Contra Bass

kon-truh bas
The contrabass is a string instrument that is among the most popular and common in the whole string instrument family. It occupies two octaves typically between D5 and G2. Often also called the double bass and string bass, this instrument has become an essential instrument in classical orchestras and a staple of many popular music genres including and in particular jazz, pop, swing, folk and bluegrass.
History of the Contra Bass
Contrabass is a term used to refer to both a pitch range below the bass register and also a particular musical instrument from the string family. The latter is an instrument that dates back to the early 15th century when the first designs began to emerge for a viol in the bass range. The earliest documented evidence of a stringed viol “the size of a person” begins at this time and an early 16th century iteration of the instrument known as “gross-contra-bass-geige” may have been amongst the first. It measured over 7 feet in height. Ludwig Van Beehthoven helped to popularise the instrument in the early 18th century and by the 19th century, the contrabass was an essential part of classical music compositions. Players would either play the contrabass with a bow or by plucking the strings in a technique known as pizzicato. As the instrument began to appear more frequently in Western music it developed the standard English name double bass. In the early 20th century, the contrabass became more popular as the early jazz pioneers used it to create percussive sounds by pulling the strings and slapping them against the neck. This technique and others increased its popularity in popular music during the late 20th century as it appeared in jazz, bluegrass, folk and country.
Inventor: Unknown

Where to Buy

£600 - £60,000

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How to Play

A large, low-pitched stringed instrument played with a bow. It's similar to a cello, but much larger and produces even deeper tones.

In Popular Music

The contrabass has featured in countless classical and popular music recordings. Some of the most famous bassists in the world including Paul McCartney, John Deacon and Sting have all played contrabass. The double bass features heavily on country and folk recordings like 'Folsom Prison Blues' by Johnny Cash.

Famous Players

Edgar Meyer, François Rabbath

Close Relations

Double Bass, Bass Guitar
Video Credit: gentlebass
Understanding the Contra Bass
Very Large




18th century






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