Double bass vs upright bass

Double bass vs upright bass

The terms “double bass” and “upright bass” are often used interchangeably to refer to a large, bowed string instrument that produces deep, resonant bass tones. However, these terms can sometimes lead to confusion. In this article, we’ll explore the differences, if any, between the double bass and upright bass and clarify their usage in the world of music.

  1. The Terminology
    • Double Bass: The term “double bass” is the more widely accepted and preferred term for this instrument. It is the standard term used in classical music and orchestral contexts. “Double” in this context is thought to refer to the instrument’s large size and rich, “double” range of bass notes.
    • Upright Bass: “Upright bass” is a term that has become more commonly used in jazz, bluegrass, and some contemporary music circles, especially in the United States. The term “upright” likely alludes to the instrument’s vertical orientation when played.
  2. Physical Characteristics
    • Both “double bass” and “upright bass” refer to the same instrument, which is characterized by its large, wooden, hollow body, a set of four strings, a fingerboard, and a prominent curved bridge. The instrument is played with either a bow (arco) or by plucking the strings (pizzicato).
  3. Musical Genres and Contexts
    • Double Bass: This term is commonly used in classical music, orchestras, chamber ensembles, and formal musical settings. It is also widely accepted in many countries worldwide.
    • Upright Bass: The term “upright bass” is often favored in jazz, bluegrass, rockabilly, and other contemporary music genres. In these genres, the instrument may be played in a more improvisational and rhythmic style.
  4. Playing Styles and Techniques
    • The playing style and techniques used on the instrument remain consistent regardless of whether it’s referred to as a double bass or upright bass. Players can use a bow for sustained, legato passages (arco) or pluck the strings for a percussive, rhythmic sound (pizzicato).
  5. Variations and Styles
    • While the instrument itself remains the same, there can be variations in size, string type, and setup to suit different musical styles. For example, some jazz and rockabilly bassists may use lighter-gauge strings or opt for amplification for a more pronounced and distinct sound.
  6. Global Variations in Terminology
    • The terminology can vary by region and language. For instance, in some parts of Europe, it may be called a “contrabass,” and in Italy, it’s referred to as a “basso.” The terminology used is often influenced by local language and musical traditions.

In summary, the terms “double bass” and “upright bass” are often used interchangeably to describe the same instrument. While there are historical and contextual differences in how these terms are used, the instrument’s physical characteristics and fundamental playing techniques remain consistent. Musicians and music enthusiasts should be aware of these terminological nuances and use the term that best suits the musical genre and context in which they are involved. Whether it’s called a double bass or an upright bass, this instrument continues to be a vital and foundational component in various musical traditions, producing the rich, resonant bass tones that add depth and character to countless compositions and performances.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *