistuning") is a Musical tuning, tuning of a string instrument that is different from the normal, standard tuning. It typically attempts to allow special effects or unusual chords or timbre, or to ...
(intentionally changing the tuning of the open strings). Changing the pitch of the open strings makes different notes available as
pedal point In music, a pedal point (also pedal note, organ point, pedal tone, or pedal) is a sustained Musical note, tone, typically in the bass note, bass, during which at least one foreign (i.e. consonance and dissonance, dissonant) harmony is sounded in ...
s and harmonics. Berio, for example, asks the player to tune their strings E1–G1–D2–G2 in ''Sequenza XIVb'' and Scelsi asks for both F1–A1–D2–E2 and F1–A1–F2–E2 in ''Nuits''. A variant and much less-commonly used form of solo tuning used in some Eastern European countries is (A1–D2–G2–C3), which omits the low E string from orchestral tuning and then adds a high C string. Some bassists with five-string basses use a high C3 string as the fifth string, instead of a low B0 string. Adding the high C string facilitates the performance of solo repertoire with a high tessitura (range). Another option is to utilize both a low C (or low B) extension and a high C string.


Five strings

When choosing a bass with a fifth string, the player may decide between adding a higher-pitched string (a high C string) or a lower-pitched string (typically a low B). To accommodate the additional fifth string, the fingerboard is usually slightly widened, and the top slightly thicker, to handle the increased tension. Most five-string basses are therefore larger in size than a standard four-string bass. Some five-stringed instruments are converted four-string instruments. Because these do not have wider fingerboards, some players find them more difficult to finger and bow. Converted four-string basses usually require either a new, thicker top, or lighter strings to compensate for the increased tension.


Six strings

The six-string double bass has both a high C and a low B, making it very useful, and it is becoming more practical after several updates. It is ideal for solo and orchestral playing because it has a more playable range. Many people achieved this on a six-string
violone The term violone (; literally "large viol" in Italian, "wikt:-one#Italian, -one" being the augmentative suffix) can refer to several distinct large, bowed musical instruments which belong to either the viol or violin family. The violone is som ...
by restringing it with double bass strings making the tuning B0–E1–A1–D2–G2–C3.


Playing and performance considerations


Body and hand position

Double bassists either stand or sit to play the instrument. The instrument height is set by adjusting the endpin such that the player can reach the desired playing zones of the strings with bow or plucking hand. Bassists who stand and bow sometimes set the endpin by aligning the first finger in either first or half position with eye level, although there is little standardization in this regard. Players who sit generally use a stool about the height of the player's trousers inseam length. Traditionally, double bassists stood to play solo and sat to play in the orchestra or opera pit. Now, it is unusual for a player to be equally proficient in both positions, so some soloists sit (as with Joel Quarrington, Jeff Bradetich, Thierry Barbé, and others) and some orchestral bassists stand. When playing in the instrument's upper range (above G3, the G below middle C), the player shifts the hand from behind the neck and flattens it out, using the side of the thumb to press down the string. This technique—also used on the cello—is called '' thumb position''. While playing in thumb position, few players use the fourth (little) finger, as it is usually too weak to produce reliable tone (this is also true for cellists), although some extreme chords or extended techniques, especially in contemporary music, may require its use.


Physical considerations

Rockabilly style can be very demanding on the plucking hand, due to rockabilly's use of "slapping" on the fingerboard. Performing on bass can be physically demanding, because the strings are under relatively high tension. Also, the space between notes on the fingerboard is large, due to scale length and string spacing, so players must hold their fingers apart for the notes in the lower positions and shift positions frequently to play basslines. As with all non-fretted
string instrument String instruments, stringed instruments, or chordophones are musical instruments that produce sound from vibrating strings when a performer plays or sounds the strings in some manner. Musicians play some string instruments by plucking the ...
s, performers must learn to place their fingers precisely to produce the correct pitch. For bassists with shorter arms or smaller hands, the large spaces between pitches may present a significant challenge, especially in the lowest range, where the spaces between notes are largest. However, the increased use of playing techniques such as thumb position and modifications to the bass, such as the use of lighter-gauge strings at lower tension, have eased the difficulty of playing the instrument. Bass parts have relatively fewer fast passages, double stops, or large jumps in range. These parts are usually given to the cello section, since the cello is a smaller instrument on which these techniques are more easily performed. Until the 1990s, child-sized double basses were not widely available, and the large size of the bass prevented children from playing the instrument until they grew to a height and hand size that allowed them to play a -size model (the most common size). Starting in the 1990s, smaller , , , and even -sized instruments became more widely available, so children could start younger.


Volume

Despite the size of the instrument, it is not as loud as many other instruments, due to its low musical
pitch Pitch may refer to: Acoustic frequency * Pitch (music), the perceived frequency of sound including "definite pitch" and "indefinite pitch" ** Absolute pitch or "perfect pitch" ** Pitch class, a set of all pitches that are a whole number of octave ...
. In a large orchestra, usually between four and eight bassists play the same
bassline Bassline (also known as a bass line or bass part) is the term used in many styles of music, such as blues, jazz, funk, Dub music, dub and electronic music, electronic, traditional music, traditional, or classical music for the low-pitched Part ( ...
in unison to produce enough volume. In the largest orchestras, bass sections may have as many as ten or twelve players, but modern budget constraints make bass sections this large unusual. When writing solo passages for the bass in orchestral or chamber music, composers typically ensure the
orchestration Orchestration is the study or practice of writing music for an orchestra (or, more loosely, for any musical ensemble, such as a concert band) or of adapting music composed for another medium for an orchestra. Also called "instrumentation", orch ...
is light so it does not obscure the bass. While amplification is rarely used in classical music, in some cases where a bass soloist performs a concerto with a full orchestra, subtle amplification called acoustic enhancement may be used. The use of microphones and amplifiers in a classical setting has led to debate within the classical community, as "...purists maintain that the natural acoustic sound of lassicalvoices rinstruments in a given hall should not be altered". In many genres, such as
jazz Jazz is a music genre that originated in the African Americans, African-American communities of New Orleans, Louisiana in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, with its roots in blues and ragtime. Since the 1920s Jazz Age, it has been recog ...
and
blues Blues is a music genre and musical form which originated in the Deep South of the United States around the 1860s. Blues incorporated spiritual (music), spirituals, work songs, field hollers, Ring shout, shouts, chants, and rhymed simple narra ...
, players use amplification via a specialized amplifier and loudspeakers. A piezoelectric pickup connects to the amplifier with a -inch patch cable. Bluegrass and jazz players typically use less amplification than blues,
psychobilly Psychobilly is a rock music Rock music is a broad genre of popular music that originated as "rock and roll" in the United States in the late 1940s and early 1950s, developing into a range of different styles in the mid-1960s and later, partic ...
, or
jam band A jam band is a musical group whose concerts (and live album, live albums) are characterized by lengthy improvisational "jam session, jams." These include extended musical improvisation over rhythmic groove (music), grooves and vamp (music), ...
players. In the latter cases, high overall volume from other amplifiers and instruments may cause unwanted
acoustic feedback Audio feedback (also known as acoustic feedback, simply as feedback) is a positive feedback situation which may occur when an acoustic path exists between an audio input (for example, a microphone or guitar pickup) and an audio output (for examp ...
, a problem exacerbated by the bass's large surface area and interior volume. The feedback problem has led to technological fixes like electronic feedback eliminator devices (essentially an automated
notch filter In signal processing Signal processing is an electrical engineering subfield that focuses on analyzing, modifying and synthesizing '' signals'', such as sound In physics, sound is a vibration that propagates as an acoustic wave, t ...
that identifies and reduces frequencies where feedback occurs) and instruments like the
electric upright bass The electric upright bass (EUB) is an instrument that can perform the musical function of a double bass. It requires only a minimal or 'skeleton' body to produce sound because it uses a pickup and electronic amplifier and loudspeaker. Therefore, ...
, which has playing characteristics like the double bass but usually little or no soundbox, which makes feedback less likely. Some bassists reduce the problem of feedback by lowering their onstage volume or playing further away from their bass amp speakers. In rockabilly and psychobilly, percussively slapping the strings against the fingerboard is an important part of the bass playing style. Since piezoelectric pickups are not good at reproducing the sounds of strings being slapped against the fingerboard, bassists in these genres often use both piezoelectric pickups (for the low bass tone) and a miniature condenser mic (to pick up the percussive slapping sounds). These two signals are blended together using a simple mixer before the signal is sent to the bass amp.


Transportation

The double bass's large size and relative fragility make it cumbersome to handle and transport. Most bassists use soft cases, referred to as gig bags, to protect the instrument during transport. These range from inexpensive, thin unpadded cases used by students (which only protect against scratches and rain) to thickly padded versions for professional players, which also protect against bumps and impacts. Some bassists carry their bow in a hard bow case; more expensive bass cases have a large pocket for a bow case. Players also may use a small cart and end pin-attached wheels to move the bass. Some higher-priced padded cases have wheels attached to the case. Another option found in higher-priced padded cases are backpack straps, to make it easier to carry the instrument. Hard flight cases have cushioned interiors and tough exteriors of
carbon fiber Carbon fiber-reinforced polymers ( American English), carbon-fibre-reinforced polymers ( Commonwealth English), carbon-fiber-reinforced plastics, carbon-fiber reinforced-thermoplastic (CFRP, CRP, CFRTP), also known as carbon fiber, carbon com ...
,
graphite Graphite () is a crystalline A crystal or crystalline solid is a solid material whose constituents (such as atoms, molecules, or ions) are arranged in a highly ordered microscopic structure, forming a crystal lattice that extends in al ...
,
fiberglass Fiberglass (American English American English, sometimes called United States English or U.S. English, is the set of variety (linguistics), varieties of the English language native to the United States. English is the Languages of the Unit ...
, or
Kevlar Kevlar (para-aramid) is a strong, heat-resistant synthetic fiber, related to other aramids such as Nomex and Technora. Developed by Stephanie Kwolek at DuPont in 1965, the high-strength material was first used commercially in the early 1970s as ...
. The cost of good hard cases–several thousand US dollars–and the high airline fees for shipping them tend to limit their use to touring professionals.


Accessories

Double bass players use various accessories to help them to perform and rehearse. Three types of mutes are used in orchestral music: a wooden mute that slides onto the bridge, a rubber mute that attaches to the bridge and a wire device with brass weights that fits onto the bridge. The player uses the mute when the Italian instruction ''con sordino'' ("with mute") appears in the bass part, and removes it in response to the instruction ''senza sordino'' ("without mute"). With the mute on, the tone of the bass is quieter, darker, and more somber. Bowed bass parts with a mute can have a nasal tone. Players use a third type of mute, a heavy rubber practice mute, to practice quietly without disturbing others (e.g., in a hotel room). A quiver is an accessory for holding the bow. It is often made of leather and it attaches to the bridge and tailpiece with ties or straps. It is used to hold the bow while a player plays pizzicato parts. A wolf tone eliminator is used to lessen unwanted sympathetic vibrations in the part of a string between the bridge and the tailpiece which can cause tone problems for certain notes. It is a rubber tube cut down the side that is used with a cylindrical metal sleeve which also has a slot on the side. The metal cylinder has a screw and a nut that fastens the device to the string. Different placements of the cylinder along the string influence or eliminate the frequency at which the wolf tone occurs. It is essentially an attenuator that slightly shifts the natural frequency of the string (and/or instrument body) cutting down on the reverberation. The wolf tone occurs because the strings below the bridge sometimes resonate at pitches close to notes on the playing part of the string. When the intended note makes the below-the-bridge string vibrate sympathetically, a dissonant "wolf note" or "wolf tone" can occur. In some cases, the wolf tone is strong enough to cause an audible "beating" sound. The wolf tone often occurs with the note G on the bass. In orchestra, instruments tune to an A played by the oboist. Due to the three-octave gap between the oboist's tuning A and the open A string on the bass (for example, in an orchestra that tunes to 440 Hz, the oboist plays an A4 at 440 Hz and the open A1 of the bass is 55 Hz) it can be difficult to tune the bass by ear during the short period that the oboist plays the tuning note. Violinists, on the other hand, tune their A string to the same frequency as the oboist's tuning note. There is a method commonly used to tune a double bass in this context by playing the A harmonic on the D string (which is only an octave below the oboe A) and then matching the harmonics of the other strings. However, this method is not foolproof, since some basses' harmonics are not perfectly in tune with the open strings. To ensure the bass is in tune, some bassists use an
electronic tuner In music, an electronic tuner is a device that detects and displays the Pitch (music), pitch of musical notes played on a musical instrument. "Pitch" is the perceived fundamental frequency of a musical note, which is typically measured in Hertz ...
that indicates pitch on a small display. Bassists who play in styles that use a
bass amp A bass amplifier (also abbreviated to bass amp) is a Instrument amplifier, musical instrument electronic device that uses electrical power to make lower-pitched musical instrument, instruments such as the bass guitar or double bass loud enough ...
, such as blues, rockabilly, or jazz, may use a
stompbox A stomp box (or stompbox) is a percussion instrument consisting of a small box placed under the foot, which is tapped or stamped on rhythmically to produce a sound similar to that of a bass drum. A stomp box allows a performer such as a singe ...
-format electronic tuner, which mutes the bass pickup during tuning. A double bass stand is used to hold the instrument in place and raise it a few inches off the ground. A wide variety of stands are available, and there is no one common design.


Classical repertoire


Solo works for double bass


1700s

The double bass as a solo instrument enjoyed a period of popularity during the 18th century and many of the most popular composers from that era wrote pieces for the double bass. The double bass, then often referred to as the
Violone The term violone (; literally "large viol" in Italian, "wikt:-one#Italian, -one" being the augmentative suffix) can refer to several distinct large, bowed musical instruments which belong to either the viol or violin family. The violone is som ...
, used different tunings from region to region. The "Viennese tuning" (A1–D2–F2–A2) was popular, and in some cases a fifth string or even sixth string was added (F1–A1–D2–F2–A2). The popularity of the instrument is documented in
Leopold Mozart Johann Georg Leopold Mozart (November 14, 1719 – May 28, 1787) was a German composer, violinist and theorist. He is best known today as the father and teacher of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, and for his violin textbook ''Versuch einer gründlichen ...
's second edition of his Violinschule, where he writes "One can bring forth difficult passages easier with the five-string violone, and I heard unusually beautiful performances of concertos, trios, solos, etc." The earliest known concerto for double bass was written by
Joseph Haydn Franz Joseph Haydn ( , ; 31 March 173231 May 1809) was an Austrian composer of the Classical period (music), Classical period. He was instrumental in the development of chamber music such as the string quartet and piano trio. His contributions ...
1763, and is presumed lost in a fire at the Eisenstadt library. The earliest known existing concertos are by
Carl Ditters von Dittersdorf Carl Ditters von Dittersdorf (2 November 1739 – 24 October 1799) was an Austrian composer, violinist, and silvology, silvologist. He was a friend of both Haydn and Mozart. (webpage has a translation button) Life 1739–1764 Dittersdorf wa ...
, who composed two concertos for the double bass and a Sinfonia Concertante for viola and double bass. Other composers that have written concertos from this period include
Johann Baptist Wanhal Johann Baptist Wanhal (12 May 1739 – 20 August 1813) was a Czech Republic, Czech classical music composer. He was born in Nechanice, Kingdom of Bohemia, Bohemia, and died in Vienna. His music was well respected by Mozart, Haydn, Beethoven and Sc ...
, Franz Anton Hoffmeister (3 concertos), Leopold Kozeluch, Anton Zimmermann, Antonio Capuzzi,
Wenzel Pichl Wenzel is a male given name (long version Wenzeslaus Wenceslaus, Wenceslas, Wenzeslaus and Wenzslaus (and other similar names) are Latinized forms of the Slavic names#In Slovakia and Czech_Republic, Czech name Václav. The other language versions o ...
(2 concertos), and
Johannes Matthias Sperger Johannes Matthias Sperger, also often Johann, (Czech language, Czech: Jan Matyáš Sperger; 23 March 1750 – 13 May 1812) was an Austrian double bassist and composer. Sperger was born in Valtice, Feldsberg,At the time of his birth, Feldsberg ...
(18 concertos). While many of these names were leading figures to the music public of their time, they are generally unknown by contemporary audiences.
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (27 January 17565 December 1791), baptised as Joannes Chrysostomus Wolfgangus Theophilus Mozart, was a prolific and influential composer of the Classical period (music), Classical period. Despite his short life, his ra ...
's concert aria, ''
Per Questa Bella Mano "", Köchel catalogue, K. 612, is a concert aria by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart for solo Bass (voice type), bass with an obbligato double bass. Composed in Vienna, it is dated 8 March 1791 in Mozart's own catalogue. It is well known by players of the d ...
'', K.612 for bass, double bass
obbligato In Western classical music, ''obbligato'' (, also spelled ''obligato'') usually describes a musical line that is in some way indispensable in performance. Its opposite is the marking ''ad libitum''. It can also be used, more specifically, to indica ...
, and orchestra contains impressive writing for solo double bass of that period. It remains popular among both singers and double bassists today. The double bass eventually evolved to fit the needs of orchestras that required lower notes and a louder sound. The leading double bassists from the mid-to-late 18th century, such as Josef Kämpfer, Friedrich Pischelberger, and Johannes Mathias Sperger employed the "Viennese" tuning. Bassist Johann Hindle (1792–1862), who composed a concerto for the double bass, pioneered tuning the bass in fourths, which marked a turning point for the double bass and its role in solo works. Bassist
Domenico Dragonetti Domenico Carlo Maria Dragonetti (7 April 1763 – 16 April 1846) was an Italian double bass virtuoso and composer with a 3 string double bass. He stayed for thirty years in his hometown of Venice, Italy and worked at the opera buffa, Opera Buffa, ...
was a prominent musical figure and an acquaintance of Haydn and
Ludwig van Beethoven Ludwig van Beethoven (baptised 17 December 177026 March 1827) was a German composer and pianist. Beethoven remains one of the most admired composers in the history of Western music; his works rank amongst the most performed of the classical ...
. His playing was known all the way from his homeland Italy to the Tsardom of Russia and he found a prominent place performing in concerts with the Philharmonic Society of London. Beethoven's friendship with Dragonetti may have inspired him to write difficult, separate parts for the double bass in his symphonies, such as the impressive passages in the third movement of the Fifth Symphony, the second movement of the Seventh Symphony, and last movement of the Ninth Symphony. These parts do not double the cello part. Dragonetti wrote ten concertos for the double bass and many solo works for bass and piano. During
Rossini Gioachino Antonio Rossini (29 February 1792 – 13 November 1868) was an Italian composer who gained fame for his 39 operas, although he also wrote many songs, some chamber music and piano pieces, and some sacred music. He set new standards f ...
's stay in London in the summer of 1824, he composed his popular Duetto for cello and double bass for Dragonetti and the cellist David Salomons. Dragonetti frequently played on a three string double bass tuned G–D–A from top to bottom. The use of only the top three strings was popular for bass soloists and principal bassists in orchestras in the 19th century, because it reduced the pressure on the wooden top of the bass, which was thought to create a more resonant sound. As well, the low E-strings used during the 19th century were thick cords made of gut, which were difficult to tune and play.


1800s

In the 19th century, the opera conductor, composer, and bassist
Giovanni Bottesini Giovanni Bottesini (22 December 1821 – 7 July 1889) was an Italian Romantic composer, conductor, and a double bass The double bass (), also known simply as the bass () (or #Terminology, by other names), is the largest and lowest-pitched ...
was considered the " Paganini of the double bass" of his time, a reference to the violin virtuoso and composer. Bottesini's bass
concerto A concerto (; plural ''concertos'', or ''concerti'' from the Italian plural) is, from the Late Baroque (music), late Baroque era, mostly understood as an instrumental composition, written for one or more solo (music), soloists accompanied by an or ...
s were written in the popular Italian
opera Opera is a form of theatre Theatre or theater is a collaborative form of performing art that uses live performers, usually actor, actors or actresses, to present the experience of a real or imagined event before a live audience in a ...
style of the 19th century, which exploit the double bass in a way that was not seen beforehand. They require virtuosic runs and great leaps to the highest registers of the instrument, even into the realm of natural and
artificial harmonic Playing a string harmonic (a flageolet) is a string instrument musical technique, technique that uses the node (physics), nodes of natural harmonics of a musical string (music), string to isolate Overtone, overtones. Playing string harmonics prod ...
s. Many 19th century and early 20th century bassists considered these compositions unplayable, but in the 2000s, they are frequently performed. During the same time, a prominent school of bass players in the Czech region arose, which included Franz Simandl, Theodore Albin Findeisen, Josef Hrabe, Ludwig Manoly, and Adolf Mišek. Simandl and Hrabe were also pedagogues whose method books and studies remain in use in the 2000s.


1900s–present

The leading figure of the double bass in the early 20th century was
Serge Koussevitzky Sergei Alexandrovich KoussevitzkyKoussevitzky's original Russian forename is usually transliterated Transliteration is a type of conversion of a text from one writing system, script to another that involves swapping Letter (alphabet), let ...
, best known as conductor of the
Boston Symphony Orchestra The Boston Symphony Orchestra (BSO) is an American orchestra An orchestra (; ) is a large Musical ensemble, instrumental ensemble typical of classical music, which combines instruments from different families. There are typically four main ...
, who popularized the double bass in modern times as a solo instrument. Because of improvements to the double bass with steel strings and better set-ups, the bass is now played at a more advanced level than ever before and more and more composers have written works for the double bass. In the mid-century and in the following decades, many new concerti were written for the double bass, including
Nikos Skalkottas Nikos Skalkottas ( el, Νίκος Σκαλκώτας; 21 March 1904 – 19 September 1949) was a List of Greek composers, Greek composer of 20th-century classical music. A member of the Second Viennese School, he drew his influences from bot ...
's Concerto (1942),
Eduard Tubin Eduard Tubin ( – 17 November 1982) was an Estonian composer, Conductorless orchestra, conductor, and Choreography, choreographer. Life Tubin was born in Torila, Tartu County, Governorate of Livonia, then part of the Russian Empire. Both his pa ...
's Concerto (1948),
Lars-Erik Larsson Lars-Erik Vilner Larsson (15 May 190827 December 1986) was a Sweden, Swedish composer, conductor, radio producer, and educator. He wrote three of the most popular works (each a suite (music), suite) in Swedish art music: ''A Winter's Tale (Larss ...
's Concertino (1957),
Gunther Schuller Gunther Alexander Schuller (November 22, 1925June 21, 2015) was an American composer, conductor, French horn, horn player, author, historian, educator, publisher, and jazz musician. Biography and works Early years Schuller was born in Queens, N ...
's Concerto (1962),
Hans Werner Henze Hans Werner Henze (1 July 1926 – 27 October 2012) was a German composer. His large oeuvre of works is extremely varied in style, having been influenced by serialism, atonality, Stravinsky, Italian music, Arabic music and jazz Jazz ...
's Concerto (1966) and Frank Proto's Concerto No. 1 (1968). The ''Solo For Contrabass'' is one of the parts of
John Cage John Milton Cage Jr. (September 5, 1912 – August 12, 1992) was an American composer and music theorist. A pioneer of indeterminacy in music, electroacoustic music, and non-standard use of musical instruments, Cage was one of the leading ...
's ''Concert For Piano And Orchestra'' and can be played as a solo, or with any of the other parts both orchestral and/or piano. Similarly, his solo contrabass parts for the orchestral work ''Atlas Eclipticalis'' can also be performed as solos. Cage's indeterminate works such as ''Variations I'', ''Variations II'', ''Fontana Mix'', ''Cartridge Music'' et al. can be arranged for a solo contrabassist. His work ''26.1.1499 for a String Player'' is often realized by a solo contrabass player, although it can also be played by a violinist, violist, or cellist. From the 1960s through the end of the century Gary Karr was the leading proponent of the double bass as a solo instrument and was active in commissioning or having hundreds of new works and concerti written especially for him. Karr was given Koussevitzky's famous solo double bass by Olga Koussevitsky and played it in concerts around the world for 40 years before, in turn, giving the instrument to the International Society of Bassists for talented soloists to use in concert. Another important performer in this period, Bertram Turetzky, commissioned and premiered more than 300 double bass works. In the 1970s, 1980 and 1990s, new concerti included
Nino Rota Giovanni Rota Rinaldi (; 3 December 1911 – 10 April 1979), better known as Nino Rota (), was an Italian composer A composer is a person who writes music. The term is especially used to indicate composers of Classical music, Western classi ...
's ''Divertimento for Double Bass and Orchestra'' (1973), Alan Ridout's concerto for double bass and strings (1974), Jean Françaix's Concerto (1975), Frank Proto's Concerto No. 2,
Einojuhani Rautavaara Einojuhani Rautavaara (; 9 October 1928 – 27 July 2016) was a Finnish composer of classical music. Among the most notable Finnish composers since Jean Sibelius (1865–1957), Rautavaara wrote a List of compositions by Einojuhani Rautavaara, gre ...
's ''Angel of Dusk'' (1980),
Gian Carlo Menotti Gian Carlo Menotti (, ; July 7, 1911 – February 1, 2007) was an Italian composer, libretto, librettist, director, and playwright who is primarily known for his output of 25 operas. Although he often referred to himself as an American composer, ...
's Concerto (1983), Christopher Rouse's Concerto (1985), Henry Brant's Ghost Nets (1988) and Frank Proto's "Carmen Fantasy for Double Bass and Orchestra" (1991) and "Four Scenes after Picasso" Concerto No. 3 (1997).
Peter Maxwell Davies Sir Peter Maxwell Davies (8 September 1934 – 14 March 2016) was an English composer and conductor, who in 2004 was made Master of the Queen's Music. As a student at both the Victoria University of Manchester, University of Manchester and th ...
' lyrical Strathclyde Concerto No. 7, for double bass and orchestra, dates from 1992. In the first decade of the 21st century, new concerti include Frank Proto's "Nine Variants on Paganini" (2002), Kalevi Aho's Concerto (2005),
John Harbison John Harris Harbison (born December 20, 1938) is an American composer A composer is a person who writes music. The term is especially used to indicate composers of Classical music, Western classical music, or those who are composers by occup ...
's ''Concerto for Bass Viol'' (2006), André Previn's Double Concerto for violin, double bass, and orchestra (2007) and John Woolrich's ''To the Silver Bow'', for double bass, viola and strings (2014). Reinhold Glière wrote an Intermezzo and Tarantella for double bass and piano, Op. 9, No. 1 and No. 2 and a Praeludium and Scherzo for double bass and piano, Op. 32 No. 1 and No. 2.
Paul Hindemith Paul Hindemith (; 16 November 189528 December 1963) was a German composer, music theorist, teacher, violist and conductor. He founded the Amar Quartet in 1921, touring extensively in Europe. As a composer, he became a major advocate of the '' N ...
wrote a rhythmically challenging Double Bass Sonata in 1949. Frank Proto wrote his Sonata "1963" for Double Bass and Piano. In the Soviet Union, Mieczysław Weinberg wrote his Sonata No. 1 for double bass solo in 1971.
Giacinto Scelsi Giacinto Francesco Maria Scelsi (; 8 January 1905 – 9 August 1988, sometimes cited as 8 August 1988) was an Italian composer who also wrote Surrealism, surrealist poetry in French. He is best known for having composed music based around only ...
wrote two double bass pieces called ''Nuits'' in 1972, and then in 1976, he wrote ''Maknongan'', a piece for any low-voiced instrument, such as double bass, contrabassoon, or tuba. Vincent Persichetti wrote solo works—which he called "Parables"—for many instruments. He wrote Parable XVII for Double Bass, Op. 131 in 1974.
Sofia Gubaidulina Sofia Asgatovna Gubaidulina (russian: Софи́я Асгáтовна Губaйду́лина, link=no , tt-Cyrl, София Әсгать кызы Гобәйдуллина; born 24 October 1931) is a Soviet The Soviet Union,. official ...
penned a Sonata for double bass and piano in 1975. In 1976 American minimalist composer Tom Johnson wrote "Failing – a very difficult piece for solo string bass" in which the player has to perform an extremely virtuosic solo on the bass whilst simultaneously reciting a text which says how very difficult the piece is and how unlikely he or she is to successfully complete the performance without making a mistake. In 1977 Dutch-Hungarian composer Geza Frid wrote a set of variations on The Elephant from Saint-Saëns' Le Carnaval des Animaux for
scordatura Scordatura (; literally, Italian for "discord", or "mistuning") is a Musical tuning, tuning of a string instrument that is different from the normal, standard tuning. It typically attempts to allow special effects or unusual chords or timbre, or to ...
Double Bass and string orchestra. In 1987 Lowell Liebermann wrote his Sonata for Contrabass and Piano Op. 24. Fernando Grillo wrote the "Suite No. 1" for double bass (1983/2005).
Jacob Druckman Jacob Raphael Druckman (June 26, 1928 – May 24, 1996) was an American composer born in Philadelphia. Life A graduate of the Juilliard School in 1956, Druckman studied with Vincent Persichetti, Peter Mennin, and Bernard Wagenaar. In 1949 and 1 ...
wrote a piece for solo double bass entitled ''Valentine''. US double bass soloist and composer Bertram Turetzky (born 1933) has performed and recorded more than 300 pieces written by and for him. He writes chamber music, baroque music, classical, jazz, renaissance music, improvisational music and world music US minimalist composer
Philip Glass Philip Glass (born January 31, 1937) is an American composer and pianist. He is widely regarded as one of the most influential composers of the late 20th century. Glass's work has been associated with minimal music, minimalism, being built up fr ...
wrote a prelude focused on the lower register that he scored for timpani and double bass. Italian composer Sylvano Bussotti, whose composing career spans from the 1930s to the first decade of the 21st century, wrote a solo work for bass in 1983 entitled ''Naked Angel Face per contrabbasso''. Fellow Italian composer Franco Donatoni wrote a piece called ''Lem for contrabbasso'' in the same year. In 1989, French composer Pascal Dusapin (born 1955) wrote a solo piece called ''In et Out'' for double bass. In 1996, the Sorbonne-trained Lebanese composer Karim Haddad composed ''Ce qui dort dans l'ombre sacrée'' ("He who sleeps in the sacred shadows") for Radio France's Presence Festival. Renaud Garcia-Fons (born 1962) is a French double bass player and composer, notable for drawing on jazz, folk, and Asian music for recordings of his pieces like ''Oriental Bass'' (1997). Two significant recent works written for solo bass include,
Mario Davidovsky Mario Davidovsky (March 4, 1934 – August 23, 2019) was an Argentine-American composer. Born in Argentina, he emigrated in 1960 to the United States, where he lived for the remainder of his life. He is best known for his series of compositions ca ...
's Synchronisms No.11 for double bass and electronic sounds and
Elliott Carter Elliott Cook Carter Jr. (December 11, 1908 – November 5, 2012) was an American modernist composer. One of the most respected composers of the second half of the 20th century, he combined elements of European modernism and American "ultra ...
's Figment III, for solo double bass. The German composer Gerhard Stäbler wrote ''Co-wie Kobalt'' (1989–90), "...a music for double bass solo and grand orchestra".
Charles Wuorinen Charles Peter Wuorinen (; June 9, 1938 – March 11, 2020) was an American composer of contemporary classical music based in New York City. He performed his works and other 20th-century music as pianist and conductor. He composed more than ...
added several important works to the repertoire, ''Spinoff'' trio for double bass, violin and conga drums, and ''Trio for Bass Instruments'' double bass, tuba and bass trombone, and in 2007 ''Synaxis'' for double bass, horn, oboe and clarinet with timpani and strings. The suite "Seven Screen Shots" for double bass and piano (2005) by Ukrainian composer Alexander Shchetynsky has a solo bass part that includes many unconventional methods of playing. The German composer Claus Kühnl wrote ''Offene Weite / Open Expanse'' (1998) and ''Nachtschwarzes Meer, ringsum…'' (2005) for double bass and piano.In 1997 Joel Quarrington commissioned the American / Canadian composer Raymond Luedeke to write his "Concerto for Double Bass and Orchestra", a piece he performed with The Toronto Symphony Orchestra, with the Saskatoon Symphony Orchestra, and, in a version for small orchestra, with The Nova Scotia Symphony Orchestra. Composer Raymond Luedeke also composed a work for double bass, flute, and viola with narration, "The Book of Questions", with text by
Pablo Neruda Ricardo Eliécer Neftalí Reyes Basoalto (12 July 1904 – 23 September 1973), better known by his pen name and, later, legal name Pablo Neruda (; ), was a Chilean poet-diplomat and politician who won the 1971 Nobel Prize in Literature. Neruda ...
. In 2004 Italian double bassist and composer
Stefano Scodanibbio Stefano Scodanibbio (18 June 1956 – 8 January 2012) was an Italian musician who reached international prominence as a double bassist and composer. Biography Scodanibbio was born in Macerata. He studied double bass with Fernando Grillo and c ...
made a double bass arrangement of
Luciano Berio Luciano Berio (24 October 1925 – 27 May 2003) was an Italian composer noted for his experimental music, experimental work (in particular his 1968 composition ''Sinfonia (Berio), Sinfonia'' and his series of virtuosic solo pieces titled ''Seq ...
's 2002 solo
cello The cello ( ; plural ''celli'' or ''cellos'') or violoncello ( ; ) is a bowed (sometimes plucked and occasionally hit) string instrument String instruments, stringed instruments, or chordophones are musical instruments that produce sou ...
work '' Sequenza XIV'' with the new title ''Sequenza XIVb''.


Chamber music with double bass

Since there is no established instrumental ensemble that includes the double bass, its use in chamber music has not been as exhaustive as the literature for ensembles such as the
string quartet The term string quartet can refer to either a type of musical composition or a group of four people who play them. Many composers from the mid-18th century onwards wrote string quartets. The associated musical ensemble consists of two Violin, vi ...
or
piano trio A piano trio is a group of piano and two other instruments, usually a violin and a cello, or a piece of music written for such a group. It is one of the most common forms found in European classical music, classical chamber music. The term can also ...
. Despite this, there is a substantial number o
chamber works
that incorporate the double bass in both small and large ensembles. There is a small body of works written for
piano quintet In classical music, a piano quintet is a work of chamber music written for piano and four other instruments, most commonly a string quartet (i.e., two violins, viola, and cello). The term also refers to the group of musicians that plays a pian ...
with the instrumentation of piano, violin, viola, cello, and double bass. The most famous is
Franz Schubert Franz Peter Schubert (; 31 January 179719 November 1828) was an Austrian composer of the late Classical period (music), Classical and early Romantic music, Romantic eras. Despite his short lifetime, Schubert left behind a List of composition ...
's Piano Quintet in A major, known as "The
Trout Quintet The ''Trout Quintet'' (''Forellenquintett'') is the popular name for the Piano Quintet in A major, Schubert Thematic Catalogue, D. 667, by Franz Schubert. The piano quintet was composed in 1819, when he was 22 years old; it was not published, how ...
" for its set of variations in the fourth movement of Schubert's '' Die Forelle''. Other works for this instrumentation written from roughly the same period include those by
Johann Nepomuk Hummel Johann Nepomuk Hummel (14 November 177817 October 1837) was an Austrian composer and virtuoso pianist. His music reflects the Transition from Classical to Romantic music, transition from the Classical period (music), Classical to the Romantic ...
,
George Onslow George Onslow may refer to: *George Onslow (British Army officer) (1731–1792), British politician and army officer *George Onslow, 1st Earl of Onslow (1731–1814), British peer and politician *George Onslow (composer) (1784–1853), French compo ...
,
Jan Ladislav Dussek Jan Ladislav Dussek (baptized Jan Václav Dusík,#Cernusak, Černušák, p. 271 with surname also written as Duschek or Düssek; 12 February 176020 March 1812) was a Czech Republic, Czech classical period (music), classical composer and pianist ...
, Louise Farrenc,
Ferdinand Ries Ferdinand Ries (baptised 28 November 1784 – 13 January 1838) was a German composer. Ries was a friend, pupil and secretary of Ludwig van Beethoven. He composed eight symphony, symphonies, a violin concerto, nine piano concertos (the first ...
, Franz Limmer,
Johann Baptist Cramer Johann (sometimes John) Baptist Cramer (24 February 1771 – 16 April 1858) was an English pianist, composer and music publisher of German origin. He was the son of Wilhelm Cramer, a famous London violinist and conductor, one of a numerous family ...
, and Hermann Goetz. Later composers who wrote chamber works for this quintet include
Ralph Vaughan Williams Ralph Vaughan Williams, (; 12 October 1872– 26 August 1958) was an English composer. His works include operas, ballets, chamber music, secular and religious vocal pieces and orchestral compositions including nine symphonies, written over ...
, Colin Matthews, Jon Deak, Frank Proto, and John Woolrich. Slightly larger sextets written for piano, string quartet, and double bass have been written by
Felix Mendelssohn Jakob Ludwig Felix Mendelssohn Bartholdy (3 February 18094 November 1847), born and widely known as Felix Mendelssohn, was a German composer, pianist, organist and conductor of the early Romantic music, Romantic period. Mendelssohn's compositi ...
,
Mikhail Glinka Mikhail Ivanovich Glinka ( rus, link=no, Михаил Иванович Глинка, Mikhail Ivanovich Glinka., mʲɪxɐˈil ɪˈvanəvʲɪdʑ ˈɡlʲinkə, Ru-Mikhail-Ivanovich-Glinka.ogg; ) was the first Russian composer to gain wide recogni ...
, Richard Wernick, and
Charles Ives Charles Edward Ives (; October 20, 1874May 19, 1954) was an American modernism (music), modernist composer, one of the first American composers of international renown. His music was largely ignored during his early career, and many of his works ...
. In the genre of string quintets, there are a few works for string quartet with double bass.
Antonín Dvořák Antonín Leopold Dvořák ( ; ; 8 September 1841 – 1 May 1904) was a Czechs, Czech composer. Dvořák frequently employed rhythms and other aspects of the folk music of Moravian traditional music, Moravia and his native Bohemia, following t ...
's String Quintet in G major, Op.77 and
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (27 January 17565 December 1791), baptised as Joannes Chrysostomus Wolfgangus Theophilus Mozart, was a prolific and influential composer of the Classical period (music), Classical period. Despite his short life, his ra ...
's Serenade in G major, K.525 (" Eine kleine Nachtmusik") are the most popular pieces in this repertoire, along with works by Miguel del Aguila (''Nostalgica'' for string quartet and bass),
Darius Milhaud Darius Milhaud (; 4 September 1892 – 22 June 1974) was a French composer, conductor, and teacher. He was a member of Les Six—also known as ''The Group of Six''—and one of the most prolific composers of the 20th century. His compositions ...
,
Luigi Boccherini Ridolfo Luigi Boccherini (, also , ; 19 February 1743 – 28 May 1805) was an Italian composer and cello, cellist of the Classical period (music), Classical era whose music retained a courtly and ''Galant music, galante'' style even while he ...
(3 quintets), Harold Shapero, and
Paul Hindemith Paul Hindemith (; 16 November 189528 December 1963) was a German composer, music theorist, teacher, violist and conductor. He founded the Amar Quartet in 1921, touring extensively in Europe. As a composer, he became a major advocate of the '' N ...
. Another example is Alistair Hinton's String Quintet (1969–77), which also includes a major part for solo soprano; at almost 170 minutes in duration, it is almost certainly the largest such work in the repertoire. Slightly smaller string works with the double bass include six string sonatas by
Gioachino Rossini Gioachino Antonio Rossini (29 February 1792 – 13 November 1868) was an Italian composer who gained fame for his 39 operas, although he also wrote many songs, some chamber music and piano pieces, and some sacred music. He set new standards f ...
, for two violins, cello, and double bass written at the age of twelve over the course of three days in 1804. These remain his most famous instrumental works and have also been adapted for wind quartet. Franz Anton Hoffmeister wrote four String Quartets for Solo Double Bass, Violin, Viola, and Cello in D Major. Frank Proto has written a Trio for Violin, Viola and Double Bass (1974), 2 Duos for Violin and Double Bass (1967 and 2005), and ''The Games of October'' for Oboe/English Horn and Double Bass (1991). Larger works that incorporate the double bass include
Beethoven Ludwig van Beethoven (baptised 17 December 177026 March 1827) was a German composer and pianist. Beethoven remains one of the most admired composers in the history of Western music; his works rank amongst the most performed of the classical ...
's Septet in E major, Op. 20, one of his most famous pieces during his lifetime, which consists of clarinet, horn, bassoon, violin, viola, cello, and bass. When the clarinetist Ferdinand Troyer commissioned a work from
Franz Schubert Franz Peter Schubert (; 31 January 179719 November 1828) was an Austrian composer of the late Classical period (music), Classical and early Romantic music, Romantic eras. Despite his short lifetime, Schubert left behind a List of composition ...
for similar forces, he added one more violin for his Octet in F major, D.803.
Paul Hindemith Paul Hindemith (; 16 November 189528 December 1963) was a German composer, music theorist, teacher, violist and conductor. He founded the Amar Quartet in 1921, touring extensively in Europe. As a composer, he became a major advocate of the '' N ...
used the same instrumentation as Schubert for his own Octet. In the realm of even larger works, Mozart included the double bass in addition to 12 wind instruments for his " Gran Partita" Serenade, K.361 and Martinů used the double bass in his nonet for wind quintet, violin, viola, cello and double bass. Other examples of chamber works that use the double bass in mixed ensembles include
Sergei Prokofiev Sergei Sergeyevich Prokofiev; alternative transliterations of his name include ''Sergey'' or ''Serge'', and ''Prokofief'', ''Prokofieff'', or ''Prokofyev''., group=n (27 April .S. 15 April1891 – 5 March 1953) was a Russian composer ...
's Quintet in G minor, Op. 39 for oboe, clarinet, violin, viola, and double bass; Miguel del Aguila's ''Malambo'' for bass flute and piano and for string quartet, bass and bassoon;
Erwin Schulhoff Erwin Schulhoff ( cs, Ervín Šulhov; 8 June 189418 August 1942) was an Austro-Czech composer and pianist. He was one of the figures in the generation of European musicians whose successful careers were prematurely terminated by the rise of the N ...
's Concertino for flute/piccolo, viola, and double bass; Frank Proto's ''Afro-American Fragments'' for bass clarinet, cello, double bass and narrator and Sextet for clarinet and strings;
Fred Lerdahl Alfred Whitford (Fred) Lerdahl (born March 10, 1943, in Madison, Wisconsin Madison is the county seat of Dane County, Wisconsin, Dane County and the capital city of the U.S. state of Wisconsin. As of the 2020 United States Census, 2020 census ...
's Waltzes for violin, viola, cello, and double bass; Mohammed Fairouz's Litany for double bass and wind quartet;
Mario Davidovsky Mario Davidovsky (March 4, 1934 – August 23, 2019) was an Argentine-American composer. Born in Argentina, he emigrated in 1960 to the United States, where he lived for the remainder of his life. He is best known for his series of compositions ca ...
's Festino for guitar, viola, cello, and double bass; and
Iannis Xenakis Giannis Klearchou Xenakis (also spelled for professional purposes as Yannis or Iannis Xenakis; el, Γιάννης "Ιωάννης" Κλέαρχου Ξενάκης, ; 29 May 1922 in Romania, 1922 – 4 February 2001 in France, 2001) was a Romania ...
's Morsima-Amorsima for piano, violin, cello, and double bass. There are also new music ensembles that utilize the double bass such as Time for Three and PROJECT Trio.


Orchestral passages and solos

In the baroque and classical periods, composers typically had the double bass double the cello part in orchestral passages. A notable exception is Haydn, who composed solo passages for the double bass in his Symphonies No. 6 ''Le Matin'', No. 7 ''Le midi'', No. 8 ''Le Soir'', No. 31 ''Horn Signal'', and No. 45 ''Farewell''—but who otherwise grouped bass and cello parts together. Beethoven paved the way for separate double bass parts, which became more common in the romantic era. The
scherzo A scherzo (, , ; plural scherzos or scherzi), in western world, western classical music, is a short composition – sometimes a Movement (music), movement from a larger work such as a symphony or a sonata. The precise definition has varied over ...
and trio from Beethoven's Fifth Symphony are famous orchestral excerpts, as is the recitative at the beginning of the fourth movement of Beethoven's Ninth Symphony. In many nineteenth century symphonies and concertos, the typical impact of separate bass and cello parts was that bass parts became simpler and cello parts got the melodic lines and rapid passage work. A double bass section of a modern
orchestra An orchestra (; ) is a large Musical ensemble, instrumental ensemble typical of classical music, which combines instruments from different families. There are typically four main sections of instruments: * bowed string instruments, such as the ...
typically uses eight double bassists, usually in
unison In music, unison is two or more part (music), musical parts that sound either the same pitch (music), pitch or pitches separated by interval (music), intervals of one or more octaves, usually at the same time. ''Rhythmic unison'' is another term ...
. Smaller orchestras may have four double basses, and in exceptional cases, bass sections may have as many as ten members. If some double bassists have low C extensions, and some have regular (low E) basses, those with the low C extensions may play some passages an octave below the regular double basses. Also, some composers write divided (divisi) parts for the basses, where upper and lower parts in the music are often assigned to "outside" (nearer the audience) and "inside" players. Composers writing divisi parts for bass often write
perfect interval In music theory Music theory is the study of the practices and possibilities of music. ''The Oxford Companion to Music'' describes three interrelated uses of the term "music theory". The first is the "Elements of music, rudiments", that are ...
s, such as octaves and fifths, but in some cases use thirds and sixths. Where a composition calls for a solo bass part, the principal bass invariably plays that part. The section leader (or principal) also determines the bowings, often based on bowings set out by the concertmaster. In some cases, the principal bass may use a slightly different bowing than the concertmaster, to accommodate the requirements of playing bass. The principal bass also leads entrances for the bass section, typically by lifting the bow or plucking hand before the entrance or indicating the entrance with the head, to ensure the section starts together. Major professional orchestras typically have an assistant principal bass player, who plays solos and leads the bass section if the principal is absent. While orchestral bass solos are somewhat rare, there are some notable examples.
Johannes Brahms Johannes Brahms (; 7 May 1833 – 3 April 1897) was a German composer, pianist, and conductor of the mid-Romantic period (music), Romantic period. Born in Hamburg into a Lutheranism, Lutheran family, he spent much of his professional life i ...
, whose father was a double bass player, wrote many difficult and prominent parts for the double bass in his symphonies.
Richard Strauss Richard Georg Strauss (; 11 June 1864 – 8 September 1949) was a German composer, conductor, pianist, and violinist. Considered a leading composer of the late Romantic music, Romantic and early Modernism (music), modern eras, he has been descr ...
assigned the double bass daring parts, and his symphonic poems and operas stretch the instrument to its limits. "The Elephant" from
Camille Saint-Saëns Charles-Camille Saint-Saëns (; 9 October 183516 December 1921) was a French composer, organist, conductor and pianist of the Romantic music, Romantic era. His best-known works include Introduction and Rondo Capriccioso (1863), the Piano C ...
' ''
The Carnival of the Animals ''The Carnival of the Animals'' (''Le Carnaval des animaux'') is a humorous Suite (music), musical suite of fourteen movement (music), movements, including "Le cygne, The Swan", by the French composer Camille Saint-Saëns. The work, about 25 mi ...
'' is a satirical portrait of the double bass, and American virtuoso Gary Karr made his televised debut playing "The Swan" (originally written for the cello) with the
New York Philharmonic The New York Philharmonic, officially the Philharmonic-Symphony Society of New York, Inc., globally known as New York Philharmonic Orchestra (NYPO) or New York Philharmonic-Symphony Orchestra, is a symphony orchestra based in New York City. It is ...
conducted by
Leonard Bernstein Leonard Bernstein ( ; August 25, 1918 – October 14, 1990) was an American conductor, composer, pianist, music educator, author, and humanitarian. Considered to be one of the most important conductors of his time, he was the first America ...
. The third movement of
Gustav Mahler Gustav Mahler (; 7 July 1860 – 18 May 1911) was an Austro-Bohemian Romantic composer, and one of the leading conductors of his generation. As a composer he acted as a bridge between the 19th-century Austro-German tradition and the modernism ...
's first symphony features a solo for the double bass that quotes the children's song ''Frere Jacques'', transposed into a minor key.
Sergei Prokofiev Sergei Sergeyevich Prokofiev; alternative transliterations of his name include ''Sergey'' or ''Serge'', and ''Prokofief'', ''Prokofieff'', or ''Prokofyev''., group=n (27 April .S. 15 April1891 – 5 March 1953) was a Russian composer ...
's '' Lieutenant Kijé Suite'' features a difficult and very high double bass solo in the "Romance" movement.
Benjamin Britten Edward Benjamin Britten, Baron Britten (22 November 1913 – 4 December 1976, aged 63) was an English composer, conductor, and pianist. He was a central figure of 20th-century British music, with a range of works including opera, other ...
's '' The Young Person's Guide to the Orchestra'' contains a prominent passage for the double bass section.


Double bass ensembles

Ensembles made up entirely of double basses, though relatively rare, also exist, and several composers have written or arranged for such ensembles. Compositions for four double basses exist by
Gunther Schuller Gunther Alexander Schuller (November 22, 1925June 21, 2015) was an American composer, conductor, French horn, horn player, author, historian, educator, publisher, and jazz musician. Biography and works Early years Schuller was born in Queens, N ...
,
Jacob Druckman Jacob Raphael Druckman (June 26, 1928 – May 24, 1996) was an American composer born in Philadelphia. Life A graduate of the Juilliard School in 1956, Druckman studied with Vincent Persichetti, Peter Mennin, and Bernard Wagenaar. In 1949 and 1 ...
,
James Tenney James Tenney (August 10, 1934 – August 24, 2006) was an American composer and music theory, music theorist. He made significant early musical contributions to plunderphonics, sound synthesis, algorithmic composition, process music, spectral musi ...
, Claus Kühnl, Robert Ceely
Jan Alm
Bernhard Alt, Norman Ludwin, Frank Proto, Joseph Lauber,
Erich Hartmann Erich Alfred Hartmann (19 April 1922 – 20 September 1993) was a German fighter pilot during World War II and the most successful flying ace, fighter ace in the history of aerial warfare. He flew 1,404 combat missions and participated in ...
, Colin Brumby, Miloslav Gajdos and Theodore Albin Findeisen. David A. Jaffe's "Who's on First?", commissioned by the Russian National Orchestra is scored for five double basses. Bertold Hummel wrote a ''Sinfonia piccola'' for eight double basses. Larger ensemble works include Galina Ustvolskaya's Composition No. 2, "Dies Irae" (1973), for eight double basses, piano, and wooden cube, José Serebrier's "George and Muriel" (1986), for solo bass, double bass ensemble, and chorus, and Gerhard Samuel's ''What of my music!'' (1979), for soprano, percussion, and 30 double basses. Double bass ensembles include L'Orchestre de Contrebasses (6 members), Bass Instinct (6 members), Bassiona Amorosa (6 members), the Chicago Bass Ensemble (4+ members)
Ludus Gravis
founded by Daniele Roccato and
Stefano Scodanibbio Stefano Scodanibbio (18 June 1956 – 8 January 2012) was an Italian musician who reached international prominence as a double bassist and composer. Biography Scodanibbio was born in Macerata. He studied double bass with Fernando Grillo and c ...
, The Bass Gang (4 members), the London Double Bass Ensemble (6 members) founded by members of the Philharmonia Orchestra of London who produced the L
Music Interludes by London Double Bass Ensemble
on Bruton Music records, Brno Double Bass Orchestra (14 members) founded by the double bass professor at Janáček Academy of Music and Performing Arts and principal double bass player at Brno Philharmonic Orchestra – Miloslav Jelinek, and the ensembles of
Ball State University Ball State University (Ball State, State or BSU) is a public university, public research university in Muncie, Indiana. It has two satellite facilities in Fishers, Indiana, Fishers and Indianapolis. On July 25, 1917, the Ball brothers, indust ...
(12 members),
Shenandoah University Shenandoah University is a private university in Winchester, Virginia. It has an enrollment of approximately 4,000 students across more than 200 areas of study in six schools: College of Arts & Sciences (including the Division of Education and Le ...
, and the Hartt School of Music. The Amarillo Bass Base of
Amarillo, Texas Amarillo ( ; Spanish for "yellow") is a city in the U.S. state of Texas and the seat of Potter County. It is the 14th-most populous city in Texas and the largest city in the Texas Panhandle. A portion of the city extends into Randall Coun ...
once featured 52 double bassists, and The London Double Bass Sound, who have released a CD on Cala Records, have 10 players. In addition, the double bass sections of some orchestras perform as an ensemble, such as the
Chicago Symphony Orchestra The Chicago Symphony Orchestra (CSO) was founded by Theodore Thomas (conductor), Theodore Thomas in 1891. The ensemble makes its home at Symphony Center, Orchestra Hall in Chicago and plays a summer season at the Ravinia Festival. The music dir ...
's Lower Wacker Consort. There is an increasing number of published compositions and arrangements for double bass ensembles, and the International Society of Bassists regularly features double bass ensembles (both smaller ensembles as well as very large "mass bass" ensembles) at its conferences, and sponsors the biennial David Walter Composition Competition, which includes a division for double bass ensemble works.


