double bass

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Related to Double basses: string bass, Upright bass

double bass,

bowed stringed musical instrument, the contrabass of the modern orchestral string section. It originated as a double-bass violviol,
family of bowed stringed instruments, the most important ensemble instruments from the 15th to the 17th cent. The viol's early history is indefinite, but it is recognizable in depictions from as early as the 11th cent. During the second half of the 17th cent.
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, an instrument described as early as 1566. A true double-bass violinviolin,
family of stringed musical instruments having wooden bodies whose backs and fronts are slightly convex, the fronts pierced by two f-hole-shaped resonance holes. The instruments of the violin family have been the dominant bowed instruments because of their versatility,
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 appeared during the 18th cent. but was rejected as unwieldy and of poor tonal quality. The present double bass is tuned in fourths and usually has a flat back and sloping shoulders but has never attained a definitive form. The bow, the last to give up its convex shape, was long held palm upward like the viol bow, but the violin style is now customary. Indispensable in the orchestra, it also has a place in the dance band and jazz.

Double Bass


(contrabass), a bowed stringed instrument. It is the largest (nearly 2 m long) and lowest-pitched instrument in the string family. It has four strings tuned in fourths and sounds an octave lower than it is notated. There are also three- and five-string double basses. The player normally stands. Primarily an orchestral and ensemble instrument, the double bass is sometimes played as a solo instrument (outstanding virtuosos include G. Bottesini, Italy, 19th century; S. Koussevitzky, Russia, 20th century; and F. Gertovich, USSR).

The variety of a musical instrument that plays in the lowest registers is also known as a contrabass—for example, the contrabass trombone, contrabass tuba, and contrabass balalaika.

double bass

1. a stringed instrument, the largest and lowest member of the violin family. Range: almost three octaves upwards from E in the space between the fourth and fifth leger lines below the bass staff. It is normally bowed in classical music, but it is very common in a jazz or dance band, where it is practically always played pizzicato
2. of or relating to an instrument whose pitch lies below that regarded as the bass; contrabass
References in periodicals archive ?
Winter from Vivaldi's The Four Seasons was given a creditable account by the RPO's leader Rolf Wilson but anachronistically he was accompanied by the full strings of the orchestra in all their symphonic might - including no fewer than six double basses.
The short work for full orchestra opens compellingly, with rumbling double basses overlaid with sotto-voce brasses.
This season, Salonen has rearranged the musicians' seating plan so that the first and second violins now flank him, and the cellos and double basses have been moved from his right to his left.
But then it seemed images of thimbled fingers dancing up and down the slats on a washboard as a make-do percussion section, or double basses fashioned out of old tea chests, were quaint, but had no future.
The small orchestra was composed of Philharmonic players, but not many: just two oboes, two bassoons, two trumpets, two double basses, three cellos, four violists, handfuls of violinists and a pair of kettle drums.
He divided the violins and moved the cellos and double basses from stage left to stage right, in the European manner.
Mehta's altering the seating of the cellos and double basses - moving them from his right to his left, a European fashion - may have been partly responsible for the lackluster sound of the strings.