What Is the Difference Between a Bass and a Double Bass: Explained

If you’ve ever been to a music shop or searched for an instrument online, you might have come across two confusing terms – bass and double bass. If you’re someone who isn’t too familiar with the world of music, you probably have a lot of questions. What’s the difference between these two instruments? Are they both the same? Do they sound the same? These questions can be confusing, especially for beginners.

The short answer is that they aren’t the same. While they might sound similar, there are significant differences between the bass and the double bass. The bass is an electric or acoustic guitar with four strings that’s usually played with your fingers. It’s often used in rock, blues, and jazz music to play a repeating bassline. The double bass, on the other hand, is a much larger instrument with a hollow body and four strings that produce a deep and rich sound. The double bass is a member of the string family and is usually played with a bow or plucked with your fingers.

Despite the differences, the bass and double bass do complement each other in music. They can both be integral parts of a band and add depth and complexity to its sound. So, if you’re interested in learning an instrument, you now know what the difference is between the bass and the double bass. It’s up to you to choose which one suits your musical preferences.

Bass Guitar vs Double Bass

As a music lover and enthusiast, it’s not unusual to hear the terms “bass guitar” and “double bass” being thrown around interchangeably. However, while they share some similarities, these two instruments are vastly different. Let’s take a closer look at their differences.

  • The bass guitar, as the name implies, is a type of guitar. It’s a stringed instrument that usually has four strings, although some bass guitars can have five or even six strings. It’s played by plucking the strings using either the fingers or a pick. The bass guitar is commonly used in various music genres, including rock, jazz, and funk, to provide the low-pitched and rhythmic base for the melody.
  • The double bass, on the other hand, is a much larger stringed instrument than the bass guitar. It usually has four strings, but some double basses can have as many as six strings. Unlike the bass guitar, it’s played while standing or sitting and is typically used in classical music and orchestral arrangements. It produces a deeper and more robust sound than the bass guitar and is capable of a wider range of tonal colors.
  • The construction of the two instruments also differs significantly. The bass guitar is typically made of solid wood and is smaller than the double bass. The double bass is usually made of laminated or carved wood, and its hollow body produces a richer and more resonant sound.

While the bass guitar and double bass may look similar from a distance, they are vastly different instruments that are played in diverse settings. Although they share some similarities in function, they are not interchangeable, and understanding their differences can make a huge difference in choosing the right instrument for a particular musical style and setting.

Bass Guitar vs Double Bass Comparison Table

Bass GuitarDouble Bass
SizesSmall and compactLarge and bulky
Number of StringsUsually 4 (can have 5 or 6)Usually 4 (can have as many as 6)
Playing StylePlayed while standing or sitting by plucking the strings using either the fingers or a pickPlayed while standing or sitting by using a bow or plucking the strings with the fingers
Musical GenreCommonly used in various music genres, including rock, jazz, and funkTypically used in classical music and orchestral arrangements
SoundProduces a low-pitched and rhythmic base for the melodyProduces a deeper and more robust sound and is capable of a wider range of tonal colors

As you can see from the table above, there are significant differences between the bass guitar and double bass that make them both unique instruments with their distinct sounds and functions.

Size and Shape Differences

The bass and double bass are two very similar instruments commonly used in contemporary music. Despite their similarities, there are a few key differences in size and shape that set them apart.

  • Size: The most obvious difference between the bass and double bass is their size. The bass is a smaller instrument, usually about 3.5 feet long, while the double bass is much larger, ranging from 6 to 7 feet long.
  • Shape: Another difference between the two instruments is their shape. The bass is typically shaped like a violin, with a curved body and a long neck, while the double bass has a larger, more bulbous body and a longer neck that is often C-shaped.
  • Weight: Due to their size differences, the bass is significantly lighter than the double bass. The bass can be carried by the player easily, while the double bass requires a stand to play and move around.

Sonic Differences

Aside from their size and shape differences, the bass and double bass also have some sonic differences that set them apart. The double bass is known for its lower, deeper sound, making it a popular choice for jazz and classical music. The bass, on the other hand, has a brighter, more punchy sound, making it a popular choice for funk, rock, and pop music. Both instruments have their unique sound and are versatile.

Additional Differences

There are some additional differences between the bass and double bass that may be important to performers and enthusiasts. For example, the double bass has four strings compared to the bass’s five, giving the double bass a different tuning system. The double bass is also played with a bow or plucked, while the bass is primarily played with fingers or a pick. These differences in playing styles also result in a distinct sound.

Comparison Table

FeatureBassDouble Bass
SizeSmall (3.5 feet long)Large (6-7 feet long)
ShapeCurvy, violin-likeBulbous, C-shaped neck
WeightLightHeavy (requires stand)
Strings54
Playing styleFingers or pickBow or plucked

Overall, the bass and double bass have their own unique characteristics, but they are both integral to modern music.

Sound and Tonality Comparison

When comparing the sound and tonality of a bass and a double bass, there are a few key differences to note.

