Want to know what a bass violin is? Well today we’ll look at just that, as well as how it differs from other types of violin, what its distinguishing features are and more.
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What Is A Bass Violin?
A bass violin is a type of stringed instrument that plays bass. A violinist plays this instrument using a bow. It’s much bigger than a classic violin.
It’s the largest member of the violin family, and is also known as the double bass or contrabass. The bass violin produces the lowest sound of any string instrument.
The earliest records of bass violins date back to 15th-century England. However, modern music has found a way to include its low-toned sounds in many bluegrass and jazz-style music.
There are various ways to play a bass violin, with a bow or by plucking the strings, also known as pizzicato. Orchestra music has utilized both playing styles over the years. However, bluegrass, jazz, and other modern genres typically play pizzicato style.
Shape And Size
The bass violin has a similar shape to the rest of the members of the viol family. Its appearance differs from its family in the back is typically arched, and its shoulders are curved more. These differences are to make the instrument more comfortable to play.
A full bass, or 4/4, will stand around 6.25ft tall, top to bottom, meaning the player will most likely need to stand on a stool to play it. The bass also comes in smaller sizes, ½, and ¾. However, each size differs only slightly from the last.
Many musicians find the ¾-size bass to be the best sounding, most comfortable to play, and is often called a ‘regular bass.’ The bass violin must be massive to achieve the perfect octave for the bass's deep, low tones.
How Is A Bass Violin Different From A Cello?
Cellos and Basses are very similar in appearance, making it hard to tell the difference sometimes. However, one of the most discernible differences is its size. The bass is quite visibly larger than a cello. A full bass stands taller than the average man, while a cello stands about 5ft tall.
Because of its size, bass players usually have to play standing up or on a small stool to account for the height of a full-sized instrument, while cello players can sit in a chair to play. Some of the smaller-sized bass violins allow the player to sit while performing as well.
The bass violin is about one octave lower in tone than a cello. Additionally, bass violins are the only instrument in the violin family that gets tuned in fourths like most bass guitars, instead of fifths like the cello and other violin members.
Read this article about the violin and the viola to learn more about the differences within the violin family.
Bass Violin Genres
Classical and orchestra music features the bass violin played with a bow or by plucking on the strings. Meanwhile, other genres such as jazz, bluegrass, reggae, and similar genres typically feature the bass violin played by plucking the strings.
What Is A Bass Violin? Final Thoughts
The bass violin, also known as the contrabass, is the largest member of the string family. Many genres throughout modern and classical music feature the low octave tones of the bass violin.
If you’re interested in learning to play a member of the violin family, but the bass violin seems too large, check out this list of the best violins for beginners to advanced players.