double bass

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double bass, bowed stringed musical instrument, the contrabass of the modern orchestral string section. It originated as a double-bass viol, an instrument described as early as 1566. A true double-bass violin appeared during the 18th cent. but was rejected as unwieldy and of poor tonal quality. The present double bass is tuned in fourths and usually has a flat back and sloping shoulders but has never attained a definitive form. The bow, the last to give up its convex shape, was long held palm upward like the viol bow, but the violin style is now customary. Indispensable in the orchestra, it also has a place in the dance band and jazz.

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double bass Largest stringed instrument. It has four strings tuned in fourths (E-A-D-G) and sounds one octave below the musical notation. It resembles a large violin, but has sloping shoulders (it was originally a member of the viol family). The double bass is held vertically. A bow is generally used for classical music, but the strings are usually plucked in jazz.

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double bass (or contrabass). Largest and lowest-pitched of bowed string instruments, derived from the violone. Formerly had 3 strings but now generally has 4, usually tuned at the interval of a 4th. Compass from E just over an octave below bass stave upwards for nearly 3 octaves. Some instruments have 5 strings, extra string sounding B below bottom E. Generally an orchestral instrument, but occasionally used in chamber music and very occasionally as solo concerto instrument. Used in jazz and dance bands, mostly pizzicato.

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dou·ble bass / bās/ • n. the largest and lowest-pitched instrument of the violin family, providing the bass line of the orchestral string section and also much used in jazz.