At one time my dad, who's a violin maker and general string instrument doctor, had 5 of the beasties in our then 3 bedroom flat. My mom mistook one for a burglar in the dark and called the cops. You can just imagine.

The contrabass, also known as the double bass, string bass, upright bass, contrebasse, contrabasso or simply bass is the lowest member of the modern western family of bowed string instruments.

It is usually about 5 to 6 feet tall, and usually has 4 strings. it can be played either with a bow, or by plucking the strings.

The contrabass is a somewhat odd instrument, that doesn't completely fit in the violin family, and also doesn't fit in the viol family. Its origins are still a matter of debate, though it is generally agreed today that it is a descendant of the Violone, which was the lowest member of the viol family, one octave below the bass viola da gamba. But unlike the violone, it has only 4 strings (actually, in the 18th and 19th century it had only three!) and doesn't have frets. The Contrabass is also a bit bigger than the Violone, with an average string length of 41".

There were several
specimens of the violone,
the giant fiddle,
the unwieldy double bass,
capable of majestic recitative,
whose pizzicato is more sonorous
than the stroke
of the kettle drum,
and whose harmonics
are a veiled magic
of almost unbelievable quality.

Dr. Faustus
Thomas Mann

Con`tra*bass" (?), n. (Mus.)

Double bass; -- applied to any instrument of the same deep range as the stringed double bass; as, the contrabass ophicleide; the contrabass tuba or bombardon.

 

© Webster 1913


Con`tra*bass" (?), n. (Mus.)

The lowest stringed instrument of the violin family.

 

© Webster 1913

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