Bass describes musical instruments that produce tones in the low-pitched range. 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.
String bass: This instrument stands over six feet tall and is the lowest sounding instrument in the string family. It is a popular instrument for many different styles of music, including symphonic, jazz, bluegrass, and rock. The string bass is similar in pitch to a bass guitar.
The modern double bass is not a true member of either the violin or viol families. Most likely its first general shape was that of a violone, the largest member of the viol family. Some of the earliest basses extant are violones, (including C-shaped sound holes) that have been fitted with modern trappings.
Even now the double bass has not acquired a standard shape. Since its earliest days in the 16th century its shape has changed more than any other stringed instrument. Nowadays two shapes exist side by side. One is like a violin (though of course much larger!) sometimes with a curved back, sometimes with a flat back (to make playing easier) and higher 'shoulders' attached to the neck. The other is more like the shape of a viol with a flat back and 'shoulders' that slope more quickly and steeply away from the neck. More often than not the latter have sound-holes that are shaped like a backwards 'C'. The shape of the body resembles a pear.
Bass playing is an evolving, adaptable form of expression that is constantly molding itself to fit every need a band could have. From simple yet bold reggae lines to walking jazz or blues, bass can completely change the sound of music without people even really noticing. For centuries, musicians have being constantly working to find new ways to enhance their low-frequency instruments in order to get the sound that fit their music perfectly.
By the 1920s, Lloyd Loar from Gibson invented the first electric upright bass, allowing a player to avoid the hassle of getting the perfect position of a microphone to amplify the sound. In the early 1950s, Hohner started building the first fretless electric basses.
As double-bass players Dragonetti, Muller, and Bottesini, had the greatest reputation. Most of the great Italian violin-makers, from Gaspar di Solo downwards, have made double basses of various sizes, a fair number of which are still extant.
The double-bass, a genuine Viol, and the only one which retains its flat back, was made extensively by Gaspar Di Salo, and has been entirely adopted by the modern orchestra; indeed whilst innumerable other large viols are merely preserves as curiosities, the double-bass retains its ancient type, and in the Beethoven and Wagnerian orchestra exercises an influence and prominence second only to the violin itself.
The double-bass or violone is the largest instrument of the bass-viol kind, having three or four strings tuned an octave below those of the violoncello, and traditionally played with a bow. The double-bass was probably invented by Gaspar di Salo in 1580, and was a particular feature of certain 1950s Rock and Roll bands, who plucked it rather than played it with a bow.
The double bass provides the commas and dashes and periods of the orchestral conversation. When, for instance, the bassoon holds sustained notes, the double bass pizzicato gives each long note a little accent, a little push
Most string instruments belong to the violin family, but the bass is from the much older viol family. Viols came in different sizes, and there was a smaller bass that sounded in a higher register. Today's bass is called double bass, contrabass, string bass, upright bass, bass fiddle, and sometimes (still) bass viol.