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Or the player may employ a five-string instrument, with the additional lower string tuned to C, or more commonly in modern times B, three octaves and a semitone below middle C. Several major European orchestras use basses with a fifth string. In Britain, the United States and Canada, most professional orchestral players use four-string double basses with a C extension. This mechanism extends the fingerboard under the lowest string and additional four semitones of downward range.

The lowest string is typically tuned down to C, an octave below the lowest note on the cello. More rarely this string may be tuned to a low B, as a few works in the orchestral repertoire call for a low B , such as Respighi 's The Pines of Rome. The extension is an extra section of fingerboard mounted up over the head of the bass. There are several varieties of extensions. In the simplest mechanical extensions, there are no mechanical aids attached to the fingerboard extension except a locking nut for the "E" note.

To play the extension notes, the player reaches back over the pegs to press the string to the fingerboard. The advantage of this "fingered" extension is that the player can adjust the intonation of all of the stopped notes on the extension, and there are no mechanical noises from metal keys and levers. The disadvantage of the "fingered" extension is that it can be hard to perform rapid alternations between low notes on the extension and notes on the regular fingerboard, such as a bassline that quickly alternates between "G" and the low D.

This system is particularly useful for basslines that have a repeating pedal point such as a low D, because once the note is locked in place with the mechanical "finger," the lowest string sounds a different note when played open e. The most complicated mechanical aid for use with extensions is the mechanical lever system nicknamed the machine. This lever system, which superficially resembles the keying mechanism of reed instruments such as the bassoon, mounts levers beside the regular fingerboard near the nut, on the "E" string side , which remotely activate metal "fingers" on the extension fingerboard.

The most expensive metal lever systems also give the player the ability to "lock" down notes on the extension fingerboard, as with the wooden "finger" system. One criticism of these devices is that they may lead to unwanted metallic clicking noises. A small number of bass players tune their strings in fifths , like a cello but an octave lower C-G-D-A low to high. This tuning was used by the jazz player Red Mitchell and is increasingly used by classical players, notably the Canadian bassist Joel Quarrington. In classical solo playing the double bass is usually tuned a whole tone higher F -B-E-A.

This higher tuning is called solo tuning , whereas the regular tuning is known as "orchestral tuning. Strings are always labelled for either solo or orchestral tuning, and published solo music is arranged for either solo or orchestral tuning. Some popular solos and concerti, such as the Koussevitsky Concerto are available in both solo and orchestral tuning arrangements.

Many contemporary composers specify highly specialized scordatura. A variant and much less-commonly used form of solo tuning used in some Eastern European countries is A-D-G-C , which uses three of the strings from orchestral tuning A-D-G and then adds a high "C" string.

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Some bassists with five-string basses use a high "C" string as the fifth string, instead of a low "B" string. Adding the high "C" string facilitates the performance of solo repertoire with a high tessitura range. Another option is to utilize both a low C or B extension and a high C string.

When choosing a bass with a fifth string, the player may decide between adding a higher or lower-tuned string. Six-stringed instruments are generally regarded as impractical. To accommodate the additional string, the fingerboard is usually slightly wider, and the top slightly thicker to handle the increased tension. Some five-stringed instruments are converted four-string instruments. Because these don't have wider fingerboards, some players find them more difficult to finger and bow. Converted four-string basses usually require either a new, thicker top, or lighter strings to compensate for the increased tension.

Double bassists either stand or sit to play the instrument.

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The instrument height is set by adjusting the endpin such that the player can reach the desired playing zones of the strings with bow or plucking hand. Bassists who stand and bow sometimes set the endpin by aligning the first finger in either first or half position with eye level, although there is little standardization in this regard.

Traditionally, double bassists stood when playing solo and sat when they played in the orchestra or opera pit. Now, playing styles have become specialized to the point where one player rarely can satisfactorily perform both standing and sitting. When playing in the instrument's upper range above the G below middle C , the player shifts their hand out from behind the neck and flattens it out, using the side of the thumb to press down the string.

This technique—also used on the cello—is called thumb position. While playing in thumb position, few players use the fourth little finger, as it is too weak to produce a reliable tone this is also true for cellists , although some extreme chords or extended techniques, especially in contemporary music, may necessitate its use. Performing on bass can be physically demanding because the strings are large and thick. Also, the space between notes on the fingerboard is large due to the scale length and string spacing, so players have to shift positions frequently.

As with all non-fretted string instruments , performers must learn to place their fingers precisely to produce the correct pitch. For bassists with shorter arms or smaller hands, the large spaces between pitches may present a significant challenge, especially in the lowest range, where the spaces between notes are largest. However, the increased use of playing techniques such as thumb position and modifications to the bass, such as the use of lighter-gauge strings at lower tension, have eased the difficulty of playing the instrument. Bass parts have relatively fewer fast passages, double stops, or large jumps in range.

These parts are usually given to the cello section because it is a smaller instrument and are typically tuned together. Starting in the s, smaller half, quarter, eighth and even sixteenth-sized instruments became more widely available, which meant that children could start at a younger age. Despite the size of the instrument, it is not as loud as many other instruments, due to its low range.

In a large orchestra, usually between four and eight bassists play in unison. In the largest orchestras, bass sections may have as many as ten or twelve players, but modern budget constraints make bass sections this large unusual. When writing solo passages for the bass in orchestral or chamber music, composers typically ensure the orchestration is light so it doesn't obscure the bass. While amplification is rarely used in classical music, in some cases where a bass soloist performs a concerto with a full orchestra, subtle amplification called acoustic enhancement may be used.

