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Discussion in 'Basses [DB]' started by olps, Jan 1, 2002.

  1. olps


    Nov 12, 2001
    Any one have any info on the octobass? thanks
  2. Pete G

    Pete G

    Dec 31, 2001
    Northern Virginia
    There was some discussion of this instrument, as I recall, in the double bass section of a long out-of-print and marvellous 1961 book by a man named Wilson called "How to Help Your Child With Music." As I recall (and I haven't seen that book in thirty years, though it's probably available in libraries), a prominent nineteenth century French composer (perhaps Berlioz?) fell in love with the concept of hugely oversized string basses, and instruments made to his concept were in vogue in France, at least for a short while.

    I'm not sure if it's the same type of instrument I recall Wilson describing, but there is an oversized bass said to have belonged to Dragonetti on prominent display in the stringed instrument section of the Victoria and Albert Museum in London.
  3. olivier


    Dec 17, 1999
    Paris, France
    The Octobass built by Vuillaume is on permanent display at the Musée de la Musique in Paris (check Virtual Visit\19e\Vuillaume's Octo-Bass).

    Here is a photo of that unique instrument, and a drawing found on the net.

    And here is what you find in the on-line catalogue of the Musée de la Musique:

    Numéro d'inventaire:E.409.1
    Nom de l'oeuvre:Octobasse

    Facteur :
    Vuillaume Jean-Baptiste (07/10/1798-19/03/1875)
    Date d'exécution:
    vers 1850
    Lieu de fabrication :

    3 cordes accordées do, sol, do * Caisse en forme de violon * Mécanique dans le creux du manche : 7
    doigts mécaniques actionnés par 7 manettes * Fond en 2 parties d'érable * Table en 4 parties de sapin *
    Manche enclavé maintenu par 2 vis * Manettes fixées à l'extérieur du manche par de doubles-anneaux à 7
    abrégés où s'articulent des tringles de fer traversant la touche * 1 pédalier à 7 pédales pour actionner les
    manettes par système de tringles métalliques (tirasses) * Vernis rouge brun mât * (Source : F. Gétreau :
    Instrumentistes et luthiers parisiens)

    Longueur totale:3480 mm
    Longueur caisse:2060 mm
    Largeur caisse sup.:870 mm
    Largeur caisse med.:610 mm
    Largeur caisse inf.:111 mm
    Eclisse:343 mm
    Longueur vib.1:2150 mm
  4. Marcus Johnson

    Marcus Johnson

    Nov 28, 2001
    There's a great article on the Octobass in a back issue of Double Bassist magazine; it's the issue with Charlie Haden on the cover.
  5. Pete G

    Pete G

    Dec 31, 2001
    Northern Virginia
    Olivier, thanks for the link to the Musee.

    That instrument definitely is NOT what I saw at the V&A in London. The London instrument, while much larger than a 4/4 bass, is nothing like the size of the true Octobass.
  6. Strange that this thread should be active today,while i was in a bookshop earlier this afternoon i saw a postcard showing a young girl admiring the octobass in its museum setting.
    An awesome beast it is too.
  7. I love that drawing! The guy playing it looks absolutely miserable. I'm sure I would too.
  8. erik II

    erik II

    Jul 11, 2000
    Oslo, Norway
    I saw a picture of the Octobass in a book a couple of years ago. It showed two persons playing it - one bowing and one standing on the platform above fingering :eek:

    Could that be possible...?
  9. Marcus Johnson

    Marcus Johnson

    Nov 28, 2001
    Anything's possible:D...the Vuillaume octos were played by one person, and the fretting of the strings was achieved with an array of hand- and foot- activated levers and pedals. Here's a quote from the Double Bassist (#3) article:
    "Hector Berlioz insisted his giant orchestra should include 18 three-string double basses tuned in fifths, 15 more four-string double basses tuned in fourths and-for maximum effect-four of Vuillaume's octobasses."
    Now THAT'S a bass section...:eek:
  10. Pete G

    Pete G

    Dec 31, 2001
    Northern Virginia
    Dang, that IS a bass section.

    I KNEW it was Berlioz who went for this... thanks for confirming it, Marcus.
  11. Jeff Bollbach

    Jeff Bollbach Jeff Bollbach Luthier, Inc.

    Dec 12, 2001
    freeport, ny
    It did in fact take two guys to wield that axe.
  12. Marcus Johnson

    Marcus Johnson

    Nov 28, 2001
    Hmmm...maybe we're talking about two diferrent basses? The one in the picture I'm looking at shows one hapless guy with his hands (and feet) full. But I seem to remember, in a dark, dusty corner of what's left of my brain, a bass that required two bassists. You gotta love an instrument that gets two bassists working vs. just one.;)
    BTW, Jeff, seems like the link to the luthier's rant on your site is broken; I tried to re-read it (again) today, but no dice.
  13. Jeff Bollbach

    Jeff Bollbach Jeff Bollbach Luthier, Inc.

    Dec 12, 2001
    freeport, ny
    The rant is being reworked-should be up soon. Let you know.
  14. Mr. Foxen

    Mr. Foxen Commercial User

    Jul 24, 2009
    Bristol, UK
    Amp tinkerer at Ampstack
  15. PMF1


    May 30, 2010
    This may be beating a dead horse but...
    I was in Paris on holidays last week and we ended up in the Musee de la Musique.
    Its really unbelievable to see it in real life, even though your're not allowed to touch it. Its so big and according to the information, it was played (and bowed) by one person :)

    Anyway a really nice and very interesting museum.

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