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Online Guide Double Basses
History & Design

 

The double
BassThe lowest part of the audio frequency range; in popular music, a (generally) rhythmic, low frequency melodic line emphasising the root notes of the chord progression.
bass
is the largest and lowest pitched instrument in the string, or ‘violin’ family, a
GroupThe combination of a number of audio channels in hardware or software so that they may be controlled together.
group
of four closely related instruments - the violin, the viola, the ‘cello (short for violoncello, hence the apostrophe) and the double
BassThe lowest part of the audio frequency range; in popular music, a (generally) rhythmic, low frequency melodic line emphasising the root notes of the chord progression.
bass
. It is also known as the string
BassThe lowest part of the audio frequency range; in popular music, a (generally) rhythmic, low frequency melodic line emphasising the root notes of the chord progression.
bass
or the contrabass though, for simplicity, we will refer to it as the ‘bass’ for the rest of this guide. Its most striking characteristic is its sheer size - in the line-up of a standard symphony orchestra, it is pretty much the only instrument that is larger than its operator!

Bassgambe

The design and dimensions of the other members of the violin family have become largely standardised over the years – not so the
BassThe lowest part of the audio frequency range; in popular music, a (generally) rhythmic, low frequency melodic line emphasising the root notes of the chord progression.
bass
, which stands apart from its siblings in a number of ways. For a start, there is considerable variety in the shape of basses – some of them have completely
Flat ResponseTerm which refers to equipment that does not colour the frequency spectrum of a signal passed through it.
flat
backs, while others are more curved in the manner of violins and ‘cellos. In addition, it is not uncommon to see basses with the top of the back angled forward to make them easier to play – given the
VASTVariable Architecture Synthesis Technology: the technology behind Kurzweil's 'K' series samplers, which applied the principles of modular synthesis to digital sample manipulation.
vast
depth of the instrument’s body, anything that allows the players to get closer to the strings and
FingerboardThe part of a stringed instrument against which the strings are pressed when playing. Usually called the fretboard on fretted instruments.
fingerboard
is no bad thing. Another major area of variation is the shape of the shoulders - though there are basses with high shoulders along the lines of the rest of the string family, many have shoulders with a pronounced slope which, again, make the instrument rather easier to play.


Sizes

Basses also vary in size. Though many modern examples are known as ¾ size and generally tend to be a little smaller than their seventeenth and eighteenth century predecessors, there is no real standard size, and there are even accounts of a thirteen foot
BassThe lowest part of the audio frequency range; in popular music, a (generally) rhythmic, low frequency melodic line emphasising the root notes of the chord progression.
bass
built as late the middle of the nineteenth century – it needed two musicians to play it!

Bassgrößen

The strings themselves are another area that can vary from
BassThe lowest part of the audio frequency range; in popular music, a (generally) rhythmic, low frequency melodic line emphasising the root notes of the chord progression.
bass
to
BassThe lowest part of the audio frequency range; in popular music, a (generally) rhythmic, low frequency melodic line emphasising the root notes of the chord progression.
bass
. While the rest of the violin family all have four strings each, there are basses around with anything from three strings to six. Admittedly, most have four, but there is no real ‘norm’. The
BassThe lowest part of the audio frequency range; in popular music, a (generally) rhythmic, low frequency melodic line emphasising the root notes of the chord progression.
bass
is also the only instrument in the ‘family’ to tune each of its strings a ‘fourth’ (four notes) apart - violins, violas and ‘cellos all tune their strings a ‘fifth’ (five notes) apart.

Despite its size, the
BassThe lowest part of the audio frequency range; in popular music, a (generally) rhythmic, low frequency melodic line emphasising the root notes of the chord progression.
bass
is not a loud instrument, in fact many people are surprised just how gently voiced it is when heard in isolation. Consequently, it is not uncommon to see twelve or more basses in a full symphony orchestra, particularly for larger scale Romantic repertoire. It is generally accepted that the violin and ‘cello are proportionally very similar in terms of the ratio between their size and pitch. The viola and
BassThe lowest part of the audio frequency range; in popular music, a (generally) rhythmic, low frequency melodic line emphasising the root notes of the chord progression.
bass
by comparison though, would both need to be un-playably large to maintain this ratio. However, far from being a fault, this is what gives them their gentle, mellow character.

In terms of repertoire, the
BassThe lowest part of the audio frequency range; in popular music, a (generally) rhythmic, low frequency melodic line emphasising the root notes of the chord progression.
bass
has tended to be left rather on the back burner in the field of classical music. Until the end of the Eighteenth Century, no-one really considered it a melodic instrument until two Italians changed all that: Domenico Dragonetti and Giovanni Bottesini - who between them straddled most of the nineteenth century - were the first real
BassThe lowest part of the audio frequency range; in popular music, a (generally) rhythmic, low frequency melodic line emphasising the root notes of the chord progression.
bass
virtuosi, and they forced both composers and audiences to re-assess the instrument. All the subsequent
BassThe lowest part of the audio frequency range; in popular music, a (generally) rhythmic, low frequency melodic line emphasising the root notes of the chord progression.
bass
PFLPre-Fade Listen: a type of solo function on a mixing desk whereby a channel is monitored (usually via monitor outputs only, not the main outputs), bypassing its fader (and usually also pan) setting and muting all other channels.
solo
repertoire stems from the sea-change brought about by these two men. Even so, most of this repertoire is still relatively unknown to the modern concert-hall audience. However, if we move into the world of jazz and blues, the tables are comprehensively turned. Here, the
BassThe lowest part of the audio frequency range; in popular music, a (generally) rhythmic, low frequency melodic line emphasising the root notes of the chord progression.
bass
is an absolute essential – the only string instrument to make it into the standard line-up. In this field, it tends to be plucked ‘pizzicato’, rather than bowed, as this enables the instrument to be heard better, and also gives it a more percussive sound which drives the music along in partnership with the drums. Consequently, a whole repertoire of pizzicato styles has grown up in this genre, which has also given the
BassThe lowest part of the audio frequency range; in popular music, a (generally) rhythmic, low frequency melodic line emphasising the root notes of the chord progression.
bass
much more of a
PFLPre-Fade Listen: a type of solo function on a mixing desk whereby a channel is monitored (usually via monitor outputs only, not the main outputs), bypassing its fader (and usually also pan) setting and muting all other channels.
solo
spotlight alongside its traditional bass-line duties.

 

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