History of the Bass Re: Piccolo Bass

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Posted by David Kaczorowski on August 20, 2000 at 17:42:33:

In Reply to: Re: Piccolo Bass posted by Thomas Sachen on August 18, 2000 at 20:01:50:

: "Bass" is the contrabass member of two families of instruments,
: the violin and the viol.

Paul Brun author of _A New History of the Doublebass_ makes a rather compelling
argument that the doublebass is pure violin family, not part violin part viol
as we've all long believed. Doublebass violins (also called violone) were tuned
in fifths an octave below the violoncello (small violone). For several reasons
(poor string-making technology, constant shifting, etc.)tuning in fourths was
gradually adopted. Viol tuning is coincidental, the arguement goes.

Mr. Brun gives reasons for the "gamba" shape as well. Makers found that players
could not negotiate the large round shoulders so the shape of shoulders was
altered for playability. Given the size of the instruments, curved backs and
violin corners were more time consuming to make and more costly. It was discovered
that they could be dispensed with without altering the sound of the doublebass
violin. There is a vast difference in sound between the violin family and viol
family, and hence between doublebass violin and doublebass viol. Even with the
flat back and lack of violin corners, the sound was/is all violin family. Some
doublebass viols were *converted to* doublebass violins. But in the course of
the conversion all viol characteristics were done away with except for the
shape of the body, which was unalterable.

Thus far I'm about half-way through the book, and it's been rather enlightening.

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