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Music Notation for the Double Bass

Music for the double bass is primarily written in the bass clef, but can also be written in the tenor clef in the intermediate register, and treble clef when playing in the high register. The double bass is a transposing instrument; all pitches sound an octave lower than written. The standard tuning for the open strings is as follows:


The double bass is the only orchestral string instrument tuned in 4ths. The bass has a range of 1 octaves + a P5 in first position. This is the range that is used in beginning (elementary) level repertoire, although basses are often required to shift even in beginning level repertoire. It is safe to say that almost all standard orchestral repertoire requires shifting of the bassist, although it rarely requires playing in thumb position. Much of the solo music for bass requires extensive playing in thumb positions.

Above the high G (top note in the Advanced Range above), much of the playing must be done using harmonics.

There is a considerable amount of solo literature for the double bass written in "Solo Tuning." Solo tuning requires the use of special "solo tuning" strings, manufactured to be tuned a whole step higher than "orchestral tuning" strings - F#-B-E-A. For example, the Dragonetti (Nanny) Concerto in A has a bass part written in G major, to be played in Solo Tuning. The Orchestral parts (or piano reduction) are written in A major.

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