The contrabass, also known as the double bass
, string bass
, upright bass
or simply bass
is the lowest member of the modern western family of bowed string instruments
It is usually about 5 to 6 feet tall, and usually has 4 strings. it can be played either with a bow, or by plucking the strings.
The contrabass is a somewhat odd instrument, that doesn't completely fit in the violin family, and also doesn't fit in the viol family. Its origins are still a matter of debate, though it is generally agreed today that it is a descendant of the Violone, which was the lowest member of the viol family, one octave below the bass viola da gamba. But unlike the violone, it has only 4 strings (actually, in the 18th and 19th century it had only three!) and doesn't have frets. The Contrabass is also a bit bigger than the Violone, with an average string length of 41".
There were several
specimens of the violone,
the giant fiddle,
the unwieldy double bass,
capable of majestic recitative,
whose pizzicato is more sonorous
than the stroke
of the kettle drum,
and whose harmonics
are a veiled magic
of almost unbelievable quality.