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Why Do They Call It Double Bass?

Discussion in 'Basses [DB]' started by tam82083, May 8, 2001.

  1. tam82083


    Jan 25, 2001
    whats the difference between double bass and bass guitar?
  2. Chris Fitzgerald

    Chris Fitzgerald Student of Life Staff Member Administrator

    Oct 19, 2000
    Louisville, KY
    David and/or Ed will be able to give you a very definitive answer to your question in a minute or two. Hang tight until then.
  3. The term "doublebass" is actually a bit of a misnomer (a misnomer is something that is named in a misleading or inaccurate way). We have the bass (bass guitar, toy bass, etc.), and we have the doublebass, which would imply that it is two times mo' bass than the toybass, er um bass guitar, when, in fact, it's one hundred times mo' bass than the bass guitar.

    Seriously though, doublebass=bass violin, string bass, etc.; bass guitar=
  4. john turner

    john turner You don't want to do that. Trust me. Staff Member

    Mar 14, 2000
    atlanta ga
    oh geeze. this is gonna hurt :eek: ;)
  5. john turner

    john turner You don't want to do that. Trust me. Staff Member

    Mar 14, 2000
    atlanta ga
    not to pick nits, and i may be wrong, but shouldn't it really be a bass viol?
  6. No, that's a misconception that's come down through history. The viol family is a different family of instruments, the most important difference being the guts/internal structure. The name of the contrbass voice in this family was the Violone. When the violin family superceded the viol family in European orchestras, many violones were converted to what we now call doublebasses. Luthiers learned discovered that "violin corners" and roundbacks (violin family) had no effect on the sound of doublebasses. Consequently, doublebasses were often made with flatbacks and "gamba corners" as cost saving measures, though internally the instruments were violin family through and through. The result was doublebasses of the violin family that retained the appearance of their viol family counterpart. Hence it has lead to confusion regarding the name and the history of the doublebass.
  7. rablack


    Mar 9, 2000
    Houston, Texas
    bass guitar - A slab o' wood with strings on it. Invented by Leo Fender almost exactly 50 years ago. Easy to carry, easy to amplify - which was the whole point of the invention. Uses a much shorter scale length but is tuned the same as the:

    double bass - which is a completely different instrument. It's that huge boxy expensive thing that symphony musicians, jazz cats, and bluegrass thumpers play. A pain to haul around, hard to amplify - but makes that VOICE OF GOD sound that absolutely nothing else can. Also called a standup bass, upright bass, acoustic bass, doghouse, bass fiddle, bass violin, and probably a few more. Some people mistake it for a really big cello.

    double bass has nothing whatsoever to do with the acoustic bass guitar - a big acoustic guitar with an electric bass neck which is so quiet that you have to plug it in anyway which defeats the whole purpose. Double bass, in this context, also has nothing to do with a drum set with two kick drums.
  8. john turner

    john turner You don't want to do that. Trust me. Staff Member

    Mar 14, 2000
    atlanta ga
    oh, thanks for the heads up, i did not know that. :D
  9. dhosek


    May 25, 2000
    Los Angeles, CA
    Y'all can discuss this on the other side, but there were earlier attempts at creating the bass guitar before Leo. Leo's just the guy who happened to make his at a time when it was going to sell well.

  10. I'd tend to give Leo a *little* more credit than that :p... yeah, he was in the right place at the right time in history, but he also managed to create a more successful instrument (from a design/engineering POV). Yeah, there were others before Fender, but he got it right, and that's saying a lot. Those other designs aren't all that popular 50 years later, are they?

    -a, a proud toy bassist who's painfully making the transition...
  11. jazzbo


    Aug 25, 2000
    San Francisco, CA
    I was once told that the term "double" bass derives from the fact that the instrument originally doubled the cello's part. Is this true, or a load of horse manure?
  12. tam82083


    Jan 25, 2001
    Thanks for clearing that up, i was wondering what the difference in that sound is, ie richer, deeper, etc. and possably an example of the difference. thanks a lot for cearing that stuff up.
  13. Bruce Lindfield

    Bruce Lindfield Unprofessional TalkBass Contributor Gold Supporting Member

    Well - you can do this for yourself. Basically any Orchestral or Jazz music will have double bass and any pop/rock from the 1960s to the late 1980s will have bass guitar - unless it is synthesised/programmed music.
  14. That's another fallacy. Originally, the doublebass did not double the cello part. In Baroque music, the doublebass improvised a bassline while the cello played ornaments around it. Basses and cellos didn't begin reading from the same part until later, the late Classical period around the time of Beethoven. Beethoven may have even been the first to double those parts.

    The "double" comes from the fact that it sounds two octaves below middle C, hence double bass.
  15. nickchalk


    Jan 30, 2001
    Well basses and cellos sure have the same parts in haydn and mozart symphonies, early ones included. So they must have been playing of the same around 1775 and probably before.

    Oh and if we're going to be picky there was no bass in the baroque as we no it. They only played violine.
  16. dhosek


    May 25, 2000
    Los Angeles, CA
    While you're roughly right about the double part of the doublebass (it sounded an octave lower than the violoncello which was the "bass" member of the violin family), you're off on the history of bass orchestration: From the introduction of the doublebass into the orchestra in the 18th century until the beginning of the 19th century, the double bass generally followed the cello line, but dropped out when the cello line dropped below C or got in any way interesting. Beethoven was the composer who really liberated the bass from the cello line in his orchestrations. There's a pretty good account in Cecil Forsythe's Orchestration, which is a fun book in any event.

  17. So it was early Classical period.

    The bit about the bassline and cello ornamentation I believe I read in Paul Brun's book. I got the impression this is the style Dragonetti would have been playing in in what the book refers to, if memory serves, as the Baroque orchestra, despite that being during the same time as the High Vienesse Classical Period of Mozart and Hadyn. The world was much bigger then, without the means of travel and communication we have now; performance practice was not at all unified, and stylistic developments were very localized. It took a lot of time for new developments to reach and take hold throughout Europe. In this light, I think Mozart and Haydn should be seen as the exception, not the rule.

    There's a fascinating chapter about the evolution of the bass in the orchestra. The bass was not always relegated to the role and seating position in the orchestra currently has. In early orchestras, the principle bass and cello (Dragonetti anad Lindley for example) often occupied seats next to the harpsicord improvising their parts from the figured bass in the harpsicordists score.
  18. Bruce Lindfield

    Bruce Lindfield Unprofessional TalkBass Contributor Gold Supporting Member

    I'm now imagining a modern orchestra playing something like a Rachmaninov or Prokofiev concerto, with 8 bassists standing behind the shoulder of the pianist - can you stop moving about there, we're trying to see the score!
  19. M_A_T_T


    Mar 4, 2004
    I have always wondered why it is called the "Double" Bass. Is there another instrument in the violin family it is "double" of? As far as I know, there is nothing between cello and bass, and a cello is tuned differently, so it's not doulbling the cello, or am I wrong? I did a search but nothing turned up.
  20. In the orchestra the contrabass plays the bass line an octave below the violoncelli, thus "doubling" the bass line.

    - Wil