The Double Bass

Also known as the contrabass, the double bass is the largest and lowest member of the string family. It evolved from the Viol da Gamba family of instruments which had frets and were all held between the knees to play. In Italy around 1600 the double bass developed in shape towards the violin family, with a swell back and the corners more pointed. By 1800 frets had disappeared and instruments were smaller in size but it is not really until the beginning of the 20th centuary do we see the modern day double bass with 4 (or 5) strings completely established.

A very versatile instrument, the double bass not only provides the bass line in symphony and chamber orchestras, but is also very prominent in rock, jazz and folk as well as classical styles of music. Being very closely related to the bass guitar, many double bass players find it a natural progression to play the bass guitar as well.

Because of the size of the instrument it has been difficult in the past to learn it from an early age but with smaller basses available in 1/8, 1/4 and 1/2 sizes there is no reason why someone as young as 6 or 7 cannot start to learn. The double bass is large but it is not heavy, it will fit into almost any car and with items like wheels, trollies and back straps available it can be moved around without too many problems.

Click here for lessons Below you will find links to some simple double bass lessons.
The Strings

Using the bow - arco
Plucking the strings - pizzicato

Double Bass picture

||: Open Strings :: The Bow :: Rhythm :: G string :: D string :: A string :: E string :: Bass Clef :||


Here are a few guidelines to follow, especially if you are new to the instrument.

  • Always take the bow out of the case first and put it away last.
  • Tighten the hair on the bow to play, loosen it when you have finished.
  • It doesn't matter if the case falls on the floor, it does matter if the instrument falls - IT WILL BREAK.
  • Lay the instrument on the floor. It can't fall off the floor!! Put the instrument down on it's side, don't put it on it's back and NEVER put it down on it's front.

    Guide To Teaching The Double Bass

    Please click HERE or on the title above to find a practical guide for string teachers who teach double bass but are not necessarily double bassists or would like help teaching the double bass.


Bass Days
In July 2001 we held our first double bass day. Over 20 double bassists attended, there were group workshops and a masterclass conducted by Julian Walters of the CBSO and a former member of West Glamorgan Youth Orchestra.
We held our second bass day in July 2003, this time we had an amazing 42 bassists attend and even managed to play a piece all together. 2006 saw our next double bass day which again included the "double bass orchestra" and more bass days are planned for the future. Click on photo or HERE for more details.


Click here for Bass Day details.
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