Bass (// BAYSS) describes tones of low (also called "deep") frequency, pitch and range from 16-256 Hz (C0 to middle C4) and bass instruments that produce tones in the low-pitched range C2-C4. They 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. In musical compositions, such as songs and pieces, these are the lowest parts of the harmony. In choral music without instrumental accompaniment, the bass is supplied by adult male bass singers. In an orchestra, the basslines are played by the double bass and cellos, bassoon or contrabassoon, low brass such as the tuba and bass trombone, and the timpani (kettledrums). In many styles of traditional music such as Bluegrass, folk, and in styles such as Rockabilly and Big Band and Bebop jazz, the bass role is filled by the upright bass. In most rock and pop bands and in jazz fusion groups, the bass role is filled by the electric bass. In some 20th and 21st century pop genres, such as 1980s pop, hip hop music and Electronic Dance Music, the bass role may be filled with a bass synthesizer.
When bass notes are played in a musical ensemble such an orchestra, they are frequently used to provide a counterpoint or counter-melody, in a harmonic context either to outline or juxtapose the progression of the chords, or with percussion to underline the rhythm. In popular music, the bass part, which is called the "bassline", typically provides harmonic and rhythmic support to the band. The bass player is a member of the rhythm section in a band, along with the drummer, rhythm guitarist, and, in some cases, a keyboard instrument player (e.g., piano or Hammond organ). The bass player usually plays the root or fifth of the chord (and to a lesser degree, the third of the chord) and accents the strong beats. "The bass differs from other voices because of the particular role it plays in supporting and defining harmonic motion. It does so at levels ranging from immediate, chord-by-chord events to the larger harmonic organization of a entire work."
Kinds of bass harmony
In classical music, different forms of bass are: basso concertante, or basso recitante; the bass voice of the chorus; the bass which accompanies the softer passages of a composition, as well as those passages which employ the whole power of the ensemble, generally played by the violoncellos in orchestral music; contrabass (“under bass”), is described as that part which is performed by the double basses; violoncellos often play the same line an octave higher, or a different melodic or rhythmic part which is not a bassline when double basses are used; basso ripieno; that bass which joins in the full passages of a composition, and, by its depth of tone and energy of stroke, affords a powerul contrast to the lighter and softer passages or movements. Basso continuo was an approach to writing music during the Baroque music era (1600-1750).
As seen in the musical instrument classification article, categorizing instruments can be difficult. For example, 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.
Examples grouped by general form and playing technique include:
- Double bass from the viol or violin family (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")
- Bass guitar and acoustic bass guitar, instruments shaped, constructed and held (or worn) like guitars, that play in the bass range. The electric bass guitar is usually the instrument referred to as a "bass" in pop and rock music.
- 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, etc. (less common usage)
- 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)
- Washtub bass, a simple folk instrument
- Apel, Willi (2000) . Harvard Dictionary of Music (2nd ed.). Cambridge: Harvard University Press. pp. 83–4. ISBN 0-674-37501-7. Retrieved 12 February 2011.
Applied to instruments, the term indicates the lowest and consequently largest type of the family, e.g., bass clarinet. In musical composition, the lowest of the parts.
- Media related to Bass instruments at Wikimedia Commons