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The Lower Notes !!

Discussion in 'Music [DB]' started by KSB - Ken Smith, Dec 14, 2004.


  1. KSB - Ken Smith

    KSB - Ken Smith Banned Commercial User

    Mar 1, 2002
    Perkasie, PA USA
    Owner: Ken Smith Basses, Ltd.
    I am curious as to the intensions of the Composers in and around the 19th century that wrote Bass Parts as we see them now going below the 'E' String and requiring a 5-string, or Extension to play them if you don't tune down.

    I know alot of Bass parts were just doubling the Cello but did they expect the Bass to play up an octave (as we are a transposing Instrument) anyway or did they really want to hear it one octave lower than the Cello. I am sure with later composers closer to the 20th century meant what they wrote but I am questioning how many Bass parts were not really intended to be played lower in the eariler music.??
     
  2. Ken

    In the Berlioz/Strauss orchestration treatise, there is a good section on bass part writing and the instruments that were in use in the late Romantic period. In Bach's day, no one knows what was intended. The bass part was the same as the cello part. That's all we know. Same goes for Beethoven as well for that matter. In most of his symphonies, when notes below E are written, they are doubling the cello line. No one really know what he was thinking. Later guys like Wagner and Strauss fully expected some of the bass players to have CC capability from 5 string basses or four string basses tuned in 5ths or from extension machines which existed in some primative form back then. It was not expected for all players to have this capability. The ones that didn't played up an ocatve. Nowadays pro orchestras expect the low C. semi-pro and amateur orchestras will allow you double up an octave.

    Jon
     
  3. Bruce Lindfield

    Bruce Lindfield Unprofessional TalkBass Contributor Gold Supporting Member

    There was an article in Double Bassist magazine, which was basically about a restoration of an Italian 5-string DB from the 1700s - I remember it, as they mentioned that most Italian instruments from this period, were 5-strings - and the convention of a 4-string only started to become settled in the 19th century!
     
  4. KSB - Ken Smith

    KSB - Ken Smith Banned Commercial User

    Mar 1, 2002
    Perkasie, PA USA
    Owner: Ken Smith Basses, Ltd.
    I think they were 3-string, not 5.. 5 was rare untill the mid 1800s.. Right?
     
  5. Bruce Lindfield

    Bruce Lindfield Unprofessional TalkBass Contributor Gold Supporting Member

    Nope - it was definitely 5-string and Italian!

    I'll try to dig out the issue and the exact quote...
     
  6. KSB - Ken Smith

    KSB - Ken Smith Banned Commercial User

    Mar 1, 2002
    Perkasie, PA USA
    Owner: Ken Smith Basses, Ltd.
    Dig fast......Many Italian Basses are barely big enough to have a 4th string let alone 5.......
     
  7. Right......
     
  8. Bruce Lindfield

    Bruce Lindfield Unprofessional TalkBass Contributor Gold Supporting Member

    I searched through my periodicals, but still haven't found the issue I was thinking of - although Summer 2000 issue has an article by Joelle Morton "A Bass by any other Name" - which is about how the definitions of bass viols and violin(e)s changed regularly through the 18th century and how there were a lot of different configurations.

    Praetorius is quoted, at the end of the 17th C describing :

    a "Gross Quint Bass" His 5-string tuning sounds to be a big Cello with an extra string on the bottom tuned to F. *


    (*Talbot Manuscript, c.1694,Oxford Christ Church Library Music Ms.1187)
     
  9. KSB - Ken Smith

    KSB - Ken Smith Banned Commercial User

    Mar 1, 2002
    Perkasie, PA USA
    Owner: Ken Smith Basses, Ltd.
    Are we talking about the Double Bass or the Viola D'Gamba. Both were used in the same period up until about the 1800s. Upper Society often prefered the Gambas playing Chamber Music in small gatherings rather than the Louder Cousins from the Violin Family as being used in the Operas, Theatres and Orchestras at that time.

