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The Purpose of the Bass?

Discussion in 'Basses [DB]' started by BASSnSAX, Mar 8, 2005.


  1. I'm not quite sure if this is the proper place to post this, but here goes.

    Throw me in the TB stocks if you think me to be treasonous, but...

    What is the purpose of the bass? Since its lowest note is tuned a minor 6th below that of a cello, what is its purpose? Why tuned in 4ths when all the other orchestral string instruments are tuned in 5ths? Was this a move to "free" up the cello, allowing it to play passages higher in their range?

    Why? Why? Why?
     
  2. lowphatbass

    lowphatbass ****

    Feb 25, 2005
    west coast
    Hundreds of years of history and evolution here, there is probably a source(tb thead maybe?)or book(s) someone can recommend..remember one thing..a Bass is not a big violin, a violin is a small Bass!
     
  3. Chasarms

    Chasarms Casual Observer

    May 24, 2001
    Bettendorf, IA USA
    A bass replicates the lower tones with a much stronger, fuller tone than does the cello. Given two orchestra quality instruments, a bass's stopped C is going to be much fatter than a cello's lowest open string.

    While eight semitones may not seem like a huge difference in range, in the context of melodies and harmonies it is pretty big. That's pretty similar to the differences in ranges of a male vocalist considered a tenor and another considered a bass, yet think of the harmonies vocalists can create.

    Throw in 5 strings and/or extensions and the differences are more obvious.

    Plus, The basses add meat to the orchestra bone. So, even when doubling the cello lines an octave down, the audio spectrum is better represented.

    I think the 4ths thing evolved as a matter of practicality. The 19th century basses with 43-44" mensures would be pretty overwhelming to play tuned 5ths.
     
  4. 5stringDNA

    5stringDNA

    Oct 10, 2002
    Englewood, CO
    Good points Chas- I went to a Bach performance at the CSO last week, and most of the pieces were performed with small string ensembles, as is typical for Baroque music. The difference the one lone string bass made in filling out the lower registers and creating a fuller sound in the bosso continuo was simply amazing- it transforms the sound of the piece when it comes in and out.
    One thing I am slightly confused about in the range department: My brother plays cello, and I look at his music and it is written with parts as low as my bass sheets. From his explanation it always sounded like the C is below that of my E, but that seems highly implausible. :confused:
     
  5. anonymous0726

    anonymous0726 Guest

    Nov 4, 2001
    Bass plays an octave below where the music is notated, and cello plays without the transposition.
     
  6. AMJBASS

    AMJBASS Supporting Member

    Jan 8, 2002
    Ontario, Canada
    Double Bass music is written an octave above the "actual sound". Otherwise we would be reading almost everything in leger lines like a Tuba player.
     
  7. godoze

    godoze

    Oct 21, 2002
    I thought the purpose of the bass was to get chix ?
     
  8. AMJBASS

    AMJBASS Supporting Member

    Jan 8, 2002
    Ontario, Canada
    Well ya, thats a given.
     
  9. KSB - Ken Smith

    KSB - Ken Smith Banned Commercial User

    Mar 1, 2002
    Perkasie, PA USA
    Owner: Ken Smith Basses, Ltd.
    Badda Bing, Badda Boom ......

    _____________________________________________________

    BASSnSAX, Why is 'Bass" in your name if this is your question?
     
  10. anonymous0726

    anonymous0726 Guest

    Nov 4, 2001
    In my experience, a musical ensemble without a bass indicates a rehearsal without pay.
     
  11. Chasarms

    Chasarms Casual Observer

    May 24, 2001
    Bettendorf, IA USA

    No, that's wine coolers.
     
  12. godoze

    godoze

    Oct 21, 2002
    "hi, these are my friends, Bartles & James..."
     
  13. lowphatbass

    lowphatbass ****

    Feb 25, 2005
    west coast
    I thought the bass was something you could carry around by it's handle and put down flat so you and a friend will have a secure "nest" to put your SuperBigGulps in..
     
  14. cabin dweller

    cabin dweller Supporting Member

    Dec 17, 2004
    Ridgeland, WI
    Now your talkin' the correct way to use a bass fiddle!
     
  15. 5stringDNA

    5stringDNA

    Oct 10, 2002
    Englewood, CO
    Man.. I wish someone would have explained that to me a long time ago! That clears up a LOT of confusion...haha.
     
  16. Curiosity is my middle name! I was just wondering, as basses are quite unlike the other orchestral stringed instruments. That and I've only been exposed to Orchestra since September. Before that, I played slab, and there's not much history or anything about it. And somewhere within that time period was when I started this account. I was playing saxophone as well when I wrote, which explains why I haven't been exposed to Orchestra music. I had been in band all my life, not Orchestra, so, many pardons.
     
  17. Bass Barrister

    Bass Barrister

    Nov 4, 2004
    Chicago
    BASSnSAX:

    No need to ask for pardon. It was a good question and you got a few good answers.

    Many of us "old farts" forget that, thanks to the sorry state of music ed in our schools today, today's young folk get a very narrow view of music. Many of them do not know what orchestral music is and can not even identify the instruments of the orchestra. Our yound poster, IMHO, wanted to know and asked the right people.

    BASSnSAX, I commend you for your willingness to broaden your horizens and explore the richness of the classical side of music. There is more than plenty of room for all styles.

    Good luck to you.
     
  18. Chris Fitzgerald

    Chris Fitzgerald Student of Life Staff Member Administrator

    Oct 19, 2000
    Louisville, KY


    +1. Well put.
     
  19. Ed Fuqua

    Ed Fuqua

    Dec 13, 1999
    NYC
    Chuck Sher publishes my book, WALKING BASSICS:The Fundamentals of Jazz Bass Playing.

    Cause he lives in Wisconsin and it's still winter.
     
  20. It's pretty warm right now, and its 30° F here. Hell, its always winter here.