Double bass [bass, contrabass, stand-up bass, string bass, upright bass] (Fr. contrebasse; Ger. Kontrabass; It. contrabasso, contrabbasso; Sp. contrabajo)
- Rodney Slatford
- and Alyn Shipton
[bass, contrabass, stand-up bass, string bass, upright bass] (Fr. contrebasse; Ger. Kontrabass; It. contrabasso, contrabbasso; Sp. contrabajo)
The largest and lowest-pitched bowed string instrument in use. It has four or (less often) five strings tuned in 4ths and sounds an octave lower than the cello. In western art music it is best known for its contribution to the orchestra, where it supplies not only the power and weight but the basic rhythmic foundation, and has also been used as a continuo instrument. More rarely the bass is heard as a soloist, in which field its surprisingly large repertory includes over 200 concertos. The instrument, normally played pizzicato, is an essential member of jazz and dance bands; in many countries it is used in military and concert bands.
See also Violone.
Double basses vary in shape and size more than almost any other instrument. There are two basic designs: one is shaped like a viol, the other like a violin. There are also a few examples of other shapes (e.g. guitar-like). Viol-shaped basses usually have a flat back, of which the top part slopes towards the neck; the two holes in the belly are sometimes C-shaped, and very occasionally there is a third hole in the form of a rose. Other instruments are more closely modelled on the violin, although for convenience of playing their backs also are sometimes flat, and their shoulders less square....