Sound character of the double bass - Philipp Dangas

Register table of the double bass

Graphic for register table of double bass can be enlarged. It is Link-Sensitive [Clickable].

Register table of the double bass in small representation

The double bass's proportions are not as ideal as those of the violin or the cello's proportions.

This is expressed, among other things, in the length, strength and tension of the strings as well as in the shape of the body of the double bass. The first resonating overtones appear particularly strongly in the sound of the double bass. They are the reason for the fullness and power of the double bass' sound.

In the orchestral setting, the independent sound function of these overtones must be carefully observed. They have the property of dampening the sound of other instruments that do not have a strong sound rich in overtones.

As part of the „symphonic world music“

The double bass is a secondary instrument of the string group. The main task of the double bass is to make the overall sound more massive, to give it a special intensity.

Very striking sound sample of the double bass Download size: 159 kilobytes
The strings of the double bass and its timbres
Name of the string Sound character
G-string (1st string) Pretty soft, good for solos and harmonics.
G-string (2nd string) Most used, with a typical bass sound.
G-string (3rd string) Powerful bass sound, good for the orchestra.
G-string (4th string) Heavy and dark, rather unclear in fast passages.
G-string (5th string) Extraordinarily dark, not suitable for fast passages.

Dynamic effect of the double bass

Graphic for dynamic table of double bass can be enlarged. It is Link-Sensitive [Clickable].

Sheet music for the dynamic table from the double bass

Let's consider the following representation of the dynamic table. It indicates the degree of strength of musical dynamics. In addition to the sound pressure scale measured in decibels [dB], the degrees of strength of musical dynamics are given on the left, which can be understood as "objective" degrees.

Now to the diagram drawn, to the right of the dB scale. It shows the estimated dynamic effect over the entire tonal range of the instrument. The dynamic effect (volume) as judged (perceived) by the listener.

And now an example: In the low register of the trumpet, the dynamic range between pianissimo [pp] 46 decibels [dB] and fortissimo [ff] 82 decibels [dB] = 36 decibels [dB]. In the high register, the range is 8 decibels [dB]. The estimated values can deviate more or less from the "objective" ones.

The deviations between the instruments are fundamentally different. The “objective” strength levels mentioned, such as piano pianissimo [ppp]= 40 decibels [dB], p=60 decibels [dB] etc., enable the composer to predict the dynamic effects of different instruments that are sounding simultaneously.

The achievable dynamic range of the double bass - 20-40 dB [decibels]
Degree of intensity High position Low position
ff [ Fortissimo ] 70 82
pp [ Pianissimo ] 50 42