Instruments | Double Bass | Late Baroque | Classical
The double bass is the only survivor from the viol family to have found a regular place in the orchestra. Like other members of the viol family, it initially carried frets – tiny knotted pieces of gut that measured out the fingerboard. As it was adopted into the violin family, it settled down as a four-stringed instrument, shed its frets and standardized its tuning in fourths from bottom to top: E’, A’, D, G (the same string names as the violin’s, but in the reverse order). Doubling the cello’s line but an octave lower, the bass has a story not unlike that of the viola. Essentially an accompanying instrument, it achieved prominence when classical composers like Carl Ditters von Dittersdorf (1739–99) began to write lively lines for it and even treated it as the soloist in his concertos.
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