is there a difference between a contrabass and a double bass?

Discussion in 'Miscellaneous [DB]' started by The_Bass, May 15, 2001.

  1. I did a quick search and found nothing so I just asked... :)

    Is there a difference between a contrabass and a DB? isn´t it just two words describing the same thing?

    in Iceland we only say contrabass about those "big violins"...

    and why is it called double bass anyway? is it because it´s twice the size of a cello or something?

    double bassists, I seek your knowledge!! :)
  2. erik II

    erik II

    Jul 11, 2000
    Oslo, Norway
    Hello Bass. Contrabass and Double Bass are two names for the same instrument. Check out a couple of the recent threads under DB - Basses. You will know which ones when you see the titles. :)
  3. that´s what I thought... :)

  4. There is a standing joke in the fraternity that we can't even agree on what to call our instrument. You came up with two valid choices.
    You were close: double meaning an octave below cello when we play the same clef note.
  5. In old musical terminology, the cello line was called the 8' bass. The bass below that was called 16' bass, and thus the term "double" bass. I'm not sure where this 8'/16' business came from and am a trifle curious myself. Truly speaking though, Contrabass is the correct, or at least more consistent, term.

    English annoys the piss out of me on this issue. In German, Russian, and Hebrew I can say "Kontrabass" (in whatever spelling/alphabet applies) and everyone understands. In English alone do I have to go through the terms double bass (which few understand anyway), string bass, upright bass, bass violin/fiddle, etc. before someone understands what I'm talking about.
  6. Bruce Lindfield

    Bruce Lindfield Unprofessional TalkBass Contributor Gold Supporting Member

    This sounds like Church organ pipe sizes. The longer the pipe the lower the notes produced - so 16 foot is a pretty long pipe and hence a pretty low note - I think you can also get 32' pipes, that are only really "felt" as a rumble through the floor.
  7. Yes, I've always understood the foot thing as a reference to the organ.

    Someone asked if double bass was because it's twice the size of a cello. Actually, the naming happened the opposite way. Violone is the antiquated name for double basses of both the violin and gamba families. "Cello" literally means small, hence violoncello is, "small bass."
  8. Organ pipes are classified as 8', 16', 32', 64', i.e., they double. It's plausible that this is the basis for the name. And yes, when our organist lays into a 32, you don't just hear it, you feel it in the seat of your pants.

    David K: Thanks for posting that. I was just about to see if my bass indeed held twice as much water as a cello.
  9. In his 1637 Treatise On Violin Family Luthiery, Lombardo Fiddleroni states the proper measure is in fact conducted by water displacement tests. His methods were never fully accepted in Cremona. Consequently his output was low and his instruments today are an extreme rarity.
    In a shocking turn of event however, his methods have been adopted by some modern Chinese luthiers selling basses under the trade name "Cremona" in tribute to the obscure 17th century Italian.