The Octobass is the largest of the stringed bowed instruments. Its length reaches four meters. It combines the separate parameters of two types: the violin and the viola family.
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Making a musical instrument
The prehistory of the appearance of a musical instrument has more than one century and goes back to the distant seventeenth century. The assumptions of the violin makers that the dimensions of the double bass frame were not enough for a very low sound led them to create a giant contrabass. Such an instrument was called octobass. Other names for this instrument are also used, such as an octave contrabass or a sub-contrabass. One of the copies, called “Goliath”, is exhibited in the English Victoria and Albert Museum in London, and is 2 meters 60 centimeters long.
Playing the Goliath was a very time consuming process. It was assumed that for the performance of the works, one musician had to stand high on a chair and clamp the strings, and the second produced sounds with a bow.
Another outstanding piece was created in 1849 by the French violin maker Jean Baptiste Vuillaume. The dimensions of the instrument were impressive: it was almost four meters long. Playing this octobass was not as difficult as playing the Goliath. The instrument was strengthened in a vertical position, and the performer was placed on a platform specially designed for him. Despite this, the performer could not fully clamp the neck strings, since they were very large. Therefore, the master made a device that was controlled using hand levers and cumbersome pedals. The musician had to stay on one leg, while the other he controlled the pedals. Moving the levers with his left hand, in his right he held the bow. Tensioning long ropes with slats connected the bar to this accessory. As soon as the hand or foot of the musician touched the pedal or lever, the string was pressed by the bar to the neck.
Even more extraordinary in size was the huge octobass, which was up to four and a half meters long. The width of the body was not much larger than the size of an ordinary double bass and was about two meters. Such a large-sized copy was made by John Geyer in the American Cincinnati.
However, octave double basses did not receive widespread distribution. The violinists did not achieve the desired results, since they did not get the intended richness and strength of the sound. The instrument helped to reach the limit of the low-frequency range, but did not have any other advantages over the double bass.
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Despite this, today the octobass is used in some musical performances. An instrument is often used if the composer includes a separate part for it.
Tuning octave double bass
Today the octobass is a three-stringed instrument. The strings are tuned to notes such as C, G, and D. The lowest sound corresponds to the lower end of the range that the human ear hears. Therefore, the continuation of experiments to achieve lower frequencies is meaningless, since the sound will not be heard.
Technique of performance on octobass
Modern instruments are also very large in size, so playing them is not an easy task for a musician. In order for a musician to play the sub-bass, a special stool is used.
The pressing of the strings in the octobass takes place with the help of a special hand device. 7 levers are built into the instrument, allowing you to press all the strings at once on one of the desired frets.
The principle of playing the octave double bass is the same as for other instruments of the violin family. The limited technique of playing on it is due to the large size and inconvenient position of the bow. Therefore, the pace of the game of various jumps and scales is significantly reduced.
Basically, the sub-bass is used for playing in a symphony orchestra. Many composers used this instrument in their creations for the density and fullness of the sound of the work. The most famous contemporary octobass compositions are those of American composer Adam Gilberty.
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There are other large and low frequency instruments in the modern world of music. They are made according to the principle of increasing their counterparts. These musical instruments include a contrabass trombone, a bass tuba, a contrabass flute and others.