It is the largest instrument of the string chordophones and is used in all symphony and entertainment orchestras as a bass basis. In jazz bands it belongs to the so-called rhythm section. In addition to the role of an orchestral or collective instrument, it is also used as a solo instrument. Contrary to appearances, this instrument offers us amazing sound possibilities. In rock bands, for example, the bass guitar is its counterpart.
How to play the double bass?
The double bass can be played classically with a bow or, as is the case in jazz music, with the use of fingers. In addition, we can use any kind of strike not only on the strings, but also on the soundboard, thus obtaining additional rhythmic sounds. In addition to the harmonic base, we can play the double bass melodically.
Double bass in jazz and the classics
Playing jazz on a double bass is significantly different from playing classical. The first such visible difference is that 95% of playing jazz uses only fingers to play. When playing classical music, these proportions are definitely opposite, because here we traditionally use the bow. The second difference is that when playing jazz you practically do not use notes, but rather your experience. If we have a musical notation, it is rather a notation of a certain pattern with a harmonic function, rather than a score known and used in classical music. In all jazz music you improvise a lot and basically every instrumentalist has his own solo in a piece to play. And here we have an opposite to classical music, where, while playing in an orchestra, we use the notes that the instrumentalist tries to play and interpret in the best possible way. Playing in an orchestra is a kind of art of being in a group and requires the ability to work with that group. We have to be strictly rhythmic so that the whole orchestra sounds like one organism. There is no room for any deviations and individualities here. The situation is completely different in chamber jazz groups, where the instrumentalist has a lot of freedom and can approach the topic played more individually.
The sound of the double bass?
Of all the strings, this instrument is not only the largest, but also the lowest-sounding one. I get such a low sound thanks to a long, thick string and a large body. The height of the entire instrument, including the foot (foot), is approximately 180 cm to 200 cm. For comparison, the smaller the string instrument, the higher it will sound. The order in terms of sound, starting with the lowest sounding ones, is as follows: double bass, cello, viola and violin which achieve the highest sound. The double bass, like other instruments from this group, has four strings supported on the bridge: G, D, A, E. Additionally, by opening one of the elements at the headstock, we can get the sound C.
In the orchestra, the double bass plays the role of the foundation which is the basis of the harmonic. Despite the fact that it is usually hidden enough somewhere, without this foundation the whole thing would sound very poor. In smaller ensembles, it is much more visible and often together with the drums they form the basis of the rhythm.
If anyone is wondering whether it is worth trying your hand at the double bass, the answer is short. If you have the right physical and musical conditions for it, it is undoubtedly worth it. The double bass is a large instrument, so it is much easier for people with a more massive body structure and larger hands to play it, but it is also not a rule. There are also small people who are really great with this instrument. Of course, due to its size, the double bass is quite a cumbersome instrument to transport and move with it, but for a true musician who is in love with this giant, it should not be such a big problem. When it comes to the degree of learning difficulty, you definitely need to devote a lot of time to learning to achieve a high level of playing skills on this instrument, just like with other strings from this group. However, this basic level of double bass skills can be mastered quite quickly.