  • Size: The double bass is typically much larger than a regular bass, and this contributes to its deeper, richer sound. Its larger body allows for greater resonance, which is why it is often used in orchestras for classical music.
  • Strings: The double bass typically has four strings, whereas a bass guitar can have anywhere from 4 to 6 strings. The thickness and material of the strings also play a role in the sound produced.
  • Playing technique: The playing technique differs between the two instruments – for example, the way you pluck or bow the strings can affect the tonality. Players of the double bass often use a bow to play, whereas bass guitar players typically use their fingers to pluck the strings.

However, despite these differences, there are also similarities in sound and tonality between the two instruments. Both the bass and the double bass play a vital role in many genres, including jazz, rock, and pop music. The sound produced by both instruments can be warm and punchy, providing the necessary foundation for the music to thrive.

Here’s a breakdown of the primary differences in sound and tonality between the bass and the double bass in a table format:

BassDouble Bass
RangeHigherLower
SoundBright, punchyWarm, rich
ResonanceLess resonance due to smaller bodyGreater resonance due to larger body
UseCommonly used in rock, pop, and jazz musicCommonly used in classical and orchestral music

Overall, while the bass and double bass may seem similar at first glance, they have distinct differences in sound and tonality. These differences allow for both instruments to serve different purposes in different genres of music.

Historical background of bass and double bass

The bass, also known as the electric bass or bass guitar, is a stringed instrument commonly used in modern music. It first appeared in the 1930s as a replacement for the double bass in jazz and popular music, due to its smaller size and easier handling. Unlike the double bass, the bass employs frets and has a solid body, making it easier to amplify and play at higher volumes.

The double bass, also known as the upright bass or contrabass, has been around for centuries and is the largest and lowest-pitched string instrument in the orchestra. Its origins can be traced back to the Renaissance era, where it was used as a bass instrument in ensembles and as a continuo instrument in Baroque music. It was also popular in jazz and swing music, where it was used as a solo instrument or played in a rhythm section.

  • The bass is a modern instrument that first appeared in the 1930s as a replacement for the double bass in jazz and popular music.
  • The double bass has been around for centuries and is the largest and lowest-pitched string instrument in the orchestra.
  • The double bass was used as a bass instrument in ensembles and as a continuo instrument in Baroque music.

Throughout the centuries, the double bass has undergone several changes in design and construction, resulting in different types and sizes. Some of the most notable ones include the violone, the bass violin, and the modern double bass. The violone was the largest bass instrument during the Baroque era, while the bass violin was a smaller and more manageable version of the double bass. The modern double bass, with its distinctive curved shape and four strings, was first introduced in the mid-19th century and has since become the standard bass instrument in classical music.

Here is a table summarizing the main differences between the bass and double bass:

BassDouble Bass
4 strings4-6 strings
Solid bodyHollow body
FretsNo frets
Shorter scale lengthLonger scale length

Despite their differences, both the bass and double bass play an essential role in modern and classical music, providing the low-end foundation and rhythmic drive of any ensemble.

Playing techniques and fingerboard variations

When it comes to playing techniques, the difference between a bass guitar and a double bass can be quite distinct. With the bass guitar, players typically use a pick or their fingers to pluck the strings. This technique is known as plucking or fingerpicking. On the other hand, when playing the double bass, it is common to use a double bass bow to create sound. This bow technique requires a completely different approach to playing than plucking.

Additionally, fingerboard variations also play a role in the differences between the bass and double bass. The bass guitar generally has a standard fretted fingerboard, meaning the spaces between the frets on the neck are filled. With a double bass, however, the fingerboard is typically unfretted. This means that there are no standard spaces between the notes, and the player must rely on their ear and muscle memory to hit the correct pitches.

Playing Techniques

  • The bass guitar is typically played using a pick or fingers to pluck the strings.
  • Double bass players often use a double bass bow to create sound, requiring a different technique than plucking.

Fingerboard Variations

When it comes to fingerboard variations, the differences between the bass and double bass are quite prevalent. The bass guitar’s fingerboard is typically fretted, meaning there are spaces between the frets on the neck that are filled. This allows the player to hit standard notes in a much easier way.

The fingerboard of a double bass, on the other hand, is typically unfretted, meaning there are no standard spaces between the notes. This can make hitting the right pitches a much more daunting task, as players must rely on their ear and muscle memory to hit the correct notes. This difference in fingerboard type also contributes to the different playing techniques required for each instrument.

Fingerboard Variations Table

Bass GuitarDouble Bass
Fretted fingerboardUnfretted fingerboard
Standard spaces between fretsNo standard spaces between notes
Easier for players to hit standard notesPlayers must rely on their ear and muscle memory to hit the correct pitches

It’s clear that fingerboard variations play a significant role in the differences between the bass guitar and double bass. Mastery of the unfretted double bass fingerboard requires a great deal of skill, ear, and musical intuition.

Common genres of music for each instrument

While there is certainly some overlap between the genres of music that utilize the bass guitar and double bass, there are also some distinct differences to note.

