double bass

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double bass

double bass, bowed stringed musical instrument, the contrabass of the modern orchestral string section. It originated as a double-bass viol, an instrument described as early as 1566. A true double-bass violin 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.
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The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

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.

The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.

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
Collins Discovery Encyclopedia, 1st edition © HarperCollins Publishers 2005
References in periodicals archive ?
"A lot of my work comes from repairs and restorations but I also do a lot of student range instruments - double basses, cellos, violas and violins." Neal, who has played double bass himself since he was 17, started life as a luthier - the name for somebody who makes or repairs string instruments - in 2011.
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 full orchestra returns quietly, and the movement ends with only the soloist and two orchestral double basses sounding the signature chord in harmonics d[prime]-b[prime]-d[double prime].
SEVEN Kensington schoolchildren, their double basses and Royal Liverpool Philharmonic conductor Vasily Petrenko will be visiting Parliament on Tuesday to talk about the award-winning Music For Life programme.
Liverpool will receive pounds 9,500 which could buy either 30 clarinets or flutes' 63 violins, or 30 double basses.
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.