The double bass, or simply the bass, is the largest and lowest-pitched bowed string instrument in the modern symphony orchestra. It is an instrument and is typically notated one octave higher than sounding to avoid excessive ledger lines below the staff. The double bass is the modern bowed string instrument that is tuned in fourths, rather than fifths, with strings usually tuned to E1, A1, D2. The instruments exact lineage is still a matter of some debate, the double bass is a standard member of the orchestras string section, as well as the concert band, and is featured in concertos, solo and chamber music in Western classical music. The bass is used in a range of genres, such as jazz, 1950s-style blues and rock and roll, rockabilly, psychobilly, traditional country music, bluegrass, tango. The double bass is played either with a bow or by plucking the strings, in orchestral repertoire and tango music, both arco and pizzicato are employed. In jazz, blues, and rockabilly, pizzicato is the norm, Classical music uses just the natural sound produced acoustically by the instrument, so does traditional bluegrass. In jazz, blues, and related genres, the bass is typically amplified with an amplifier and speaker, the double bass stands around 180 cm from scroll to endpin. However, other sizes are available, such as a 1⁄2 or 3⁄4 and these sizes do not reflect the size relative to a full size, or 4⁄4 bass, a 1⁄2 bass is not half the size of a bass but is only slightly smaller. It is typically constructed from several types of wood, including maple for the back, spruce for the top and it is uncertain whether the instrument is a descendant of the viola da gamba 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, like other violin and viol-family string instruments, the double bass is played either with a bow or by plucking the strings. 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 also occasional written parts in modern jazz that call for bowing. In classical pedagogy, almost all of the focus is on performing with the bow and producing a good bowed tone, 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, vibrato is used to add expression to string playing. In general, very loud, low-register passages are played with little or no vibrato, 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, rockabilly and other related genres, much or all of the focus is on playing pizzicato. In jazz and jump blues, bassists are required to play extremely rapid pizzicato walking basslines for extended periods, as well, jazz and rockabilly bassists develop virtuoso pizzicato techniques that enable them to play rapid solos that incorporate fast-moving triplet and sixteenth note figures. In jazz and related styles, bassists often add semi-percussive ghost notes into basslines, to add to the rhythmic feel and to add fills to a bassline
Image: AGK bass 1 full
Ellen Andrea Wang performing at the Oslo Jazz Festival.
Double bass is the standard bass instrument in bluegrass. The Norwegian band Ila Auto, shown here, shows that the bass can be a head taller than the bassist (Kristoffer Iversen).
Example of a Busetto-shaped double bass: remake of a Matthias Klotz (1700) by Rumano Solano