An essential part of the symphony orchestra, the double bass is the largest member of the string family, and also used quite often in jazz, bluegrass, folk-rock and big band music. Consisting of four strings, the double bass produces the lowest tones of the orchestral-string family, and is sometimes referred to as an upright bass, string bass, or bull fiddle.
Constructed in full and fractional sizes, most players play ¾-size instruments due to the instruments bulkiness. Because it is a function of both body and arm length, proper sizing of a bass is more complex than both the violin and viola.
Designed for beginners, usually produced by machine. The body is made of laminate plywood due to its durability, and black-dyed maple is commonly used for the fingerboard to look more like expensive ebony. For the fingerboard, rosewood is occasionally used. These basses are affordably priced, and make a superb choice for novice players.
Consisting of a higher quality wood and craftsmanship, intermediate basses sound better than student basses, and can even accommodate players at a more advanced level. Ebony is typically used for the fingerboard. Solid Wood, laminate, or a combination carved top with laminate back and sides (known as a hybrid bass) are all common constructions for intermediate basses. Depending on the quality of wood and attention to detail, some intermediate basses can even be used at professional performance levels.
Only straight-grained spruce is used for the top portion of the bass. Most of a basses sound comes from the top, and straight-grained spruce is the only material strong enough to handle the strings heavy tension, and establish a resonant sound. Bass makers require a natural-aged spruce of at least five years, but the longer it's aged, the better.
For enhanced beauty and stability, the sides, neck and back are typically constructed from maple.
Because this dark and dense wood is strong yet light enough to not make the instrument feel top-heavy, ebony usually used for the fingerboard, endpin and tailpiece.
Exotic woods, such as rosewood and boxwood, are also used on the tailpiece. These woods are chosen for both their visu beauty and sound characteristics. Poplar and willow are also sometimes used in place of maple.
An ornamental piece at the top portion of the instrument.
Normally crafted from a very dense wood. Used to adjust string tension for tuning purposes.
Used to tune the strings or adjust the tension, tuning machines are normally crafted from brass or nickel.
Located between the nut and scroll to secure the tuning machine.
Because a lot of stress is put on the neck of a double bass, it needs to be made from quality hard maple. At proper pitch, over 200 pounds of tension can be placed on the neck.
A long, glued wood piece, this dense wood is found at the top of the neck, and adds strength for the prevention of warping. The best fingerboards are made from ebony and scooped inward towards the center.
Held in place solely by tension, the bridge is higher where the lowest string crosses. To ensure proper sound transmission, quality bridges are hand-fitted against the body. Some bridges are also height-adjustable.
For freer response, two holes are cut precisely in the top of the instrument. This also allows sound to be projected from the inside of the instrument.
Anchoring the bottom of each string, the tail piece is located at the bottom of the bass, and is usually made of ebony. Although any dense material will do.
Originally made from animal intestine, nylon is now used for construction of the tail gut, which serves to hold tension from the strings into the endpin, across the saddle.
Small feature at the string instruments bottom, meant to hold the tail gut.
Like the button on a violin or viola, the endpin holds the tail gut. But it also has an adjustable rod for the purpose of adjusting a bass's height to the player's proper position.
Found on the inside of a bass, the sound post offers structural support and distributes sound from the top to the back.
A tiny wood piece found on the inside of the body, glued under the lowest string. The bass bar disperses sound over the entire length of the top of the bass, and also strengthens structural support.
Manufacturers employ stringed instrument makers (known as "luthiers") depending on their level of experience. Building a bass is an artistic endeavor as much as it is a scientific one, and it requires a certain level of patience and skill. For this reason, less experienced luthiers normally work on less-expensive, student basses. However, as their experience increases, so does the level of bass they craft.
To prepare the bass so that it plays at its greatest potential, manufacturers employ "setup" technicians. Responsibilities of the setup musicians include adjusting proper depth and shape of the notches at the nut and bridge, the shaping and shaving of various components, precise fit and finish of pegs, and tuning.
To further enhance the beauty of a stringed instrument, a technique called "flaming" is used. Flaming is meant solely to improve the instruments visual appeal, and will not necessarily improve the sound quality.
Constructed from two pieces of wood that are glued together, instrument backs are commonly "book-matched". While this doesn't necessarily enhance the sound quality, it will give the string instrument a uniform appearance.
For an added strength and stability, some basses may include the addition of a laminated top.
Not counting a players skill level, the most influential factor of a stringed instruments sound quality is their choice of strings. There isn't any definite type of string that all players must use. Every string type has their own characteristics, each of which are more fitting for different situations, from country to orchestral performances. Also, certain strings sound differently depending on the instrument being used.
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