Use in jazz

Beginning around 1890, the early New Orleans
jazz Jazz is a music genre that originated in the African Americans, African-American communities of New Orleans, Louisiana in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, with its roots in blues and ragtime. Since the 1920s Jazz Age, it has been recog ...
ensemble (which played a mixture of marches,
ragtime Ragtime, also spelled rag-time or rag time, is a musical style that flourished from the 1890s to 1910s. Its cardinal trait is its syncopation, syncopated or "ragged" rhythm. Ragtime was popularized during the early 20th century by composers su ...
, and
Dixieland Dixieland jazz, also referred to as traditional jazz, hot jazz, or simply Dixieland, is a style of jazz based on the music that developed in New Orleans at the start of the 20th century. The 1917 recordings by the Original Dixieland Jass Band ( ...
) was initially a marching band with a
tuba The tuba (; ) is the lowest-pitched musical instrument in the brass instrument, brass family. As with all brass instruments, the sound is produced by lip vibrationa buzzinto a mouthpiece (brass), mouthpiece. It first appeared in the mid-19th&n ...
or
sousaphone The sousaphone ( ) is a brass instrument in the tuba family. Created around 1893 by J.W. Pepper & Son, J. W. Pepper at the direction of United States, American bandleader John Philip Sousa (after whom the instrument was then named), it was desi ...
(or occasionally
bass saxophone The bass saxophone is one of the lowest-pitched members of the saxophone The saxophone (often referred to colloquially as the sax) is a type of Single-reed instrument, single-reed woodwind instrument with a conical body, usually made of brass ...
) supplying the bass line. As the music moved into bars and brothels, the upright bass gradually replaced these wind instruments around the 1920s. Many early bassists doubled on both the ''brass bass (
tuba The tuba (; ) is the lowest-pitched musical instrument in the brass instrument, brass family. As with all brass instruments, the sound is produced by lip vibrationa buzzinto a mouthpiece (brass), mouthpiece. It first appeared in the mid-19th&n ...
)'' and ''string bass'', as the instruments were then often referred to. Bassists played improvised "walking" bass lines—scale- and arpeggio-based lines that outlined the
chord progression In a musical composition, a chord progression or harmonic progression (informally chord changes, used as a plural The plural (sometimes list of glossing abbreviations, abbreviated pl., pl, or ), in many languages, is one of the values of the g ...
. Because an unamplified upright bass is generally the quietest instrument in a jazz band, many players of the 1920s and 1930s used the ''slap style'', slapping and pulling the strings to produce a rhythmic "slap" sound against the fingerboard. The slap style cuts through the sound of a band better than simply plucking the strings, and made the bass more easily heard on early sound recordings, as the recording equipment of that time did not favor low frequencies. For more about the slap style, see ''Modern playing styles'', below. Jazz bass players are expected to improvise an accompaniment line or solo for a given chord progression. They are also expected to know the rhythmic patterns that are appropriate for different styles (e.g., Afro-Cuban). Bassists playing in a big band must also be able to read written-out bass lines, as some arrangements have written bass parts. Many upright bass players have contributed to the evolution of jazz. Examples include swing era players such as
Jimmy Blanton James Blanton (October 5, 1918 – July 30, 1942) was an American jazz double bassist. Blanton is credited with being the originator of more complex pizzicato and String instrument#Bowing, arco bass solos in a jazz context than previous bassists. ...
, who played with
Duke Ellington Edward Kennedy "Duke" Ellington (April 29, 1899 – May 24, 1974) was an American Jazz piano, jazz pianist, composer, and leader of his eponymous Big band, jazz orchestra from 1923 through the rest of his life. Born and raised in Washington, D.C ...
, and
Oscar Pettiford Oscar Pettiford (September 30, 1922 – September 8, 1960) was an American jazz double bassist, cellist and composer. He was one of the earliest musicians to work in the bebop idiom. Biography Pettiford was born in Okmulgee, Oklahoma, United ...
, who pioneered the instrument's use in
bebop Bebop or bop is a style of jazz developed in the early-to-mid-1940s in the United States. The style features compositions characterized by a fast tempo, complex chord progressions with rapid chord changes and numerous Modulation (music), change ...
. Paul Chambers (who worked with
Miles Davis Miles Dewey Davis III (May 26, 1926September 28, 1991) was an American trumpeter, bandleader, and composer. He is among the most influential and acclaimed figures in the history of jazz and 20th century music, 20th-century music. Davis adopted ...
on the famous ''
Kind of Blue ''Kind of Blue'' is a studio album by American jazz trumpeter, composer, and bandleader Miles Davis. It was recorded on March 2 and April 22, 1959, at CBS 30th Street Studio, Columbia's 30th Street Studio in New York City, and released on Augus ...
'' album) achieved renown for being one of the first jazz bassists to play bebop solos with the bow. Terry Plumeri furthered the development of arco (bowed) solos, achieving horn-like technical freedom and a clear, vocal bowed tone, while
Charlie Haden Charles Edward Haden (August 6, 1937 – July 11, 2014) was an American jazz Jazz is a music genre that originated in the African Americans, African-American communities of New Orleans, Louisiana in the late 19th and early 20th centu ...
, best known for his work with
Ornette Coleman Randolph Denard Ornette Coleman (March 9, 1930 – June 11, 2015) was an American jazz saxophonist, violinist, trumpeter, and composer known as a principal founder of the free jazz genre, a term derived from his 1960 album ''Free Jazz: A Collec ...
, defined the role of the bass in
Free Jazz Free jazz is an experimental approach to jazz improvisation that developed in the late 1950s and early 1960s when musicians attempted to change or break down jazz conventions, such as regular tempos, Musical tone, tones, and chord changes. Mus ...
. A number of other bassists, such as Ray Brown, Slam Stewart and Niels-Henning Ørsted Pedersen, were central to the history of jazz. Stewart, who was popular with the beboppers, played his solos with a bow combined with octave humming. Notably,
Charles Mingus Charles Mingus Jr. (April 22, 1922 – January 5, 1979) was an American jazz Jazz is a music genre that originated in the African Americans, African-American communities of New Orleans, Louisiana in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, ...
was a highly regarded composer as well as a bassist noted for his technical virtuosity and powerful sound.
Scott LaFaro Rocco Scott LaFaro (April 3, 1936 – July 6, 1961) was an American jazz Jazz is a music genre that originated in the African Americans, African-American communities of New Orleans, Louisiana in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, with ...
influenced a generation of musicians by liberating the bass from contrapuntal "walking" behind soloists instead favoring interactive, conversational melodies. Since the commercial availability of
bass amplifier A bass amplifier (also abbreviated to bass amp) is a Instrument amplifier, musical instrument electronic device that uses electrical power to make lower-pitched musical instrument, instruments such as the bass guitar or double bass loud enough ...
s in the 1950s, jazz bassists have used amplification to augment the natural volume of the instrument. While the electric bass guitar was used intermittently in jazz as early as 1951, beginning in the 1970s bassist Bob Cranshaw, playing with saxophonist
Sonny Rollins Walter Theodore "Sonny" Rollins (born September 7, 1930) is an American jazz tenor saxophonist who is widely recognized as one of the most important and influential jazz musicians. In a seven-decade career, he has recorded over sixty albums as a ...
, and fusion pioneers
Jaco Pastorius John Francis Anthony "Jaco" Pastorius III (; December 1, 1951 – September 21, 1987) was an American jazz bass guitar, bassist, composer and producer. He recorded albums as a solo artist and band leader and was a member of Weather Report from 1 ...
and Stanley Clarke began to commonly substitute the bass guitar for the upright bass. Apart from the jazz styles of jazz fusion and Latin-influenced jazz however, the upright bass is still the dominant bass instrument in jazz. The sound and tone of the plucked upright bass is distinct from that of the fretted bass guitar. The upright bass produces a different sound than the bass guitar, because its strings are not stopped by metal
fret A fret is any of the thin strips of material, usually metal wire, inserted laterally at specific positions along the Neck (music), neck or fretboard of a stringed instrument. Frets usually extend across the full width of the neck. On some histo ...
s, instead having a continuous tonal range on the uninterrupted fingerboard. As well, bass guitars usually have a solid wood body, which means that their sound is produced by electronic amplification of the vibration of the strings, instead of the upright bass's acoustic reverberation. Demonstrative examples of the sound of a solo double bass and its technical use in jazz can be heard on the solo recordings '' Emerald Tears'' (1978) by
Dave Holland David “Dave” Holland (born 1 October 1946) is an English jazz double bassist, composer and bandleader who has been performing and recording for five decades. He has lived in the United States for over 40 years. His extensive discography r ...
or ''
Emergence In philosophy, systems theory, science, and art, emergence occurs when an entity is observed to have properties its parts do not have on their own, properties or behaviors that emerge only when the parts interact in a wider whole. Emergence ...
'' (1986) by Miroslav Vitous. Holland also recorded an album with the representative title '' Music from Two Basses'' (1971) on which he plays with Barre Phillips while he sometimes switches to cello.


Use in bluegrass and country

The string bass is the most commonly used bass instrument in
bluegrass music Bluegrass music is a Music genre, genre of American roots music that developed in the 1940s in the Appalachian region of the United States. The genre derives its name from the band Bill Monroe, Bill Monroe and the Blue Grass Boys. Like Country ...
and is almost always plucked, though some modern bluegrass bassists have also used a bow. The bluegrass bassist is part of the rhythm section, and is responsible for keeping a steady beat, whether fast, slow, in , or time. The bass also maintains the chord progression and harmony. The Engelhardt-Link (formerly Kay) brands of plywood laminate basses have long been popular choices for bluegrass bassists. Most bluegrass bassists use the size bass, but the full-size and size basses are also used. Early pre-bluegrass traditional music was often accompanied by the cello. The cellist Natalie Haas points out that in the US, you can find "...old photographs, and even old recordings, of American string bands with cello". However, "The cello dropped out of sight in folk music, and became associated with the orchestra." The cello did not reappear in bluegrass until the 1990s and first decade of the 21st century. Some contemporary bluegrass bands favor the electric bass, because it is easier to transport than the large and somewhat fragile upright bass. However, the bass guitar has a different musical sound. Many musicians feel the slower attack and percussive, woody tone of the upright bass gives it a more "earthy" or "natural" sound than an electric bass, particularly when gut strings are used. Common rhythms in bluegrass bass playing involve (with some exceptions) plucking on beats 1 and 3 in time; beats 1 and 2 in time, and on the downbeat in time (waltz time). Bluegrass bass lines are usually simple, typically staying on the root and fifth of each chord throughout most of a song. There are two main exceptions to this rule. Bluegrass bassists often do a diatonic ''walkup'' or ''
walkdown In country music Country (also called country and western) is a genre of popular music that originated in the Southern United States, Southern and Southwestern United States in the early 1920s. It primarily derives from blues, church music ...
,'' in which they play every beat of a bar for one or two bars, typically when there is a chord change. In addition, if a bass player is given a solo, they may play a
walking bass Bassline (also known as a bass line or bass part) is the term used in many styles of music, such as blues, jazz, funk, Dub music, dub and electronic music, electronic, traditional music, traditional, or classical music for the low-pitched Part ( ...
line with a note on every beat or play a pentatonic scale-influenced bassline. An early bluegrass bassist to rise to prominence was Howard Watts (also known as Cedric Rainwater), who played with
Bill Monroe William Smith "Bill" Monroe (; September 13, 1911 – September 9, 1996) was an American mandolinist, singer, and songwriter, who created the bluegrass music genre. Because of this, he is often called the "Honorific nicknames in popular music#M ...
's Blue Grass Boys beginning in 1944.''Howard "Cedric Rainwater" Watts''
Stewart Evans
The classical bassist
Edgar Meyer Edgar Meyer (born November 24, 1960) is an American double bass, bassist and composer. His styles include classical, Bluegrass music, bluegrass, Progressive bluegrass, newgrass, and jazz. He has won five Grammy Award, Grammy Awards and been nom ...
has frequently branched out into newgrass, old-time, jazz, and other genres. "My all-time favorite is
Todd Phillips Todd Phillips (né Bunzl, born December 20, 1970) is an American film director, producer, and screenwriter. He began his career in 1993 and directed films in the 2000s such as ''Road Trip (film), Road Trip'', ''Old School (film), Old School'', ...
", proclaimed Union Station bassist Barry Bales in April 2005. "He brought a completely different way of thinking about and playing bluegrass. An upright bass was the standard bass instrument in traditional country western music. While the upright bass is still occasionally used in
country music Country (also called country and western) is a genre of popular music that originated in the Southern United States, Southern and Southwestern United States in the early 1920s. It primarily derives from blues, church music such as Southern gosp ...
, the electric bass has largely replaced its bigger cousin in country music, especially in the more pop-infused country styles of the 1990s and 2000s, such as new country.


Slap-style bass

Slap-style bass is sometimes used in bluegrass bass playing. When bluegrass bass players slap the string by pulling it until it hits the fingerboard or hit the strings against the fingerboard, it adds the high-pitched percussive "clack" or "slap" sound to the low-pitched bass notes, sounding much like the clacks of a tap dancer. Slapping is a subject of minor controversy in the bluegrass scene. Even slapping experts such as Mike Bub say, "Don't slap on every gig", or in songs where it is not appropriate. As well, bluegrass bassists who play slap-style on live shows often slap less on records. Bub and his mentor Jerry McCoury rarely do slap bass on recordings. While bassists such as Jack Cook slap bass on the occasional faster "Clinch Mountain Boys song", bassists such as Gene Libbea,
Missy Raines Missy Raines (born April 6, 1962) is an American bassist, singer, teacher, and songwriter. She has won 10 International Bluegrass Music Awards for Bass Player of the Year. Missy Raines was the first woman to win IBMA Bass Player of the Year a ...
, Jenny Keel, and Barry Bales arelyslap bass. Bluegrass bassist Mark Schatz, who teaches slap bass in his ''Intermediate Bluegrass Bass'' DVD acknowledges that slap bass "...has not been stylistically very predominant in the music I have recorded". He notes that "Even in traditional bluegrass slap bass only appears sporadically and most of what I've done has been on the more contemporary side of that (Tony Rice, Tim O'Brien)." Schatz states that he would be "... more likely to use it lapin a live situation than on a recording—for a solo or to punctuate a particular place in a song or tune where I wouldn't be obliterating someone's solo". Another bluegrass method, ''Learn to Play Bluegrass Bass'', by Earl Gately, also teaches bluegrass slap bass technique. German bassist Didi Beck plays rapid triplet slaps, as demonstrated in this video.