The use of microphones and amplifiers in a classical setting has led to debate within the classical community, as " In many non-orchestral settings, such as jazz and blues, amplification via a specialized amplifier and loudspeakers is employed. Bluegrass and jazz players typically use less amplification than blues, psychobilly , or jam band players. In the latter cases, the high overall volume due to other amplifiers and instruments may lead to acoustic feedback , a problem exacerbated by the bass's large surface area and interior volume.

The feedback problem has led to the development of instruments like the electric upright bass , whose playing characteristics mimic that of the double bass. The double bass's large size and relative fragility make it cumbersome to handle and transport. Most bassists use soft cases, referred to as gig bags , to protect the instrument during transport.

Basic, unpadded gig bags used by students cost under USD, while thickly padded gig bags for professional players typically cost as much as USD.

Suite For Four Double Basses - Bernhard Alt (LUCA Double Bass Quartet Jan Buysschaert)

Some more feature-filled examples with backpack straps retail for over USD. Some bassists carry their bow in a hard bow case.

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  4. Players also may use a small cart or gig bag and end pin-attached wheels to move the bass. Hard flight cases have cushioned interiors and tough exteriors of carbon fiber , graphite , fiberglass , or Kevlar. The double bass as a solo instrument enjoyed a period of popularity during the 18th century and many of the most popular composers from that era wrote pieces for the double bass.

    The double bass, then often referred to as the Violone used different tunings from region to region.

    Double bass

    The earliest known concerto for double bass was written by Joseph Haydn ca. The earliest known existing concertos are by Karl Ditters von Dittersdorf , who composed two concertos for the double bass and a Sinfonia Concertante for viola and double bass. While many of these names were leading figures to the music public of their time, they are generally unknown by contemporary audiences.

    It remains popular among both singers and double bassists today. The double bass eventually evolved to fit the needs of orchestras that required lower notes and a louder sound. Bassist Johann Hindle — , who composed a concerto for the double bass, pioneered tuning the bass in fourths, which marked a turning point for the double bass and its role in solo works. Bassist Domenico Dragonetti was a prominent musical figure and an acquaintance of Haydn and Ludwig van Beethoven.

    His playing was known all the way from his homeland Italy to the Tsardom of Russia and he found a prominent place performing in concerts with the Philharmonic Society of London.

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    Beethoven's friendship with Dragonetti may have inspired him to write difficult, separate parts for the double bass in his symphonies, such as the impressive passages in the third movement of the Fifth Symphony, the second movement of the Seventh Symphony, and last movement of the Ninth Symphony. These parts do not double the cello part.

    Get PDF Trios and Quartets for Double Basses, Volume IV: Foreword

    Dragonetti wrote ten concertos for the double bass and many solo works for bass and piano. During Rossini 's stay in London in the summer of , he composed his Duetto for cello and double bass for Dragonetti and the cellist David Salomons. Dragonetti frequently played on a three string double bass tuned G-D-A from top to bottom. The use of only the top three strings was popular for bass soloists and Principal bassists in orchestras in the 19th century, because it reduced the pressure on the wooden top of the bass, which was thought to create a more resonant sound.

    As well, the low "E" strings used during the 19th century were thick cords made of gut, which were difficult to tune and play. In the 19th century, the opera conductor, composer, and bassist Giovanni Bottesini was considered the " Paganini of the double bass" of his time. His compositions were written in the popular Italian opera style of the 19th century, which exploit the double bass in a way that was not seen beforehand. They require virtuosic runs and great leaps to the highest registers of the instrument, even into the realm of harmonics.

    These compositions were considered to be unplayable by many bassists in the early part of the 20th century, but are now frequently performed. Simandl and Hrabe were also pedagogues whose method books and studies continue to be used in modern times. The leading figure of the double bass in the early 20th century was Serge Koussevitzky , best known as conductor of the Boston Symphony Orchestra , who popularized the double bass in modern times as a solo instrument.

    Because of improvements to the double bass with steel strings and better set-ups, the bass is now played at a more advanced level than ever before and more and more composers have written works for the double bass. From the s through the end of the century Gary Karr was the leading proponent of the double bass as a solo instrument and was active in commissioning or having hundreds of new works and concerti written especially for him.

    Karr was given Koussevitzky's famous solo double bass by Olga Koussevitsky and played it in concerts around the world for 40 years before, in turn, giving the instrument to the International Society of Bassists for talented soloists to use in concert. Another important performer in this period, Bertram Turetzky , commissioned and premiered more than double bass works.


    Paul Hindemith wrote a rhythmically challenging Double Bass Sonata in Giacinto Scelsi wrote two double bass pieces called Nuits in , and then in , he wrote Maknongan , a piece for any low-voiced instrument, such as double bass, contrabassoon, or tuba. Vincent Persichetti wrote solo works—which he called "Parables"—for many instruments. Sofia Gubaidulina penned a Sonata for double bass and piano in Fernando Grillo wrote the "Suite No. Jacob Druckman wrote a piece for solo double bass entitled Valentine. US double bass soloist and composer Bertram Turetzky born has performed and recorded more than pieces written by and for him. He writes chamber music, baroque music, classical, jazz, renaissance music, improvisational music and world music.