Double (in instrument names)
- Howard Mayer Brown
(1) An adjective used, like ‘contra-’, to indicate a lower octave, hence qualifying particular instruments. Thus the double bassoon (or contrabassoon) plays in the octave below the bassoon, the double bass (or contrabass) an octave below the cello, and so on. This usage derives from the old practice of identifying notes below gamma ut (the G on the bottom line of the bass stave) by double letters, FF, EE, and so on. Organ builders still refer to these low pitches as ‘double F’, ‘double E’, etc., and name 16′ manual ranks ‘double open diapason’, etc. ‘Double harp’ (arpa doppia) denotes either a harp with two ranks of strings or a harp with a downward extension of pitch, or both. Keyboard instruments with two manuals are often called ‘double’. But in the 16th and 17th centuries the terms ‘double harpsichord’, ‘double regals’, ‘double virginals’, or even ‘double curtall’ (and also the ...