    Also, we were not there, were we? Why are there 3 and 4 String Basses from D'Salo, Maginni etc. from the turn of the 16-17th century? Because the Double Bass was starting to develope then! I have seen 5-String Italian Basses from the late 1700s to 1800s but not earlier but with one exception. A large Busetto cornered Bass with Bat Wing FF holes on a Japan Website they call a Giovanni Maria del Busetto which I think is a German Bass, strongly !!

    The Basses I have seen pictured from Italian Makers with 5-strings do not necessarly mean they started out as 5-stringers either. They could have been converted in the 19th Century to play the lower notes, then being written mainly by German and Venniese type composers.

    Please tell me how many Italian Basses you have personally played, touched or seen in person than looks like it was big enough to have been a 5-string Orchestral Double Bass. I'm curious....... Because when I see an old Italian Bass, it often looks like the 4th string is a refugee!!
     
  10. Bruce Lindfield

    Bruce Lindfield Unprofessional TalkBass Contributor Gold Supporting Member

    I was just talking about articles I had read in Double Bassist magazine - I claimed no personal knowledge!! ;)
     
  11. Bruce Lindfield

    Bruce Lindfield Unprofessional TalkBass Contributor Gold Supporting Member

    Well - the article I was originally talking about, was about a restoration of an Italian bass from 1700-&-something - can't remember the exact date?

    But anyway - if there was all this diversity of bass instruments - isn't it quite possible that composers expected notes below low E to be playable....? By something!! ;)
     
  12. KSB - Ken Smith

    KSB - Ken Smith Banned Commercial User

    Mar 1, 2002
    Perkasie, PA USA
    Owner: Ken Smith Basses, Ltd.
    Bruce, Keep digging....please..... I have spent 40 years studing the Bass. I am willing to learn more when ever I can. But please don't tell me that Chicken now comes from a Cow.....
     
  13. Bruce Lindfield

    Bruce Lindfield Unprofessional TalkBass Contributor Gold Supporting Member


    Well I don't see how you got that from what I posted - I just mentioned an article I had read in magazine - I wasn't contradicting anything you said or even attempting to do this!

    A question for you though - if we are talking about composers from this period - would they be specifying a Double Bass, rather than a "Contrabass Violine" or basses from the Gamba family?

    And what would be the difference in a bass member of the Viol family - typically 6-strings(?) - could it have been restored to be something like a DB?
     
  14. KSB - Ken Smith

    KSB - Ken Smith Banned Commercial User

    Mar 1, 2002
    Perkasie, PA USA
    Owner: Ken Smith Basses, Ltd.
    I don't really know. We were not there. That's why I would love to see and read the article. If and when you find it, mail me a photo copy of the article if you can...

    Violone, Viola d'Gamba, who knows what was used when and where but, most of the Italian Basses I have seen in my life were at most a 4-string if not a 3-string at birth. How many Violones, or the like have been modified of converted into modern day Double Basses? I am sure some, if not quite a few. The Violone, being smaller and maybe born out of the Viola d'Gamba had 5-strings often but the Double Basses had 3 or 4. My Gilkes from 1811 had Cello type pegs before machines and was a Cello shape b-4 it's shoulder cut. This was also maybe a Violone or Chamber Bass but was only 4 or maye 3-strings at some time as the tail piece shows a few plugs as if altered during it's life as a 4 stringer.
     
  15. Ken

    There were apparently some bigger contrabass violas d'gamba from Italy which had 6 or 5 strings designed to have the low string D below the normal contrabass E. There aren't many of these in original condition although there is anecdotal evidence that they existed. It is possible that most of these, were converted to three and four string double basses in the 1800's. Some of these looked just like our double bass with sloping shoulders, violin corners and either a flat or round back. There is some suspicion that some if not all of the Gasparo and Maggini basses had more than four strings because of the wide placement of the F-holes. However this could also be because they were cut down from super big contrabass violins which would have had the cello form. Not many of these exist either for the same reasons. They were mostly modified and converted to regular 3/4 double basses. These certainly would have had four strings in original condition being basically giant cellos.

    Jon