A Conversation for Double Basses

Note from this Entry's Sub-Editor

Post 1

Jeremy (trying to find his way back to dinner)

Having played the double bass myself for more than 15 years, it was a pleasure to sub-edit this Entry (thanks, Gnomon). There is only one thing that still sounds, well, hard to believe to me, namely the passage about how to 'fake' deep notes. I tried to get some expert's opinion, so I phoned the first bassist of our local orchestra (with an academic degree in bass playing).

He told me that he had never heared of such a thing, but it sounded possible to him (at least theoretically). His advice was to call one of his colleagues, who is some 20 years younger and has a 'fresher degree'. I did that, and got the same information ('sounds interesting, theoretically possible, but we don't do it, we use 5-stringers instead'). He gave me the phone number of a member of the Munich Philharmonics ('They play more modern classical music, maybe he knows more.')

I tried to call him, but he was away. His wife said I should call another musician of that orchestra, so I tried to call that one. His answering machine gave me his cell phone number, so I called him. He was just on his way home and promised to call me back. Shortly before midnight, my phone rang and he was on the line. I described my problem, and got the information that I already had ('maybe that works, but we use 5-stringers, jada jada jada ...'). I thanked him for his help, and he said he'd talk to his colleagues about that and to call me back. The whole thing starts to be a chain mail among double bassists ...

So: If you are a double bassist in Europe (or anywhere in the world) and get asked about this 'deep-note-faking-phenomenon', I apologize for the inconvenience, it is my fault smiley - winkeye

One thing that deserves to be mentioned: All the bassists I talked to were very cooperative and proud of the fact that someone was really interested in their maybe neglected instrument.


Note from this Entry's Sub-Editor

Post 2


The spike that basses and celli rest on is called the 'end pin'.

Note from this Entry's Sub-Editor

Post 3


Thanks for this little morsel - I've now added it to the entry. smiley - smiley

Note from this Entry's Sub-Editor

Post 4


Great article (from a bass guitarist who admires all "real" bass players)

Re the business about faking notes - I have had that demonstrated to me in a sound studio using electronic sounds, but I don't know what mixture of notes work, or even if it is possible to reproduce on a stringed instrument.

Note from this Entry's Sub-Editor

Post 5


I am a relatively inexperienced double bass player - six years - but I am highly impressed by this entry. I believe there are a couple of points I can contribute:-

- Low/high fifth strings: the low fifth strings are usually tuned in B, but I don't think this is highlighted in the article. This is obvious, because it means that fingering patterns used on the normal EADG strings can be extended to the B string. I have seen and played basses with high C strings as well, and I pray for the day to come when I can afford a six-string bass - BEADGC smiley - smiley

- C extensions: there are two types available, the "keyed" version as in the article, and also one with an extended fingerboard upwards for the C string only, enabling the sub-E notes to be fingered normally.

- Playing low notes without a fifth string: my teacher, who is a renowned bass player and supplier from the Midlands of England, explained the technique to me. Taking an example, to play low C you play G and C together on the E and A strings respectively. If the chord at that time is C or C minor, this should produce the effect of C1 without distorting the chord. I myself prefer to detune the E string downwards to obtain sub-E notes.


Note from this Entry's Sub-Editor

Post 6


Creating low notes-- yup, that works, although it's better to divide the fourth rather than play doublestops-- intonation gets screwy.

Basses have to do a great deal of adjusting intonation to harmony (this is a pet topic of my teacher, John Hood). This is especially true when playing the third or sixth of a chord. Basically, in major harmonies, it is necessary to play the third or sixth slightly lower. In minor harmonies, the third or sixth must be pushed slightly higher. The result of this is that note pairs such D# and Eb, identical on a piano, are not the same on a bass! Try this playing double stops on your bass, listening very carefully-- you will have to adjust. The lower on the bass you go, the bigger the adjustment, to the point where D# and Eb are a finger width apart on the extension.

Note from this Entry's Sub-Editor

Post 7


On adjusting-- the big intonation adjustments necessary on the extension is the biggest reason not to get a mechanical keyed extension. They WILL be out of tune. The Concertgebouw Orchestra will not even take players with mechanical extensions for this reason.
My teacher tells me a story about when he was playing one ot the Bruckner symphonies, which starts with a Db. They decided to take it down the octave. It sounded, John said, like they were moving a sofa. They took it back up.

Note from this Entry's Sub-Editor

Post 8


We used to use the faking the low notes thing in the Youth Orchestra I played in if it was just the odd note out of the normal range. Because we didn't have five string basses, being amateurs and all, and because tuning down did horrible things, as this entry points out.

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