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 It might be outdated or ideologically biased.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 ?
Acoustic double-bassist Brian Sampson will be doing a lot of "right, off-the-cuff musical thinking" when he unleashes his eclectic blend of original jazz compositions, improvisation and standards 8 p.m.
They are joined by double-bassist Josh Elliot and the greatly influential Scots singer Archie Fisher.
Yesterday, friends and teachers described the double-bassist as 'one of the most talented musicians of his generation'.
Stopping off at the Globe as part of their UK-wide tour before the festival season well and truly kicks in, the duo who, together with double-bassist Miranda Sykes, make up Show of Hands, played a storming set.
For example, passages written for the addition of a fourth lowly horn would intimidate the most accomplished principal player, and it's generally believed that no double-bassist, beyond the BSO's legendary Edwin Barker, could actually play every note written for that instrument on the final page of the symphony.
Skilful arrangements, chiefly by violinist Mike Seal and trumpet/flugelhorn player Jon Quirk, were stunningly executed, with Mark O'Brien (clarinet doubling saxes), Wendy Quirk on keyboard, and tireless double-bassist Tom Millar completing the line-up.
Former Northern Sinfonia double-bassist and guitarist Roberto Carrillo-Garcia, now with the HallA Orchestra, returns to the region for Sizzling Siesta on Sunday, September 19 at 3.30pm, offering some lively Spanish guitar music.
But the band have soldiered on under the leadership of pint-sized double-bassist Ian Jennings, releasing Roll The Dice to mark the 20th anniversary of their formation in the Wyre Forest in 1984.
Emanuel Ax (well-loved by CBSO audiences) is the pianist, collaborating with members of the illustrious Guarneri Quartet and double-bassist Julius Levine.