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who needs four strings when three will do?

Discussion in 'Recordings [DB]' started by chuck3, Sep 11, 2018.

  1. Seriously - I'm trying to work on a Simandl etude and YouTube sent this in my direction - holy mackerel, Bottesini wrote some good music and this dude can really play!

    It's not for the likes of me to even consider playing a piece like this, but I sure like hearing him doing it, and on a vintage 3-string bass as well!
    Elmarito, Jim Dedrick and Reiska like this.
  2. The best part of the story is that the bass has a relief carving of Jesus on the cross on its’ back.

    And it was a gift from what I understand.
    MDrost1 likes this.
  3. Cool. Would you know what tuning he is using?
  4. Great question - hadn't thought about it. But since it's in Bm and he lands on the low string a few times as the root note, I'm going to guess B-E-A. But I'll let more classically trained musicians overrule me on that ...
    dhergert likes this.
  5. Reiska


    Jan 27, 2014
    Helsinki, Finland
    I`ve understood that he uses solo tuning Eudoxas there.
  6. the_Ryan


    Jul 10, 2015
    Solo tuning, but without the low F# string (so just BEA)
    chuck3 and dhergert like this.
  7. Interesting. Is this the typical way 3-string DBs were tuned historically?
    chuck3 likes this.
  8. From what I understand, Dragonetti used several different tunings but would normally tune ADG. He also supposedly would sometimes tune to GDG, but never used solo tuning. Overall there really wasn’t a standard tuning bassists adhered to then.
    I don’t know who in particular brought solo tuning into vogue, but Bottesini probably had something to do with it.
    chuck3, the_Ryan and dhergert like this.
  9. wathaet


    May 27, 2007
    Bottesini usually tuned BEA or CFBb
  10. the_Ryan


    Jul 10, 2015
    It varied.

    Iirc in France GDA was fairly common practice and in Italy and Germany ADG was more common. However, I think there were also 4 and 5 string basses in use at the time and often orchestras would have a variety in their bass sections.

    This is just me trying to recall old knowledge and if anyone knows better than me please feel free to correct me.
    chuck3 and dhergert like this.
  11. OK, so live and learn - never heard of solo tuning until now. Here's some info that some of you no doubt already know, but I (and maybe others) didn't:

    Solo Tuning
    The second most popular tuning is called Solo Tuning. This is also a fourths based tuning, but is one step higher than Orchestral Tuning. The result is F# B E A:


    This tuning is most commonly found when the bass is playing a more “up front,” solo role in classical music. For example, when someone is playing a Bass Concerto. Hence the term Solo Tuning.

    Classical bass soloists in the 1800’s, such as Giovanni Bottesini, began experimenting with string materials and tunings in an effort to give their instruments more volume, projection and brilliance. They were trying to give the bass a more soloistic timbre. The tuning above took hold and is still used by contemporary players and composers. Although some players fly the anti-solo tuning flag, a vast repertory of works exists for bass with this tuning and contemporary composers still write for it.

    In fact, Solo Tuning is common enough that most string makers produce both Solo Gauge sets for each of their string lines. If the strings are listed as Solo Tuning, or Solo Gauge, they are designed for the tuning listed above.

    Solo tuning strings tend to be thinner than orchestral strings, making them somewhat easier on the left hand as well. It is not uncommon for Upright Slap players to buy Solo Tuning Strings, and tune them E A D G. This puts the strings at a lower tension, which makes it easier for both the left hand and the slapping hand.
  12. I find this pretty fascinating that for such a foundational instrument, ironically we're still looking for more volume, projection and brilliance today. Way back when, they could have used an amp, but then they'd need to find a place to plug it in.
    Last edited: Sep 13, 2018
    chuck3 likes this.
  13. the_Ryan


    Jul 10, 2015
    The other difference between not mentioned is that solo strings are made to be brighter than orchestra strings (e.g. solo Bel Cantos or Kaplans are much brighter compared to the orchestra sets) as these are designed to project over a grand piano or an orchestra.
    chuck3 and dhergert like this.

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