Double bass (and mini-bass)
The double bass is the largest member of the string family and makes the lowest sounds. The bass can also make high notes which are called harmonics and are played by not pressing the finger down on the string. The bass is known for its versatility: it can rumble, squeak, whisper, laugh or cry, giving it a great capacity to move the listener. Sometimes double basses can sound like a herd of elephants, sometimes they sound like they are singing a beautiful song.
Just like the violin, the double bass originated in Italy and is made from the same types of wood (maple, epicea and ebony). Long ago, the bass was called the violone or bass viol. The instruments had different shapes and not always the same number of strings. Modern basses have four strings, tuned E, A, D and G (from low to high, so the opposite of the violin). Some basses have a fifth string which allows them to play even lower notes. Sometimes the extra range is achieved by extending the lowest string. A double bass looks a bit like a person, with a head (the scroll), neck and sloping shoulders, and is about the same size.
Like all string instruments, the bas scan be played with a bow (arco) or plucked (pizzicato). For the bass, there are two different types of bow: the French bow, which looks like a very large violin bow and is held the same way, and the German bow, which curves outward from the hair and is held “underhand”. Pizzicato bass lines can really swing – always a guaranteed show-stopper! The bass can be played standing or sitting on a high stool.
The bass is a true orchestra instrument. Their role is generally to accompany, providing a solid foundation for the other instruments, but sometimes they play the melody or even a solo. An orchestra can have anywhere from one to ten double basses, depending on the size and the repertoire being played.
Bass players are always busy; besides classical Music, they can play jazz, folk music and pop. Almost every type of ensemble needs one or more bass players.
“Mini basses” are now available, making it possible for children to learn to play this wonderful instrument.