T.Barbé. Article around years 2000
In spite of its double-size, the double-bass, always had ardent instigators , as much as composer as players. Successor of the double bass viole, it meets its first virtuosos during the classical period, with concerti from Sperger, Vanhall, Pichl, Hoffmeister, Dittersdorf, Haydn, Mozart, and its part in the orchestra becomes independant from the beginning of the romantic on, with Beethoven and Berlioz,and others. Germany, Austria, Tcheque Rep.and Slovakia, developped a very strong solo and orchestral technique during the nineteenth century, whereas Italy, more « belcanto » was a ferment for virtuosos like Dragonetti and Bottesini. France, exclusively turned towards ballet and opera got a real school later.French technique is neighber of italian conception, issue from the cello, since often, with the lack of pure bassist, the very important part of the 16 feet was devolved to ancient cellists.
The backwardness of the double bass in the music world comes from the fact that neither the shape, neither the size, neither the tune, neither the bow were standardized, and we are still in this situationnowadays. Shapes of double basses vary according to the violinmakers between the ancient viola da gamba, the big cello form (with big shoulders),wich suit to the orchestra, and the pear form (little shoulders), wich is suited to the solo play mode.
The tunning is now E A D G .
Two kinds of bows exist: german, wich has a very high backsight and allows the hand, placed under the stick,to have a naturel relation of rotation with the thumb,situated over the stick, wich pruduce a big sound, but reject the doule bass from its string famlly. French bow, is simply a big cello bow, (but shorter in its relationship), handled with the same manner. It is practiced in Italy, France, Great Britain and in a part by half with german bow in the rest of the world.
Actual evolutions .
Double bass is now emancipated related to cello like viola compared to violin.We could name it « viola-cello », since it brings in the same levels a deeper and warmer sound, and on the other hand, bassists have reached maturity to personnalise and vibrate their sounds. The pear form is destinated yet to solo (concerti, sonates, contemporary pieces), whereas the big cello form suits to the orchestra and jazz, because more powerful in the low register.
In France, our playing wants to be extremely resonant, like a singer, it means that, in a musical singing phrase, bow is always implicated in the string to realise a close and mutual association between the two hands. For marcato notes, the ponctual implication of the bow is an obligation, not to bring it off. That is the main difference with the cello, more easy to make sound. Furthermore, spiccato and sautillé are the same .
We must therefore , more than for others instruments, use the weight of our arm above the bow, by making a rotation in the for-arm, levering up the stick between the thumb and the hand palm, and consequently, since the bow is on the string, lifting the whole arm not by himself, but by the for-arm’s pronation. With this way, the arm and shoulder, are absolutely relaxed, and the sound is naturel, open, full of enharmonics, regular from the frog (pronation=0%) to the point(pronation=100%).We can therefore join the same princip of german bow without losing our string familly.
Double bass is taught starting at the age of seven years old (on less than a quarter of double bass), pupils are very comfortable, and music for our instrument repertory is opened to every styles and ages, ideas and eccentric layouts.
That is why the double bassist is very often a non commun artist, full of caps and interested by numerous things. We can touch every music, and we do not refrain to do it.
That is why we like our fabulous instrument.