Some common genres for the bass guitar include:

  • Rock
  • Funk
  • R&B
  • Soul
  • Jazz fusion

Meanwhile, the double bass is often found in:

  • Jazz (particularly traditional or swing jazz)
  • Classical music (including both orchestral and solo repertoire)
  • Bluegrass and other forms of folk music
  • Tango

However, it’s worth noting that these genres aren’t necessarily exclusive to one instrument or the other. For example, while the bass guitar may be more commonly associated with rock music, there are certainly instances where a double bass could be found playing in a rock band.

Furthermore, the boundaries between genres are often blurry and subject to interpretation. Some musicians and bands may defy easy categorization, blending multiple styles or creating entirely new sounds.

Regardless of the genre, both the bass guitar and double bass play crucial roles in many styles of music. They provide the harmonic foundation upon which other instruments can build, and can add rhythmic and textural variety to a piece. Whether you’re rocking out to a bass solo in a funk tune or enjoying the rich sound of a double bass in a classical orchestra, these instruments are an important part of many musical traditions.

References:

SourceLink
ThoughtCo.https://www.thoughtco.com/difference-between-bass-and-double-bass-2456574
Music Critic.https://www.musiccritic.com/equipment/instruments/bass/double-bass-vs-bass-guitar/
StringVibe.https://www.stringvibe.com/double-bass-vs-bass-guitar/

Notable Bassists and Double Bassists in History

When it comes to bass and double bass, there have been many notable figures throughout history who have influenced and shaped the way we see and hear these instruments.

Here are 7 notable bassists and double bassists in history:

  • James Jamerson – Known as the “the bassist’s bassist,” Jamerson was a Motown session musician in the 1960s and played on countless hits such as “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough” and “My Girl.”
  • Jaco Pastorius – Pastorius revolutionized electric bass playing in the 1970s, playing fretless bass and incorporating harmonics and other extended techniques into his playing. He played with jazz fusion band Weather Report and also released several solo albums.
  • Charles Mingus – Mingus was a highly influential jazz bassist and composer, known for his unique and complex compositions that blended elements of jazz and classical music. He played with jazz legends such as Charlie Parker and Dizzy Gillespie.
  • Ron Carter – A prolific jazz bassist, Carter has over 2,000 recording credits to his name and has played with numerous jazz luminaries such as Miles Davis, Herbie Hancock, and Wayne Shorter.
  • Dave Holland – Holland is another highly respected jazz bassist who has worked with a wide range of artists including Miles Davis, Anthony Braxton, and Chick Corea. He has also released over 20 solo albums.
  • Edgar Meyer – Meyer is a virtuoso double bassist who has expanded the possibilities of the instrument with his impressive technique and improvisational skills. He has worked with artists such as Yo-Yo Ma, Joshua Bell, and Bela Fleck and has also composed music for film and television.
  • Gary Karr – Karr is widely considered one of the greatest double bassists of the 20th century. He was the first double bassist to make a solo career, and his performances and recordings have helped to establish the instrument as a solo instrument in its own right.

These musicians have not only made significant contributions to the world of bass and double bass playing, but have also inspired countless musicians and helped to shape the way we hear and appreciate these instruments today.

What is the difference between a bass and a double bass?

Q: Are bass and double bass the same thing?
A: No, they are two different instruments. A bass guitar, also known as an electric bass, is a four-stringed instrument that is often used in contemporary music genres such as rock, pop, and jazz. A double bass, on the other hand, is a much larger instrument that is commonly used in classical and orchestral music.

Q: What are the main differences between a bass and a double bass?
A: The main differences between the two instruments are their size, tuning, and playing techniques. A bass guitar is usually around four feet tall and is tuned in fourths, while a double bass is typically over six feet tall and is tuned in fifths. The playing techniques for each instrument are also different, with bass guitar players using their fingers or a pick, and double bass players using either a bow or their fingers.

Q: Can you play the same music on a bass and a double bass?
A: While both instruments can play similar styles of music, each has its own unique sound and playing style. Bass guitars are commonly used in rock, pop, and funk music, while double basses are often used in classical and jazz music. However, both instruments can be used in a variety of musical genres.

Q: Is one instrument easier to play than the other?
A: This depends on the player’s experience and personal preference. While the bass guitar is generally easier to learn for beginners, mastering the instrument can be just as difficult as the double bass. The larger size of the double bass can make it more challenging to play, but it also allows for a wider range of expression and versatility.

Q: Which instrument is more expensive?
A: Generally, double basses are more expensive than bass guitars due to their larger size and more complex construction. Professional-level double basses can easily cost thousands of dollars, while high-end bass guitars can be found for a fraction of that price.

Closing Thoughts

Now that you know the difference between a bass and a double bass, you can better appreciate the unique sounds and playing techniques associated with each instrument. Whether you prefer the driving rhythm of a bass guitar or the rich, melodic tones of a double bass, both instruments offer a world of musical opportunities to explore. Thank you for reading, and be sure to check back for more articles on music and culture.