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Double Bass


Double Bass, largest and lowest-pitched member of the violin family. Also known as the contrabass, the double bass is usually about 1.8 m (6 ft) high and has four strings tuned to sound EE AA D G (EE = third E below middle C; G = second G below middle C) and notated an octave higher. A low fifth string is sometimes added, tuned to the B below the E string. On some instruments the E string is extended at the head and fitted with a mechanism that clamps off the extra length; releasing the mechanism allows the string to sound the low notes down to C.

Three-stringed basses were common in the 18th and 19th centuries (often tuned A D G) and survive in Eastern European folk music. Early basses of the 16th and 17th centuries had four or five (or, rarely, six) strings. Modern dance-band basses occasionally add a high fifth string tuned to the C above the G-string. Until the 19th century, bass players used bows with the stick out-curved in relation to the bow hair—long after the in-curved bow was standard for the violin, viola, and cello. The out-curved bass bow continues in use alongside two in-curved models developed in the 19th century. Virtuosos on the double bass have included the Italian Domenico Dragonetti, the Russian-American conductor Serge Koussevitzky, and the American jazz bassist Charlie Mingus.


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