Last week I released an episode featuring my double bass, so I thought I would take a moment to explain what the double bass is, and its history. Let’s begin.
What is a double bass?
A double bass is a stringed instrument also known as a string bass, contrabass, or bull fiddle. It is a member of the violin family and plays an octave lower than the cello. While the size varies at times, some double bass can stand just under 6 feet with the body itself ranging from 3.8 feet to 4.5 feet. There are typically four strings, pitched E – A – D – G, although a fifth string may be added to enable easier access to higher notes.
Double Bass History
The double bass’ story first began in Italy when Italian musician Silvestro Ganassi created the bass viola da gamba in 1542. Considered to be a predecessor of the modern violin, the instrument featured six strings with sloping shoulders and frets. Years later in 1585 Ventura Linarol made a bass viola da gamba with the lowest four strings tuned to E1 – A1 – D2 – G2 – C3 – F3, the same as double bass today. Although it was originally considered to be a violone, or large viola, as the term fell out fashion violoncello, then Violones became the terms that classified the large stringed instrument.
Despite its birth within the 1500s, the double bass had yet to find its rightful place in the music world. By the end of the 17th century, the bass found a spot in the twenty-four “Violons du Roi” and later made its way into an opera orchestra in 1700. Its inclusion is attributed to that of Neapolitan Giuseppe Aldovrandini, an Italian Baroque composer, and Marin Marais, a French composer.
As the instrument continued to develop, so did its techniques, styles, and practical applications. During the classical period, the double bass was introduced to jazz to accentuate the beat. Through jazz slap bass and walking bass techniques were created and the bass grew to become a standard in modern jazz music.
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