Jump to content

Bass instrument

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
(Redirected from Bass (instrument))
Alex Dixon holding two bass instruments: a bass guitar (left) and a double bass (right).

A bass instrument (/bs/) is a musical instrument that produces tones in the low-pitched range C2–C4.[1] Basses belong to different families of instruments and can cover a wide range of musical roles. Since producing low pitches usually requires a long air column or string, the string and wind bass instruments are usually the largest instruments in their families or instrument classes.

A difficulty in categorizing instruments is that some instruments fall into more than one category. The cello is considered a tenor instrument in some orchestral settings, but in a string quartet it is the bass instrument.[citation needed]

A musician playing one of these instruments is often known as a bassist. Other more specific terms such as 'bass guitarist', 'double bassist', 'bass player', may also be used.


Plucked string instruments[edit]

Plucked string instruments classified as basses include the electric bass guitar, the acoustic bass guitar, folk instruments like contrabass guitar, guitarrón mexicano, tololoche, bass banjo or bass balalaika.

The electric bass guitar is usually the instrument referred to as a "bass" in pop and rock music. The electric bass guitar, while invented in the 1930s by Paul Tutmarc, was first mass-produced by Leo Fender in 1951 and quickly replaced the more unwieldy double bass among non-classical musicians.[2]

Bowed string instruments[edit]

Bowed string instruments, include the double bass, the cello and the violone.

The double bass is usually the instrument referred to as a "bass" in European classical music and jazz, sometimes called a "string bass" to differentiate it from a "brass bass" or "bass horn", or an "upright bass" to differentiate it from a "bass guitar".[3] Although being bowed instruments, they can be played pizzicato, which is a standard double bass technique in jazz, blues and rockabilly.[citation needed]

Mozart called the cello the most common bass instrument in his time, and in chamber music of the late eighteenth century, the cello was specified more often as the bass instrument (Basso) than the double bass.[4]


A bass singer has the lowest vocal range of all voice types, typically a range extending from around the second E below middle C to the E above middle C (i.e., E2–E4).[5]

In SATB four-part choral singing, the letter B stands for bass, which is the lowest of the four vocal sections.

The basso profondo is a subtype of the bass voice type able to sing low notes, extending to C2 and possibly lower.[citation needed]

Wind instruments[edit]

A bass horn, such as a tuba, serpent, and sousaphone from the wind family and low-tuned versions of specific types of brass and woodwind instruments, such as bassoon, bass clarinet, bass trombone, and bass saxophone, the last of which was the first saxophone invented by Adolphe Sax.[6] The serpent was invented around the end of the 15th century, with lower instruments, such as the bass-tuba appearing over subsequent centuries.[7]


Keyboard bass, a keyboard alternative to the bass guitar or double bass (e.g. the Fender Rhodes piano bass in the 1960s or 13-note MIDI keyboard controllers in the 2000s). This instrument peaked in popularity during the late 1970s and early 1980s, being particularly associated with the synth pop genre.[8]

Bass pedalboard, a keyboard operated by feet found at the base of the console of most pipe organs, pedal pianos, theatre organs, and electric organs.

Washtub bass, a simple folk instrument. Also known as a "gutbucket", it is generally believed to have derived from the African ground bow.[9]

Further reading[edit]

  • Media related to Bass instruments at Wikimedia Commons
  • Apel, Willi (2000) [1969]. Harvard Dictionary of Music (2nd ed.). Cambridge: Harvard University Press. ISBN 0-674-37501-7. Retrieved 12 February 2011.


  1. ^ Walker, James S.; Don, Gary (2013). Mathematics and Music: Composition, Perception, and Performance. Boca Raton, London and New York: CRC Press. p. 35. ISBN 978-1-4822-0850-4.
  2. ^ Davis, John S. (2012). Historical Dictionary of Jazz. Lanham, MA, Toronto, Plymouth, UK: Scarecrow Press. p. 105. ISBN 978-0-8108-7898-3.
  3. ^ Nardolillo, Jo (2014). All Things Strings: An Illustrated Dictionary. Lanham, MA: Scarecrow Press. p. 35. ISBN 978-0-8108-8444-1.
  4. ^ Webster, James (1976). "Violoncello and Double Bass in the Chamber Music of Haydn and His Viennese Contemporaries, 1750-1780". Journal of the American Musicological Society. 29 (3): 413–438. doi:10.2307/830968. JSTOR 830968.
  5. ^ Owen Jander; Lionel Sawkins; J. B. Steane; Elizabeth Forbes. L. Macy (ed.). "Bass". Grove Music Online. Archived from the original on 16 May 2008. Retrieved 14 June 2006.; The Oxford Dictionary of Music gives E2–E4/F4
  6. ^ Hopkins, Lucas. The Bass Saxophone: A Historical Account and Performer's Guide (Thesis).
  7. ^ Bevan, Clifford (1997). "The Low Brass". In Herbert, Trevor; Wallace, John; Cross, Jonathan (eds.). The Cambridge Companion to Brass Instruments. Cambridge, UK and New York: Cambridge University Press. pp. 143–148. ISBN 978-0-521-56522-6. bass horns serpent tuba.
  8. ^ Drabløs, Per Elias (2016) [2015]. The Quest for the Melodic Electric Bass: From Jamerson to Spenner. London and New York: Routledge. pp. 74–75. ISBN 978-1-317-01837-7.
  9. ^ Evans, David (1983). "Afro-American One-Stringed Instruments". In Ferris, William R. (ed.). Afro-American Folk Art and Crafts. Jackson, MS: University Press of Mississippi. p. 181. ISBN 978-1-61703-343-8.