The double bass is the largest and lowest sounding instrument of the orchestral string family. It can be confusing to know which instrument is being referred to because it goes by several names: “double bass,” “contrabass,” “string bass,” “upright bass,” “acoustic bass,” or just “bass.” The history of the bass is equally complex. It's not technically a part of the violin family like the viola and cello. It comes from an older family of bowed string instruments called the viols. The shape and tuning system of the bass still reflects its origin as the lowest member of the viol family, called the “violone.” Many modifications have been made to make it a more useful instrument for modern orchestral music.
Unlike the other string instruments, bass players have a choice in the style of bow to use. There is a French style bow, which resembles the other bows closely and played overhand, but there is also a German style that is played underhand, similar to the way the violone was played.
The double bass plays accompanimental parts nearly all the time in ensembles, but many players don’t mind this due to the great opportunities playing bass provides in other styles of music. It is a staple instrument in jazz ensembles of all kinds, Bluegrass music, many Latin music styles, and a great number of folk music styles. Also, the bass uses strings that are tuned the same way as the electric bass guitar, meaning that transitioning from one instrument to the other is not very difficult. This means that a bass student can pick up an electric bass and start learning rock and other music fairly easily.
Some great double bass players of the past are Domenico Dragonetti, Giovanni Bottesini, and Serge Koussevitzky. Some of the most respected players of today are Gary Karr, Edgar Meyer, Jeff Bradetich, and François Rabbath.
Bass for Beginner Playing
Learning the double bass can be great fun and requires a lot of practice. We believe that the best way to get started is to play music that you like right away. You’ll need some instruction on the proper way to set up and tune your bass before starting and also how to learn from The String Club scrolling tablature videos. Watch the videos below and then try your hand at some of the beginner songs that we have selected if you are just getting started on your journey to viola playing.
What to Watch First to Get Started
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Bass Songs for Beginners
A great way to get started on the double bass is to have a fun experience with playing music you know. Our scrolling tablature bass videos are like playing a video game, except you are learning real music! Try playing along with these easy songs to get used to following the scrolling tablature. It is the easiest way to start learning fun music right away and you get to play along with backing tracks for a richer musical experience.
Articles for Beginner Bass Students
Here are some articles that will help you practice the right way, develop the right attitudes for success in music, and assure that you are on the right track for your musical growth. Its important to learn proper playing techniques, but it is equally important to "learn how to learn" a musical instrument. If you have poor practicing habits, you may find that getting better at your instrument is an extremely slow process even though you are committed to it and practicing regularly. Practicing the right way can supercharge your learning!
For More Advanced Bassist
Have you already been playing for a while? If so, you may be ready for some more challenging pieces. Here is a selection of enjoyable music to get accustomed to our scrolling tablature videos. Some of the music here will require more challenging hand shapes, faster notes, and shifting into higher positions. The great part of playing along with the scrolling tablature is that you can slow the music down to focus on the skills you need to build and make a practicing loop to work on the hard parts over and over.