Distinguished musicians Domenico Dragonetti (1763-1846) and Giovanni Bottesini (1821-1889) established a long-standing tradition of playing the double bass that was carried on into the 20th and 21st centuries. From the 1500s, this deep-toned string instrument has made its way from European orchestras to today’s popular music to retain a more natural acoustic sound in performances. If you’re all about that bass, check out these fun musical facts about the double bass and its history.
1. The double bass is the largest and lowest-pitched bowed string instrument in the modern symphony orchestra.
2. The origin of the name of the double bass stems from the fact that its initial function was to double the bass line of large ensembles.
3. This hefty instrument has several nicknames including contrabass, string bass, bass, bass viol, bass fiddle, or bull fiddle.
4. It is a hybrid instrument influenced by the gamba and the violin family.
5. The double bass can be played using two different types of bows. The French or ‘Bottesini’ bow resembles a cello bow but is shorter and heavier. The second type is the German ‘Simandl’ or ‘Butler’ bow.
6. It is commonly used in jazz, dance music, popular music, and folk music. Military and concert bands across the globe use it.
7. In the orchestra, the double bass supplies power, weight, and the basic rhythmic foundation.
8. Mozart wrote and published one of the first brilliant double bass works to appear in print, the aria Per questa bella mano.
9. Many double bass players can also successfully play the electric bass guitar.
10. The double bass was the most popular and most frequently used bass instrument in the 1950s despite the introduction of the bass guitar at that time.
Headline image credit: Double Bass [cropped]. Photo by Rolle Ruhland. CC BY 2.0 via rollebassfire Flickr.