Mind-blowing double bass

The double bass (Italian contrabbasso or basso) is the largest in size (about two meters in height) and the lowest in sound of the widely used bowed string musical instruments, combining the features of the violin family and the viol family. It has four strings (less often three or five), tuned in fourths: E1, A1, D, G (E, A counter octave, D, G large octave), range from E1 (E counter octave) to g1 (G first octave) and higher .

Interesting Facts:

  • Many double bass players can play the electric bass guitar successfully.
    The double bass was the most popular and most frequently used bass instrument in various groups in the 1950s, despite the fact that bass guitars and tubas had already appeared at that time.
  • In 1911, during a concert, one incident occurred: double bassist B. Jones’s bow broke, and without being confused, the musician continued to perform the piece with his fingers. This is how the audience heard for the first time the interesting sound of double bass pizzicato.
  • In 1615, at a festival in Dresden, a giant double bass, 4 meters high, was presented and played by a Polish musician. This instrument was called an octobass. One of these antique octobass, named “Goliath”, has been preserved and is in the Victoria and Albert Museum in London. Its height is 2.6 meters and its width is just over a meter. In shape it is similar to viola da gamba, but only with wider sides.
  • Some octobass were so large that they had to be played by two players: one holding the strings and the other moving the bow.
  • In 1855, the French master J. Villaume demonstrated a three-string octobass at the Paris Exhibition. Today it is an exhibit at the Paris Conservatoire Museum. The height of this giant is 4 meters, it is controlled by a special lever-pedal mechanism. The musician against the backdrop of such an octobass looks like Gulliver in the land of giants. Such an instrument turned out to be impractical and only belongs in a museum.
  • The largest double bass is 5.55 m high and 2.13 m wide.
  • Due to its size, starting to learn this instrument as a child was very problematic, but now, with the advent of small-sized double basses, you can start getting acquainted with the instrument at the age of 6 or 7.
  • In the USA in the 30s of the last century, double basses were made of aluminum and were intended for playing in military bands.
  • The names of this instrument are in different languages: Italian – Contrabasso; French – Contrebasse, English – Double Bass, German – Kontrabass.
    On March 10, 2011, a concert was held in Seoul (South Korea) in which 90 double bassists took part. Among the works, A. Dvořák’s symphony No. 9 “From the New World” was performed. All parts of violins, violas and cellos were performed on double basses. The concert was held under the leadership of the Korean Association of Double Bass Players.
  • Some manufacturers make instruments specifically for touring musicians. The double bass has a small body and a removable neck. This instrument does not lose its sound qualities and is very convenient for transportation.
    Today, the cost of a double bass made from high-quality, seasoned material is approximately $24,000.


Unlike the instruments of the violin family, the shape of the double bass was never completely standard. The evolution of this instrument resulted in several major variations in shape: viola da gamba, violin, busseto, guitar, and pear shape.

The double bass is made from several types of well-seasoned wood and its structure is the same as that of the instruments of the entire violin group: upper and lower soundboards, shell, headstock, resonator holes, loop, bow, neck, nut, headstock, pegs, pickguard, peg box, stand.

The double bass has thick strings, which are usually made of steel, catgut or synthetic materials, but with a mandatory copper or silver winding.

The double bass, like the violin, is played with a bow, although it has two varieties: the German system – short and heavy, and the French – long and thin, which is considered more maneuverable. The bow of a German design is held by the performer at the side, the thumb is on a wooden base. The French bow is held on top, and the thumb is held under the cane. Both bows are used by modern players, and the choice depends on personal preference.

The size of the double bass varies from the largest, 1.8 meters high, to the smallest, slightly larger than a cello. The height of the double bass can be slightly changed using the pin on which it rests.

In the 20-30s of the last century, the first electric double basses were designed, which are lightweight and easy to transport. The idea itself was not new: already in past centuries, some masters, as an experiment, made “dumb” double basses, the body of which was flat. With the advent of electronic sound reproduction, manufacturers had new opportunities, but it took a lot of time for craftsmen to bring the quality of the instrument to perfection.


Application and repertoire

The double bass is an obligatory member of symphony and chamber orchestras. This instrument was created specifically to double the bass line played by cellos in an orchestra and create a clear harmonic foundation, sound richness and rhythmic basis for a group of string instruments.

At first, the orchestra used only one double bass, but over time the number of instruments increased to eight.

The double bass has also found wide use in military bands and various concert groups around the world. It is very actively used in a number of genres such as jazz, blues, rock and roll, rockabilly, psychobilly, traditional country music, bluegrass, tango and many other types of popular and folk music. In a jazz big band, where there is a small composition of performers, this instrument is given very large opportunities for solo performance, for example, when constructing beautiful harmonic bass lines.

The emergence of modern new styles such as soul, fusion, funk and rock has contributed to a significant increase in technical capabilities, as double bass players love to conduct various experiments, including stylistic ones.

The double bass came onto the scene as a solo instrument at the end of the 18th century. The first performer who revealed the rich virtuoso-expressive and melodious capabilities of the double bass was the legendary D. Dragonetti – double bassist and composer. Later, his work was continued by P. Bottesini, F. Zimandl, and in the 20th century by A. Mishek, S. Koussevitzky, R. Brown, E. Mayer, N. Gorbunov, A. Cohen, V. Volkov, E. Kolosov, Ch. Mingus, L. Rakov and many others.

The repertoire for the double bass is extensive. Concert works for him were composed by I. Haydn, D. Dragonetti, P. Bottesini, K. Dittersdorf, S. Koussevitzky, I. Abert, R. Bennett, V. Bruns, A. Eshpai, D. Harbison, O. Yanchenko, N. Kapustin, E. Mayer others.

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