Use in popular music

In the early 1950s, the upright bass was the standard bass instrument in the emerging style of
rock and roll Rock and roll (often written as rock & roll, rock 'n' roll, or rock 'n roll) is a Genre (music), genre of popular music that evolved in the United States during the late 1940s and early 1950s. It Origins of rock and roll, originated from Africa ...
music, Marshall Lytle of
Bill Haley & His Comets Bill Haley & His Comets were an American rock and roll band founded in 1947 that continued until Haley's death in 1981. The band was also known as Bill Haley and the Comets and Bill Haley's Comets. From late 1954 to late 1956, the group record ...
being but one example. In the 1940s, a new style of dance music called
rhythm and blues Rhythm and blues, frequently abbreviated as R&B or R'n'B, is a Music genre, genre of popular music that originated in African-American communities in the 1940s. The term was originally used by record companies to describe recordings marketed p ...
developed, incorporating elements of the earlier styles of blues and swing.
Louis Jordan Louis Thomas Jordan (July 8, 1908 – February 4, 1975) was an American saxophonist, multi-instrumentalist, songwriter and bandleader who was popular from the late 1930s to the early 1950s. Known as "Honorific nicknames in popular music, the Kin ...
, the first innovator of this style, featured an upright bass in his group, the
Tympany Five Tympany Five was a successful and influential American rhythm and blues and jazz dance band founded by Louis Jordan in 1938. The group was composed of a horn section of three to five different pieces and also drums, double bass, guitar and pian ...
.''Dallas Bartley – Small town Boy: Playing in the bands''
Special Collections and Archives Department, Missouri State University
The upright bass remained an integral part of pop lineups throughout the 1950s, as the new genre of
rock and roll Rock and roll (often written as rock & roll, rock 'n' roll, or rock 'n roll) is a Genre (music), genre of popular music that evolved in the United States during the late 1940s and early 1950s. It Origins of rock and roll, originated from Africa ...
was built largely upon the model of rhythm and blues, with strong elements also derived from jazz, country, and bluegrass. However, upright bass players using their instruments in these contexts faced inherent problems. They were forced to compete with louder horn instruments (and later amplified
electric guitar An electric guitar is a guitar that requires external Guitar amplifier, amplification in order to be heard at typical performance volumes, unlike a standard acoustic guitar (however combinations of the two - a Semi-acoustic guitar, semi-acous ...
s), making bass parts difficult to hear. The upright bass is difficult to amplify in loud concert venue settings, because it can be prone to
feedback Feedback occurs when outputs of a system are routed back as inputs as part of a chain of cause-and-effect that forms a circuit or loop. The system can then be said to ''feed back'' into itself. The notion of cause-and-effect has to be handled ...
''howls''. As well, the upright bass is large and awkward to transport, which also created transportation problems for touring bands. In some groups, the slap bass was utilized as band percussion in lieu of a drummer; such was the case with Bill Haley & His Saddlemen (the forerunner group to the Comets), which did not use drummers on recordings and live performances until late 1952; prior to this the slap bass was relied on for percussion, including on recordings such as Haley's versions of " Rock the Joint" and " Rocket 88". In 1951,
Leo Fender Clarence Leonidas Fender (August 10, 1909 – March 21, 1991) was an American inventor known for designing the Fender Stratocaster. He also founded the Fender Musical Instruments Corporation. In January 1965, he sold Fender to CBS, and later f ...
released his Precision Bass, the first commercially successful
electric bass The bass guitar, electric bass or simply bass (), is the lowest-pitched member of the string family. It is a plucked string instrument similar in appearance and construction to an Electric guitar, electric or an acoustic guitar, but with a lo ...
guitar.''The Electric Guitar: How We Got From Andrés Segovia To Kurt Cobain''
, Monica M. Smith
The electric bass was easily amplified with its built-in magnetic pickups, easily portable (less than a foot longer than an electric guitar), and easier to play in tune than an upright bass, thanks to the metal frets. In the 1960s and 1970s bands were playing at louder volumes and performing in larger venues. The electric bass was able to provide the huge, highly amplified stadium-filling bass tone that the pop and rock music of this era demanded, and the upright bass receded from the limelight of the popular music scene. The upright bass began making a comeback in popular music in the mid-1980s, in part due to a renewed interest in earlier forms of folk and country music, as part of the
roots rock Roots rock is a genre of rock music Rock music is a broad genre of popular music that originated as "rock and roll" in the United States in the late 1940s and early 1950s, developing into a range of different styles in the mid-1960s and late ...
and Americana trends. In the 1990s, improvements in pickups and amplifier designs for electro-acoustic horizontal and upright basses made it easier for bassists to get a good, clear amplified tone from an acoustic instrument. Some popular bands decided to anchor their sound with an upright bass instead of an electric bass, such as the Barenaked Ladies. A trend for "unplugged" performances on
MTV MTV (Originally an initialism An acronym is a word or name formed from the initial components of a longer name or phrase. Acronyms are usually formed from the initial letters of words, as in ''NATO'' (''North Atlantic Treaty Organization ...
, in which rock bands performed with solely acoustic instruments, further helped to enhance the public's interest in the upright bass and
acoustic bass guitar The acoustic bass guitar (sometimes shortened to acoustic bass or initialized ABG) is a bass instrument with a hollow wooden body similar to, though usually larger than a steel-string acoustic guitar. Like the traditional electric bass guitar an ...
s. Jim Creeggan of
Barenaked Ladies Barenaked Ladies is a Canadian rock band formed in 1988 in Scarborough, Ontario. The band developed a following in Canada, with their Barenaked Ladies (EP), self-titled 1991 cassette becoming the first independent release to be certified gold i ...
primarily plays upright bass, although he has increasingly played bass guitar throughout the band's career. Chris Wyse of alternative rock group
Owl Owls are birds from the Order (biology), order Strigiformes (), which includes over 200 species of mostly Solitary animal, solitary and Nocturnal animal, nocturnal birds of prey typified by an upright stance, a large, broad head, binocular vi ...
uses a combination of electric and double bass. Athol Guy of the Australian folk/pop group The Seekers plays an upright bass. Shannon Birchall, of the Australian folk-rock group The John Butler Trio, makes extensive use of upright basses, performing extended live solos in songs such as Betterman. On the 2008 album '' In Ear Park'' by the indie/pop band Department of Eagles, a bowed upright bass is featured quite prominently on the songs "Teenagers" and "In Ear Park". Norwegian ompa-rock band Kaizers Orchestra use the upright bass exclusively both live and on their recordings. French contemporary pop duet "What a day" uses double bass extended pizzicato technique with vocals and type writer
Hank Williams III Shelton Hank Williams (born December 12, 1972), known as Hank Williams III, is an American musician, singer and multi-instrumentalist, known for his unique fusion of traditional country music, rockabilly, heavy metal music, heavy metal and punk ...
's bass players (Jason Brown,
Joe Buck Joseph Francis Buck (born April 25, 1969) is an American sportscaster. The son of sportscaster Jack Buck, he worked for Fox Sports Fox Sports is the brand name for a number of sports channels, broadcast divisions, programming, and oth ...
and Zach Shedd, most notably) have used upright basses for recording as well as during the country and Hellbilly sets of Hank III's live performances before switching to electric bass for the Assjack set. The late 1970s rockabilly-punk genre of
psychobilly Psychobilly is a rock music Rock music is a broad genre of popular music that originated as "rock and roll" in the United States in the late 1940s and early 1950s, developing into a range of different styles in the mid-1960s and later, partic ...
continued and expanded upon the rockabilly tradition of slap bass. Bassists such as Kim Nekroman and
Geoff Kresge Geoff Kresge is a songwriter, guitarist, bassist, and record producer. He played with the punk rock/ horror punk band AFI for most of their early career, from 1992 through 1997, and co-wrote the majority of their early material alongside fron ...
have developed the ability to play rapid slap bass that in effect turns the bass into a percussion instrument.


Modern playing styles

In popular music genres, the instrument is usually played with amplification and almost exclusively played with the fingers, ''
pizzicato Pizzicato (, ; translated as "pinched", and sometimes roughly as "plucked") is a playing technique that involves plucking the strings of a string instrument. The exact technique varies somewhat depending on the type of instrument : * On bowed ...
'' style. The pizzicato style varies between different players and genres. Some players perform with the sides of one, two, or three fingers, especially for walking basslines and slow tempo ballads, because this is purported to create a stronger and more solid tone. Some players use the more nimble tips of the fingers to play fast-moving solo passages or to pluck lightly for quiet tunes. The use of amplification allows the player to have more control over the tone of the instrument, because amplifiers have equalization controls that allow the bassist to accentuate certain frequencies (often the bass frequencies) while de-accentuating some frequencies (often the high frequencies, so that there is less finger noise). An unamplified acoustic bass's tone is limited by the frequency responsiveness of the instrument's hollow body, which means that the very low pitches may not be as loud as the higher pitches. With an amplifier and equalization devices, a bass player can boost the low frequencies, which changes the frequency response. In addition, the use of an amplifier can increase the sustain of the instrument, which is particularly useful for accompaniment during ballads and for melodic solos with held notes. In traditional jazz, swing,
polka Polka is a dance and musical genre, genre of dance music originating in nineteenth-century Bohemia, now part of the Czech Republic. Though associated with Czechs, Czech culture, polka is popular throughout Europe and the Americas. History ...
, rockabilly, and psychobilly music, it is sometimes played in the '' slap style''. This is a vigorous version of pizzicato where the strings are "slapped" against the fingerboard between the main notes of the bass line, producing a
snare drum The snare (or side drum) is a percussion instrument that produces a sharp staccato sound when the head is struck with a drum stick, due to the use of a series of stiff wires held under tension against the lower skin. Snare drums are often used in ...
-like percussive sound. The main notes are either played normally or by pulling the string away from the fingerboard and releasing it so that it bounces off the fingerboard, producing a distinctive percussive attack in addition to the expected pitch. Notable slap style bass players, whose use of the technique was often highly syncopated and virtuosic, sometimes interpolated two, three, four, or more slaps in between notes of the bass line. "Slap style" may have influenced electric bass guitar players who, from the mid-sixties (particularly Larry Graham of Sly and the Family Stone), developed a technique called '' slap and pop'' that used the thumb of the plucking hand to hit the string, making a slapping sound but still letting the note ring, and the index or middle finger of the plucking hand to pull the string back so it hits the fretboard, achieving the pop sound described above.
Motown Motown Records is an American record label A record label, or record company, is a brand or trademark of Sound recording and reproduction, music recordings and Music video, music videos, or the company that owns it. Sometimes, a record label ...
bass player
James Jamerson James Lee Jamerson (January 29, 1936 – August 2, 1983) was an American bassist, bass player. He was the uncredited bassist on most of the Motown, Motown Records hits in the 1960s and early 1970s (Motown did not list session musician credits on ...
routinely used a double bass for enhancement of the electric bass in post-production ("sweetening") of recorded tracks and vice versa in many instances.


Double bassists


Historical

*
Domenico Dragonetti Domenico Carlo Maria Dragonetti (7 April 1763 – 16 April 1846) was an Italian double bass virtuoso and composer with a 3 string double bass. He stayed for thirty years in his hometown of Venice, Italy and worked at the opera buffa, Opera Buffa, ...
(1763–1846)
Virtuoso A virtuoso (from Italian language, Italian ''virtuoso'' or , "virtuous", Late Latin ''virtuosus'', Latin ''virtus'', "virtue", "excellence" or "skill") is an individual who possesses outstanding Aptitude, talent and technical ability in a partic ...
, composer, conductor *
Giovanni Bottesini Giovanni Bottesini (22 December 1821 – 7 July 1889) was an Italian Romantic composer, conductor, and a double bass The double bass (), also known simply as the bass () (or #Terminology, by other names), is the largest and lowest-pitched ...
(1821–1889) Virtuoso, composer, conductor * Franz Simandl (1840–1912) Virtuoso, composer,
pedagogue Pedagogy (), most commonly understood as the approach to teaching, is the theory and practice of learning, and how this process influences, and is influenced by, the social, political and Developmental psychology, psychological development of le ...
* Edouard Nanny (1872–1943) Virtuoso, composer *
Serge Koussevitzky Sergei Alexandrovich KoussevitzkyKoussevitzky's original Russian forename is usually transliterated Transliteration is a type of conversion of a text from one writing system, script to another that involves swapping Letter (alphabet), let ...
(1874–1951) Virtuoso, composer, conductor


Modern

* François Rabbath (1931–) Virtuoso, composer * Gary Karr (1941– ) Virtuoso *
Edgar Meyer Edgar Meyer (born November 24, 1960) is an American double bass, bassist and composer. His styles include classical, Bluegrass music, bluegrass, Progressive bluegrass, newgrass, and jazz. He has won five Grammy Award, Grammy Awards and been nom ...
(1960– ) Virtuoso, composer, teacher


Contemporary (1900s)


Classical

Some of the most influential contemporary classical double bass players are known as much for their contributions to pedagogy as for their performing skills, such as US bassist Oscar G. Zimmerman (1910–1987), known for his teaching at the
Eastman School of Music The Eastman School of Music is the music school of the University of Rochester, a private research university in Rochester, New York Rochester () is a City (New York), city in the U.S. state of New York (state), New York, the county seat ...
and, for 44 summers at the
Interlochen Interlochen ( ') is an unincorporated community An unincorporated area is a region that is not governed by a local municipal corporation. Widespread unincorporated communities and areas are a distinguishing feature of the United States and Ca ...
National Music Camp in
Michigan Michigan () is a U.S. state, state in the Great Lakes region, Great Lakes region of the Upper Midwest, upper Midwestern United States. With a population of nearly 10.12 million and an area of nearly , Michigan is the List of U.S. states and ...
and French bassist François Rabbath (b. 1931) who developed a new bass method that divided the entire fingerboard into six positions. Bassists noted for their virtuoso solo skills include American pedagogue and performer Gary Karr (b. 1941), Finnish composer Teppo Hauta-Aho (b. 1941), Italian composer Fernando Grillo, and US player-composer
Edgar Meyer Edgar Meyer (born November 24, 1960) is an American double bass, bassist and composer. His styles include classical, Bluegrass music, bluegrass, Progressive bluegrass, newgrass, and jazz. He has won five Grammy Award, Grammy Awards and been nom ...
. For a longer list, see the '' List of contemporary classical double bass players''.


