Double bass is one of the larger instruments of the violin family and it has the lowest pitch of all the violins, being tuned an octave lower than the cello.

You can find out more about the cello, in particular, by visiting our blog Playing Cello.

Other names for the double bass which you might have heard before when studying music are:

  • contrabass
  • contrebasse
  • string bass
  • bass
  • bass fiddle

The double bass, as well as sounding unique compared to its family members, also looks quite different. Some designs resemble a viola whilst others look more like a violin shape. What's more, the size of the instrument varies greatly, and so too does the weight as a result. You wouldn't normally find a double bass bigger than 1.8 metres in length, or 6 feet (still, wow! And the body alone makes up two-thirds of this sometimes!).

A double bass is usually constructed with four strings pitched E1, A1, D & G. However, on some pieces of equipment, a fifth string is added to allow the player more freedom with the higher notes. Others, meanwhile, have a mechanical device that can be used with levers that helps to extend the range of the fourth string.

A double bass is a large instrument.
The double bass is one of the largest instruments in the violin family. Photo on Visual hunt

Double Bass Playing Techniques

Did you think there was only one way to play the double bass? Think again!

Okay so usually there is a traditional way to play an instrument, like, take the recorder, for example. With the recorder, you place the flute-type instrument in your mouth, place your fingers over the holes and blow through the hole to hear those notes. Sounds straight forward right? However, there are always various ways you can manipulate an instrument if you know how to, so here we are going to bring you some ideas based on techniques that other bassists have used when playing the double bass and which are now recognised as ways to play double bass.

The below are brought to you by Live About:

"Arco - Otherwise known as bowing. This is the same technique used to play the violin and cello. The length of strings on a double bass, as well as other string instruments, depends on the length of the instrument. When it comes to the double bass, the string length may be from 90 centimeters for the 1/4 to 106 centimeters for the 3/4 (measurements based on total length).

Pizzicato - Also known as striking. The musician strikes the strings to produce sound, usually using the side of the index finger. This technique is often used by jazz players.

Slap Bass - The musician plucks or pulls the strings and releases it. As the strings slap or hit the fingerboard it creates notes that has an added "click" to it."

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The double bass is a versatile instrument.
There are different ways you can play the double bass, including plucking or slapping the strings. Photo credit: andre.m(eye)r.vitali on Visualhunt.com / CC BY

Where To Buy A Double Bass

If you are new to playing double bass and haven't hired, loaned or bought your instrument yet, then here are some tips for you when buying a double bass.

You can find new double basses for sale or used double basses for sale as well as strings, and accessories for double bass at a range of music stores or from private listings on selling sites. While you might be able to find a great bargain through the internet, we would advise against buying your first double bass or any related equipment from unreputable vendors or individuals (unless they can prove the history of the item) in case it is not a genuine product. What's more, it's much better to see and feel the instrument in person and actually try it out to see if it is suitable.

There is a huge range of products you can buy as a bassist, with some double bass accessories including:

  • Bass Strings
  • Double Bass Stools
  • Violin Rosin
  • Pickups
  • Amplification
  • Music Stands
  • Quivers
  • Double Bass and Violin Bows
  • Endpin stops and anchors
  • Violin and Double Bass Cases
  • Music Bags
  • Wheels
  • Tuners and Electric Tuners

What type of shop should I visit when looking for a double bass?

If you have a music shop in your nearest town, then your best bet is to go in and have a chat with someone who works there. They may be able to help there and then, or they may be able to refer you to a specialist store or website.

If you are looking for the best of the best when it comes to your instrument, then there are some dedicated double bass experts about, you just need to look for them! For instance, the following shop knows all there is to know about the double bass, you just need to visit their website to see how passionate they are about selling the best instruments to their clients! Based in Walton on Thames, Surrey, you can pop in and meet them if you live nearby.

The Contrabass Shoppe

The Contrabass Shoppe is:

"a company passionate about the double bass. Our aim is to offer you an instrument of unquestionable authenticity and structural soundness – an instrument that will complement you’re playing and prove in time to be a worthy investment.

We know exactly what type of instrument musicians are seeking.

Over the years the The Contrabass Shoppe has acquired an international reputation for meticulously presented instruments that possess the most exceptional levels of both volume and tone. On offer is a truly mouth-watering inventory of fine Italian, English, French and German instruments with a price range starting at about £5,000 and rising to investment quality instruments in the £300,000 region.

We pride ourselves on the fact that each double bass is presented in the finest playing condition possible.

So that each instrument can be tried and tested without compromise, all of our instruments have been meticulously overhauled or rebuilt by restorers of the highest calibre utilising only the finest of seasoned woods and fittings.

Above all, should you be considering buying, selling or part exchanging an instrument or bow at this moment or at some point in the future, our ethos is focused on providing you with a friendly service and as much support and advice as you require.

You will definitely find your dream double bass here."

Ready for your dreams to come true? Then trust in someone like Anthony Houska, Director of the company!

Get Lessons On Playing Double Bass

Music lessons are not just for complete beginners. Intermediate players and even advanced players can benefit from having one to one tuition too.

Music lessons can help you grasp the double bass better.
Find out where you can get music lessons in your area. Photo on Visualhunt.com

For instance, have you ever wondered why some people talk about their grade in a particular musical instrument? This is because musicians, by nature, want to improve and keep taking lessons in order to improve their ability over time. You can never stop learning when it comes to music playing!

Wish to learn to play the double bass from scratch? Want to learn to play the double with a particular focus on classical music? Or would you like to take a different approach and study blues or jazz music during your lessons with a music tutor?

There is a wide range of categories on offer when looking for music tuition, with some examples below for those of you double bass players:

  • Beginner's Lessons
  • Bowing Technique
  • Walking Bass
  • Scales and Arpeggios
  • Thumb Position
  • Solo Double Bass Playing
  • General Double Bass Technique
  • Classical Music
  • Jazz Music
  • Orchestral Performance Tips
  • Gigging Tips

Where Should I Start Looking For Double Bass Lessons?

Find a tutor with Superprof!

Always available for your learning needs, Superprof features a range of music tutors with varying levels of experience and offering different rates. You can search the website for double bass tutors now.

With this platform, you can either choose a tutor based in your area, one who either has a studio or will come to your home. Another option would be online classes via video link, which could save you money in the long run - no travelling time to and from lessons, and your tutor might give you a discounted rate because s/he won't have to travel, either!

You might also be interested in knowing that most Superprof tutors give their first hour of lessons at no charge, just to see if you two would learn well together. With such an offer, how could anyone not choose that option?

Learning the double bass or any other instrument from the violin family over Internet connection is also great for those who have busy lives and need to schedule in lessons with minimal disruption to their routine like having to travel to a studio or tidy up in preparation for a visit from a tutor.

Double Bass Challenge

To end this piece, we would like to present you with a little challenge, aimed to be fun and educational!

Can you name, without scrolling up, 10 different accessories that you might associate with a double bass?

Ready, set, go!

Are you interested in knowing how to play the viola, too?

Need a Violin teacher?

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Daniel

A student by trade, Daniel spends most of his time working on that essay that's due in a couple of days' time. When he's not working, he can be found working on his salsa steps, or in bed.