Classical Music For Dummies, 3rd Edition
Book image
Explore Book Buy On Amazon

The double bass provides a unique sound in classical music. The lowest of all string instruments, the double bass (pronounced “base,” not like the fish) is enormous, bigger around than the average human being. The instrument can play much lower than anyone can sing, and it provides the foundation for the orchestra’s sound.

In an orchestra, basses are almost always way over on the right side of the stage. Bassists play sitting on a very tall stool or standing up. By the way, there’s no such instrument as a single bass. The words bass and double bass mean the same thing.

Works for bass solo are particularly rare but worth hearing. If bass concertos tighten your strings, listen to the following pieces:

  • Carl Ditters von Dittersdorf: Double Bass Concerto in E major

  • Domenico Dragonetti: Concerto in G major (actually composed by a bassist named Nanny, using a bunch of Dragonetti tunes)

  • Serge Koussevitzky: Double Bass Concerto in F-sharp minor, opus 3

And these sonatas are worth hearing:

  • Franz Schubert: Arpeggione Sonata

This is one of the most popular pieces for bass and piano — and Schubert didn’t even write it for the bass. He wrote it for an antiquated string instrument called the arpeggione, which nobody even has in the closet anymore!

  • Henry Eccles: Sonata in A minor (originally written in G minor)

Finally, listen to these famous double bass passages from classical music ­literature:

  • Beethoven: Symphony no. 9 (fourth movement)

  • Gustav Mahler: Symphony no. 1 (third movement)

  • Igor Stravinsky: Pulcinella Suite

    The double bass, granddaddy of the string section, plays the lowest notes. [Credit: <i>Source: Crea
    Credit: Source: Creative Commons
    The double bass, granddaddy of the string section, plays the lowest notes.

About This Article

This article is from the book:

About the book authors:

About David Pogue David Pogue is a member of the International Brotherhood of Magicians and has performed magic at parties, special events, on TV, and even over the radio for 25 years. He created and taught the beginning magic programs at the New School for Social Research and the Learning Annex. He has been known to mesmerize audiences with his magic tricks while on tour promoting his many bestselling books, including Macs?? For Dummies??, 5th Edition, Opera For Dummies??, and Classical Music For Dummies??. Contributor Mark Levy, magic consultant, has levitated and read spectators' minds for nearly 30 years. His writings have appeared in some of magic's most revered literary sources, including Richard Kaufman's CardMagic, Apocalypse magazine, and Magic.

Scott Speck has conducted hundreds of ballet performances throughout the United States and Europe. He is Music Director of the Joffrey Ballet, Artistic Director of the Chicago Philharmonic Orchestra, and former Conductor of the San Francisco Ballet. Evelyn Cisneros danced for the San Francisco Ballet for 23 years and is the Artistic Director of the National Dance Institute of New Mexico in Albuquerque.

This article can be found in the category: