A Conversation for Double Basses

double bass particulars

Post 1


While many basses have viol shoulders, many are also made with more cello-like shoulders. This does not necessarily get in the way; it depends on the size and thickness of the instrument as well the size of the player.

On the occasions when the bassist wishes to play solo, he/she may employ solo tuning strings, which are slightly thinner and meant to be tuned one whole tone higher. These strings sound brighter and project better than orchestral strings.

Five-string basses are favored in Europe and may even go to a low B. The top on a five-string bass must be thicker than that of a four-string to support the tension of the extra string. Some orchestral passages are easier to play on a five-string because the notes are very far apart on an extension. However, many US players feel that the extra tension and thickness on a five-string makes the bass sound tight and compromises its power. Thus, extensions are favored in the US.

A section of 8 basses is now standard in top orchestras.

double bass particulars

Post 2


A post from some time ago said,

"A small but vociferous group of bass players propose tuning the double bass in fifths, like a cello, viola or violin. The strings are tuned to C1 G1 D2 A2. This requires a totally different technique to play, so it is not a step to be undertaken lightly. The principles of playing in this manner have not yet been fully investigated."

Being one of the bass players who not only propose tuning the double bass in fifths, C1 G1 D2 A2, I have done it, and I think, very well. I play principal in a local orchestra that plays standard literature (Mozart and Beethoven symphonies and concerti)

I do take mild mannered issue with the last sentence, that the technique is "totally different". It is most assuredly NOT "TOTALLY" different. It is close enough that I was able to retain my principal bass position even through I switched to fifths. Reading at sight is at times a bit difficult, as tuning in fifths "switches the A and G strings". 30 years of playing dies hard.

The principles of playing in fifths are being worked out very well. Silvio Dalla Torre, (http://silviodallatorre.com) German professor of double bass at the German University of Rostock, tunes in fifhts, and is publishing a tutor for bass in fifths, Joel Quarrington, Principal double bass, Toronto (Canada) Symphony is publishing a large volume for this purpose, and Dennis Masuzzo (DennisMasuzzo.com) has published a book (lemurmusic.com) to assist those who want to move from tuning in fourths to tuning in fifths. I will be happy to correspond with anyone who wants experiment with fifths tuning.

On my Pollman, I use Corelli Tungsten strings, Solo set A2 (medium), Orchestral set D2 (Forte), Solo set F#1 (medium) turned up to G1, and Orchestral C1, forte. I find the C1 string does not produce quite the sound I want and I am still experimenting. My next experiment will be with a Thomastic Spirocore low B/C. I'll post my results.

Warmest Regards
David Teague
Advocating Free Softwarea and
Doulble Bass Tuned in fifths, C1G1D2A2

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