Jazz

Notable jazz bassists from the 1940s to the 1950s included bassist
Jimmy Blanton James Blanton (October 5, 1918 – July 30, 1942) was an American jazz double bassist. Blanton is credited with being the originator of more complex pizzicato and String instrument#Bowing, arco bass solos in a jazz context than previous bassists. ...
(1918–1942) whose short tenure in the
Duke Ellington Edward Kennedy "Duke" Ellington (April 29, 1899 – May 24, 1974) was an American Jazz piano, jazz pianist, composer, and leader of his eponymous Big band, jazz orchestra from 1923 through the rest of his life. Born and raised in Washington, D.C ...
Swing band (cut short by his death from
tuberculosis Tuberculosis (TB) is an infectious disease usually caused by ''Mycobacterium tuberculosis'' (MTB) bacteria. Tuberculosis generally affects the lungs, but it can also affect other parts of the body. Most infections show no symptoms, in ...
) introduced new melodic and harmonic solo ideas for the instrument; bassist Ray Brown (1926–2002), known for backing Beboppers
Dizzy Gillespie John Birks "Dizzy" Gillespie (; October 21, 1917 – January 6, 1993) was an American jazz trumpeter, bandleader, composer, educator and singer. He was a trumpet virtuoso and improvisation, improviser, building on the virtuosic style of Roy Eld ...
,
Oscar Peterson Oscar Emmanuel Peterson (August 15, 1925 – December 23, 2007) was a Canadian virtuoso jazz pianist and composer. Considered one of the greatest jazz pianists of all time, Peterson released more than 200 recordings, won seven Grammy Awards ...
,
Art Tatum Arthur Tatum Jr. (, October 13, 1909 – November 5, 1956) was an American jazz pianist who is widely regarded as one of the greatest in his field. From early in his career, Tatum's technical ability was regarded by fellow musicians as extraord ...
and
Charlie Parker Charles Parker Jr. (August 29, 1920 – March 12, 1955), nicknamed "Bird" or "Yardbird", was an American jazz Saxophone, saxophonist, band leader and composer. Parker was a highly influential soloist and leading figure in the development of beb ...
, and forming the
Modern Jazz Quartet The Modern Jazz Quartet (MJQ) was a jazz combo established in 1952 that played music influenced by classical music, classical, cool jazz, blues and bebop. For most of its history the Quartet consisted of John Lewis (pianist), John Lewis (piano), ...
;
hard bop Hard bop is a subgenre of jazz that is an extension of bebop (or "bop") music. Journalists and record companies began using the term in the mid-1950s to describe a new current within jazz that incorporated influences from rhythm and blues, gospe ...
bassist
Ron Carter Ronald Levin Carter (born May 4, 1937) is an American jazz double bassist. His appearances on 2,221 recording sessions make him the most-recorded jazz bassist in history. He has won three Grammy awards, and is also a Cello, cellist who has reco ...
(born 1937), who has appeared on 3,500 albums make him one of the most-recorded bassists in jazz history, including LPs by
Thelonious Monk Thelonious Sphere Monk (, October 10, 1917 – February 17, 1982) was an American Jazz piano, jazz pianist and composer. He had a unique improvisational style and made numerous contributions to the Jazz standard, standard jazz repertoire, inclu ...
and
Wes Montgomery John Leslie "Wes" Montgomery (March 6, 1923 – June 15, 1968) was an American jazz guitarist. Montgomery was known for an unusual technique of plucking the strings with the side of his thumb and his extensive use of octaves, which gave him a dist ...
and many
Blue Note Records Blue Note Records is an American jazz record label owned by Universal Music Group and operated under Capitol Music Group. Established in 1939 by Alfred Lion and Max Margulis, it derived its name from the blue notes of jazz and the blues. Origi ...
artists; and Paul Chambers (1935–1969), a member of the
Miles Davis Quintet The Miles Davis Quintet was an American jazz band from 1955 to early 1969 led by Miles Davis. The quintet underwent frequent personnel changes toward its metamorphosis into a different ensemble in 1969. Most references pertain to two distinct and ...
(including the landmark modal jazz recording ''
Kind of Blue ''Kind of Blue'' is a studio album by American jazz trumpeter, composer, and bandleader Miles Davis. It was recorded on March 2 and April 22, 1959, at CBS 30th Street Studio, Columbia's 30th Street Studio in New York City, and released on Augus ...
'') and many other 1950s and 1960s rhythm sections, was known for his virtuosic
improvisation Improvisation is the activity of making or doing something not planned beforehand, using whatever can be found. Improvisation in the performing arts is a very spontaneous performance without specific or scripted preparation. The skills of impr ...
s. The experimental post 1960s era, and free jazz and jazz-rock fusion, produced several influential bassists.
Charles Mingus Charles Mingus Jr. (April 22, 1922 – January 5, 1979) was an American jazz Jazz is a music genre that originated in the African Americans, African-American communities of New Orleans, Louisiana in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, ...
(1922–1979), who was also a composer and
bandleader A bandleader is the leader of a music group such as a band (rock and pop), rock or pop band or jazz quartet. The term is most commonly used with a group that plays popular music as a small combo or a big band, such as one which plays jazz, blues, ...
, produced music that fused
hard bop Hard bop is a subgenre of jazz that is an extension of bebop (or "bop") music. Journalists and record companies began using the term in the mid-1950s to describe a new current within jazz that incorporated influences from rhythm and blues, gospe ...
with black
gospel music Gospel music is a traditional genre of Christian music, and a cornerstone of Christian media. The creation, performance, significance, and even the definition of gospel music varies according to culture and social context. Gospel music is com ...
,
free jazz Free jazz is an experimental approach to jazz improvisation that developed in the late 1950s and early 1960s when musicians attempted to change or break down jazz conventions, such as regular tempos, Musical tone, tones, and chord changes. Mus ...
, and classical music.
Free jazz Free jazz is an experimental approach to jazz improvisation that developed in the late 1950s and early 1960s when musicians attempted to change or break down jazz conventions, such as regular tempos, Musical tone, tones, and chord changes. Mus ...
and post-bop bassist
Charlie Haden Charles Edward Haden (August 6, 1937 – July 11, 2014) was an American jazz Jazz is a music genre that originated in the African Americans, African-American communities of New Orleans, Louisiana in the late 19th and early 20th centu ...
(1937–2014) is best known for his long association with saxophonist
Ornette Coleman Randolph Denard Ornette Coleman (March 9, 1930 – June 11, 2015) was an American jazz saxophonist, violinist, trumpeter, and composer known as a principal founder of the free jazz genre, a term derived from his 1960 album ''Free Jazz: A Collec ...
, and for his role in the 1970s-era Liberation Music Orchestra, an experimental group. Eddie Gómez and George Mraz, who played with
Bill Evans William John Evans (August 16, 1929 – September 15, 1980) was an American jazz pianist and composer who worked primarily as the leader of his trio. His use of impressionist harmony, interpretation of traditional jazz repertoire, block ch ...
and
Oscar Peterson Oscar Emmanuel Peterson (August 15, 1925 – December 23, 2007) was a Canadian virtuoso jazz pianist and composer. Considered one of the greatest jazz pianists of all time, Peterson released more than 200 recordings, won seven Grammy Awards ...
, respectively, and are both acknowledged to have furthered expectations of pizzicato fluency and melodic phrasing. Fusion virtuoso Stanley Clarke (born 1951) is notable for his dexterity on both the upright bass and the electric bass. Terry Plumeri is noted for his horn-like arco fluency and vocal-sounding tone. In the 1990s and first decade of the 21st century, one of the new "young lions" was
Christian McBride Christian McBride (born May 31, 1972) is an American jazz Jazz is a music genre that originated in the African Americans, African-American communities of New Orleans, Louisiana in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, with its roots in ...
(born 1972), who has performed with a range of veterans ranging from
McCoy Tyner Alfred McCoy Tyner (December 11, 1938March 6, 2020) was an American jazz piano, jazz pianist and composer known for his work with the John Coltrane Quartet (from 1960 to 1965) and his long solo career afterwards. He was an NEA Jazz Masters, NEA ...
to fusion gurus
Herbie Hancock Herbert Jeffrey Hancock (born April 12, 1940) is an American jazz pianist, keyboardist, bandleader, and composer. Hancock started his career with trumpeter Donald Byrd's group. He shortly thereafter joined the Miles Davis Quintet, where he helpe ...
and
Chick Corea Armando Anthony "Chick" Corea (June 12, 1941 – February 9, 2021) was an American jazz composer, pianist, keyboardist, bandleader, and occasional percussionist. His compositions "Spain (instrumental), Spain", "500 Miles High", "La Fiesta", "Ar ...
, and who has released albums such as 2003's '' Vertical Vision''. Another young bassist of note is
Esperanza Spalding Esperanza Emily Spalding (born October 18, 1984) is an American bassist, singer, songwriter, and composer. Her accolades include five Grammy Awards, a Boston Music Awards, Boston Music Award, and a Soul Train Music Awards, Soul Train Music Awar ...
(born 1984) who, at 27 years of age, had already won a
Grammy The Grammy Awards (stylized as GRAMMY), or simply known as the Grammys, are awards presented by the Recording Academy of the United States to recognize "outstanding" achievements in the music industry The music industry consists of the in ...
for Best New Artist.


Other popular genres

In addition to being a noted classical player,
Edgar Meyer Edgar Meyer (born November 24, 1960) is an American double bass, bassist and composer. His styles include classical, Bluegrass music, bluegrass, Progressive bluegrass, newgrass, and jazz. He has won five Grammy Award, Grammy Awards and been nom ...
is well known in bluegrass and newgrass circles.
Todd Phillips Todd Phillips (né Bunzl, born December 20, 1970) is an American film director, producer, and screenwriter. He began his career in 1993 and directed films in the 2000s such as ''Road Trip (film), Road Trip'', ''Old School (film), Old School'', ...
is another prominent bluegrass player. Well-known
rockabilly Rockabilly is one of the earliest styles of rock and roll music. It dates back to the early 1950s in the United States, especially the Southern United States, South. As a genre it blends the sound of Western music (North America), Western music ...
bassists include
Bill Black William Patton Black Jr. (September 17, 1926 – October 21, 1965) was an American musician and bandleader who is noted as one of the pioneers of rock and roll. He played in Elvis Presley's early trio. Black later formed Bill Black's Combo. Ear ...
, Marshall Lytle (with
Bill Haley & His Comets Bill Haley & His Comets were an American rock and roll band founded in 1947 that continued until Haley's death in 1981. The band was also known as Bill Haley and the Comets and Bill Haley's Comets. From late 1954 to late 1956, the group record ...
) and Lee Rocker (with 1980s-era rockabilly revivalists the
Stray Cats Stray Cats are an American rockabilly band formed in 1979 by guitarist and vocalist Brian Setzer, double bassist Lee Rocker, and drummer Slim Jim Phantom in the Long Island town of Massapequa, New York. The group had numerous hit singles in th ...
). Notable rockabilly revivalists and
psychobilly Psychobilly is a rock music Rock music is a broad genre of popular music that originated as "rock and roll" in the United States in the late 1940s and early 1950s, developing into a range of different styles in the mid-1960s and later, partic ...
performers from the 1990s and first decade of the 21st century include
Scott Owen Scott may refer to: Places Canada * Scott, Quebec Scott is a municipality in the La Nouvelle-Beauce Regional County Municipality, Municipalité régionale de comté de la Nouvelle-Beauce in Quebec, Canada. It is part of the Chaudière-Appalac ...
(from the Australian band
The Living End The Living End are an Australian punk rockabilly band from Melbourne, formed in 1994. Since 2002, the line-up consists of Chris Cheney (vocals, guitar), Scott Owen (double bass, vocals), and Andy Strachan (drums). The band rose to fame in 199 ...
), Jimbo Wallace (from the US band Reverend Horton Heat), Kim Nekroman ( Nekromantix), Patricia Day ( HorrorPops),
Geoff Kresge Geoff Kresge is a songwriter, guitarist, bassist, and record producer. He played with the punk rock/ horror punk band AFI for most of their early career, from 1992 through 1997, and co-wrote the majority of their early material alongside fron ...
(
Tiger Army Tiger Army is an American psychobilly band based in Los Angeles, California. The group was formed in 1996 in Berkeley, California, and its only constant member is singer, guitarist, and lead songwriter Nick 13. The band has released six studio ...
, ex- AFI).
Willie Dixon William James Dixon (July 1, 1915January 29, 1992) was an American blues musician, vocalist, songwriter, arranger and record producer. He was proficient in playing both the upright bass and the guitar, and sang with a distinctive voice, but he ...
(1915–1992) was one of the most notable figures in the history of
rhythm and blues Rhythm and blues, frequently abbreviated as R&B or R'n'B, is a Music genre, genre of popular music that originated in African-American communities in the 1940s. The term was originally used by record companies to describe recordings marketed p ...
. In addition to being an upright bassist, he wrote dozens of R&B hits and worked as a producer. He also plays bass on numerous
Chuck Berry Charles Edward Anderson Berry (October 18, 1926 – March 18, 2017) was an American singer, songwriter and guitarist who pioneered rock and roll. Nicknamed the "Honorific nicknames in popular music, Father of Rock and Roll", he refined a ...
's rock and roll hits. Many other
rockabilly Rockabilly is one of the earliest styles of rock and roll music. It dates back to the early 1950s in the United States, especially the Southern United States, South. As a genre it blends the sound of Western music (North America), Western music ...
bands like El Rio Trio (from the Netherlands) also use this instrument in their work. See also the
List of double bassists in popular music This list of double bassists in popular music includes double bass performers from a range of genres, including rockabilly, psychobilly, Country music, country, blues, Folk music, folk, Bluegrass music, bluegrass, and other styles. In these styles, ...
.


Pedagogy and training

The pedagogy and training for the double bass varies widely by genre and country. Classical double bass has a history of pedagogy dating back several centuries, including teaching manuals, studies, and progressive exercises that help students to develop the endurance and accuracy of the left hand, and control for the bowing hand. Classical training methods vary by country: many of the major European countries are associated with specific methods (e.g., the Edouard Nanny method in France or the Franz Simandl method in Germany). In classical training, the majority of the instruction for the right hand focuses on the production of bowing tone; little time is spent studying the varieties of pizzicato tone. In contrast, in genres that mainly or exclusively use pizzicato (plucking), such as jazz and blues, a great deal of time and effort is focused on learning the varieties of different pizzicato styles used for music of different styles of tempi. For example, in jazz, aspiring bassists have to learn how to perform a wide range of pizzicato tones, including using the sides of the fingers to create a full, deep sound for ballads, using the tips of the fingers for fast walking basslines or solos, and performing a variety of percussive ''ghost notes'' by raking muted or partially muted strings.


Formal training

Of all of the genres, classical and jazz have the most established and comprehensive systems of instruction and training. In the classical milieu, children can begin taking private lessons on the instrument and performing in children's or youth orchestras. Teens who aspire to becoming professional classical bassists can continue their studies in a variety of formal training settings, including colleges, conservatories, and universities. Colleges offer certificates and diplomas in bass performance. Conservatories, which are the standard musical training system in France and in Quebec (Canada) provide lessons and amateur orchestral experience for double bass players. Universities offer a range of double bass programs, including bachelor's degrees, Master of Music degrees, and
Doctor of Musical Arts The Doctor of Musical Arts (DMA) is a doctorate, doctoral academic degree in music. The DMA combines advanced studies in an applied area of specialization (usually Performance, music performance, music composition, or conducting) with graduate-le ...
degrees. As well, there are a variety of other training programs such as classical summer camps and orchestral, opera, or chamber music training festivals, which give students the opportunity to play a wide range of music. Bachelor's degrees in bass performance (referred to as B.Mus. or B.M.) are four-year programs that include individual bass lessons, amateur orchestra experience, and a sequence of courses in music history, music theory, and liberal arts courses (e.g., English literature), which give the student a more well-rounded education. Usually, bass performance students perform several recitals of solo double bass music, such as concertos, sonatas, and Baroque suites. Master of music degrees ( M.mus.) in double bass performance consist of private lessons, ensemble experience, coaching in playing orchestral double bass parts, and graduate courses in music history and music theory, along with one or two solo recitals. A Master's degree in music (referred to as an M.Mus. or M.M.) is often a required credential for people who wish to become a professor of double bass at a university or conservatory. Doctor of Musical Arts (referred to as D.M.A., DMA, D.Mus.A. or A.Mus.D.) degrees in double bass performance provide an opportunity for advanced study at the highest artistic and pedagogical level, requiring usually an additional 54+ credit hours beyond a master's degree (which is about 30+ credits beyond a bachelor's degree). For this reason, admission is highly selective. Examinations in music history, music theory, ear training/dictation, and an entrance examination-recital, are required. Students perform a number of recitals (around six), including a lecture-recital with an accompanying doctoral dissertation, advanced coursework, and a minimum B average are other typical requirements of a D.M.A. program. Throughout the early history of jazz, double bass players either learned the instrument informally, or from getting classical training early on, as in the case of Ron Carter and Charles Mingus. In the 1980s and 1990s, colleges and universities began to introduce diplomas and degrees in jazz performance. Students in jazz diploma or Bachelor of Music programs take individual bass lessons, get experience in small jazz combos with coaching from an experienced player, and play in jazz big bands. As with classical training programs, jazz programs also include classroom courses in music history and music theory. In a jazz program, these courses focus on the different eras of jazz history. such as Swing, Bebop, and fusion. The theory courses focus on the musical skills used in jazz improvisation and in jazz comping (accompanying) and the composition of jazz tunes. There are also jazz summer camps and training festivals/seminars, which offer students the chance to learn new skills and styles.


Informal training

In other genres, such as blues, rockabilly, and psychobilly, the pedagogical systems and training sequences are not as formalized and institutionalized. There are not degrees in blues bass performance, or conservatories offering multiple-year diplomas in rockabilly bass. However, there are a range of books, playing methods, and, since the 1990s, instructional DVDs (e.g., on how to play rockabilly-style slap bass). As such, performers in these other genres tend to come from a variety of routes, including informal learning by using bass method books or DVDs, taking private lessons and coaching, and learning from records and CDs. In some cases, blues or rockabilly bassists may have obtained some initial training through the classical or jazz pedagogy systems (e.g., youth orchestra or high school big band). In genres such as tango, which use a lot of bowed passages and jazz-style pizzicato lines, the bassists tend to come from classical or jazz training routes.


Careers

Careers in double bass vary widely by genre and by region or country. Most bassists earn their living from a mixture of performance and teaching jobs. The first step to getting most performance jobs is by playing at an
audition An audition is a sample performance by an actor, singer, musician, dancer or other performer. It typically involves the performer displaying their talent through a previously memorized and rehearsed solo piece or by performing a work or piece giv ...
. In some styles of music, such as jazz-oriented stage bands, bassists may be asked to
sight read In music, sight-reading, also called ''a prima vista'' (Italian meaning "at first sight"), is the practice of reading and performing of a piece in a music notation that the performer has not seen or learned before. Sight-singing is used to descr ...
printed music or perform standard pieces (e.g., a
jazz standard Jazz standards are musical compositions that are an important part of the musical repertoire of jazz musicians, in that they are widely known, performed, and recorded by jazz musicians, and widely known by listeners. There is no definitive list ...
such as ''Now's the Time'') with an ensemble. Similarly, in a rock or blues band, auditionees may be asked to play various rock or blues standards. An upright bassist auditioning for a blues band might be asked to play in a Swing-style walking
bassline Bassline (also known as a bass line or bass part) is the term used in many styles of music, such as blues, jazz, funk, Dub music, dub and electronic music, electronic, traditional music, traditional, or classical music for the low-pitched Part ( ...
, a rockabilly-style "slapping" bassline (in which the strings are percussively struck against the fingerboard) and a 1950s ballad with long held notes. A person auditioning for a role as a bassist in some styles of pop or rock music may be expected to demonstrate the ability to perform
harmony vocals Vocal harmony is a style of vocal music in which a consonance and dissonance, consonant note or notes are simultaneously sung as a main melody in a predominantly homophonic texture. Vocal Harmony, harmonies are used in many subgenres of European ...
as a
backup singer A backing vocalist is a singer who provides vocal harmony with the lead vocalist or other backing vocalists. A backing vocalist may also sing alone as a lead-in to the main vocalist's entry or to sing a counter-melody. Backing vocalists are used ...
. In some pop and rock groups, the bassist may be asked to play other instruments from time to time, such as electric bass, keyboards or acoustic guitar. The ability to play electric bass is widely expected in country groups, in case the band is performing a
classic rock Classic rock is a US radio format which developed from the album-oriented rock (AOR) format in the early 1980s. In the United States, the classic rock format comprises rock music ranging generally from the mid-1960s through the mid 1990s, prim ...
or new country song.


Classical music

In
classical music Classical music generally refers to the art music of the Western world, considered to be #Relationship to other music traditions, distinct from Western folk music or popular music traditions. It is sometimes distinguished as Western classical m ...
, bassists audition for playing jobs in orchestras and for admission into university or Conservatory programs or degrees. At a classical bass audition, the performer typically plays a movement from a J.S. Bach suite for solo cello or a movement from a bass concerto and a variety of excerpts from the orchestral literature. The excerpts are typically the most technically challenging parts of bass parts and bass solos from the orchestral literature. Some of the most commonly requested orchestral excerpts at bass auditions are from
Beethoven Ludwig van Beethoven (baptised 17 December 177026 March 1827) was a German composer and pianist. Beethoven remains one of the most admired composers in the history of Western music; his works rank amongst the most performed of the classical ...
's Symphonies Nos. 5, 7 and 9; Strauss's ''
Ein Heldenleben ''Ein Heldenleben'' (''A Hero's Life''), Opus number, Op. 40, is a tone poem by Richard Strauss. The work was completed in 1898. It was his eighth work in the genre, and exceeded any of its predecessors in its orchestral demands. Generally agre ...
'' and ''Don Juan'';
Mozart Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (27 January 17565 December 1791), baptised as Joannes Chrysostomus Wolfgangus Theophilus Mozart, was a prolific and influential composer of the Classical period (music), Classical period. Despite his short life, his ra ...
's Symphonies Nos. 35, 39 and 40;
Brahms Johannes Brahms (; 7 May 1833 – 3 April 1897) was a German composer, pianist, and conductor of the mid- Romantic period. Born in Hamburg (male), (female) en, Hamburger(s), Hamburgian(s) , timezone1 = Central ...
' Symphonies Nos. 1 and 2;
Stravinsky Igor Fyodorovich Stravinsky (6 April 1971) was a Russian composer, pianist and conductor, later of French (from 1934) and American (from 1945) citizenship. He is widely considered one of the most important and influential 20th-century clas ...
's Pulcinella; Shostakovich's Symphony No. 5; Ginastera's ''Variaciones Concertante'';
Tchaikovsky Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky , group=n ( ; 7 May 1840 – 6 November 1893) was a Russian composer of the Romantic music, Romantic period. He was the first Russian composer Music of Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky, whose music would make a lasting impressi ...
's Symphony No. 4; Mahler's Symphony No. 2; J. S. Bach's Suite No. 2 in B; Berlioz's ''
Symphonie Fantastique ' (''Fantastical Symphony: Episode in the Life of an Artist … in Five Sections'') Opus number, Op. 14, is a program music, program symphony written by the French composer Hector Berlioz in 1830. It is an important piece of the early Romantic mu ...
'',
Mendelssohn Jakob Ludwig Felix Mendelssohn Bartholdy (3 February 18094 November 1847), born and widely known as Felix Mendelssohn, was a German composer, pianist, organist and conductor of the early Romantic music, Romantic period. Mendelssohn's compositi ...
's Symphony No. 4; and the bass solos from
Verdi Giuseppe Fortunino Francesco Verdi (; 9 or 10 October 1813 – 27 January 1901) was an Italian composer best known for his operas. He was born near Busseto to a provincial family of moderate means, receiving a musical education with the h ...
's opera ''
Otello ''Otello'' () is an opera in four acts by Giuseppe Verdi to an Italian libretto by Arrigo Boito, based on William Shakespeare, Shakespeare's play ''Othello''. It was Verdi's penultimate opera, first performed at the La Scala, Teatro alla Scala, M ...
'', Mahler's Symphony No. 1,
Britten Edward Benjamin Britten, Baron Britten (22 November 1913 – 4 December 1976, aged 63) was an English composer, conductor, and pianist. He was a central figure of 20th-century British music, with a range of works including opera, other ...
's '' The Young Person's Guide to the Orchestra'' and
Prokofiev Sergei Sergeyevich Prokofiev; alternative transliterations of his name include ''Sergey'' or ''Serge'', and ''Prokofief'', ''Prokofieff'', or ''Prokofyev''., group=n (27 April .S. 15 April1891 – 5 March 1953) was a Russian composer ...
's '' Lieutenant Kije Suite''.


See also

* '' Bach: Unaccompanied Cello Suites Performed on Double Bass'' * Bogdon Box Bass *
Double bass concerto A double bass concerto is a Music notation, notated musical composition, usually in three parts or Movement (music), movements (see concerto), for a solo double bass accompaniment, accompanied by an orchestra. Bass concertos typically require an adv ...
*
Electric upright bass The electric upright bass (EUB) is an instrument that can perform the musical function of a double bass. It requires only a minimal or 'skeleton' body to produce sound because it uses a pickup and electronic amplifier and loudspeaker. Therefore, ...
* List of historical classical double bass players *
Octobass The octobass is an extremely large and rare bow (music), bowed string instrument that was first built around 1850 in Paris by the French luthier Jean-Baptiste Vuillaume (1798–1875). It has three strings and is essentially a larger version of th ...
* Piccolo bass *
Tololoche The tololoche is a traditional musical instrument from southern Mexico. Its name comes from "tolo loch", from the Mayan language: tolo (bull) and loch (embraced), which would later become tololoche. It is similar to but smaller than the Europe ...
* Triple contrabass viol


References


External links

*
EarlyBass.com by Jerry Fuller



Polish folk music double basses


Further reading


General

*Grodner, Murray, ''Comprehensive Catalog of books, recordings and videos for the double bass''. Bloomington IN, Murray Grodner, 2000. *Praetorius, Michael, ''Syntagma Musicum, Band II'', Kassel, Bärenreiter, 2001. (Reprint of the first edition of 1619). ISBN 978-3-76181527-4.


History

*Billė, Isaia, ''Gli strumenti ad arco e i loro culturi.'' Rome, Ausonia. 1928. Pdf available at: https://www.vitoliuzzi.com/news-for-a-new-and-authentic-history-of-the-classic-bass/. *Boyden, David B., et al, ''The Violin Family'', The New Grove Musical Instruments Series, London, Macmillan, 1989. . *Brun, Paul, ''A New History of the Double Bass'', Seillons source d'Argens, Paul Brun Productions, 2018. . *Elgar, Raymond, ''Introduction to the Double Bass'', published by the author, St Leonards on Sea, 1960. *Elgar, Raymond, ''More About the Double Bass'', published by the author, St Leonards on Sea, 1963. *Elgar, Raymomd, ''Looking at the Double Bass'', published by the author, St Leonards on Sea, 1967. *Lohse, Jonas, ''Das Kontrabass-Buch'', Friedberg, Jonas Lohse Verlag, 2020. . *Martin, Thomas, Martin Lawrence and George Martin, ''The English Double Bass ''. Banbury, Arpeggio Publishing, 2018. *Palmer, Fiona M. (1997). ''Domenico Dragonetti in England (1794-1846) : the career of a double bass virtuoso''. Oxford, Clarendon Press, 1997. ISBN 0-19-816591-9. * Planyavsky, Alfred, ''Geschichte des Kontrabasses'', Tutzing, Verlag Hans Schneider, 1984. *Stanton, David H., ''The String (Double) Bass''. Evanston IL, The Instrumentalist Company, 1982. *West, Chris, "The Paganini of the Double Bass - Bottesini in Britain." Independently published, 2021. ISBN 979-8747194595.


Instruction methods and performance

* Billè, Isaia, ''Nuovo metodo per contrabbasso''. Milan: Ricordi, 1922 * Bradetich, Jeff, ''Double Bass: The Ultimate Challenge''. Denton, TX: Music for All to Hear, 2016. * Cruft, Eugene, ''The Eugene Cruft School of Double Bass Playing: A Method with a Repertoire''. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1966. * Goïlav, Yoan, ''La contrebasse: Une philosophie du jeu, histoire, pédagogie, technique / The Double Bass: A Philosophy of Playing, History, Pedagogy, Technique.'' Lévis, Quebec: Doberman-Yppan, 2003. * Goldsby, John, ''The Jazz Bass Book: Technique and Tradition''. San Francisco: Backbeat Books, 2002. * O'Brien, Orin. ''Double-Bass Notebook: Ideas, Tips, and Pointers for the Complete Professional.'' New York: Carl Fisher, 2016. . * Simandl, Franz, ''New Method for the Double Bass''. Carl Fischer, 1984. * Tambroni, Peter, ''An Introduction to Double Bass Playing''. Oak Park IL, www.MostlyBass.com, 2014. * Trebbi, Alfredo, "Il Contrabbasso - novissimo manuale semiserio." Milan: Casa Musicale Sonzogno, 2007. ISBN 978-88-87318-40-1. * Turetzky, Bertram. ''The Contemporary Contrabass''. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1989. {{Authority control Bass (sound) Contrabass instruments C instruments Rhythm section Rockabilly instruments Blues instruments Amplified instruments Folk music instruments String section Basso continuo instruments Jazz instruments