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Thread: Bass, mandocello, or mandobass?

  1. #1
    ISO TEKNO delsbrother's Avatar
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    Default Bass, mandocello, or mandobass?

    Don't know if this is the place to ask this..

    Does anyone know when people started playing stand-up (plucked, not bowed) bass? What came first, the plucked stand up bass, mandocello, or the mandobass?

  2. #2

    Default Re: Bass, mandocello, or mandobass?

    If I am understanding your question correctly, the first thing to clarify is that the upright bass (stand-up, double bass) is the same physical instrument whether it is played plucked or bowed. The pizzicato technique used in popular music styles on the bass has pretty much been around as long as stringed instruments have been. The double bass itself has a very long history, as many musicologists make a case that the double bass is truly a descendant of the viol da gamba family (stringed instruments held between the legs, popular in the Renaissance) instead of the viol da braccia family (violin, held on the arm) that replaced the gamba family when music moved into the concert hall and required more volume. Part of this is due to the double bass's shape, as well as the underhand bow technique (German bow) used by many bass players today.

    If you asking instead when people started using the double bass (primarily plucked) as the bass instrument in small bands and combos, that began in the early 1900's as popular music styles started to move indoors, and the use of the tuba as the primary bass instrument started giving way to the quieter stringed bass. That movement really solidified in the jazz music of the 20's and 30's.

    I dont know as much about the history of the mandocello and mandobass, so maybe someone else can chip in with some timeline info on them for comparison. I hope this helps answer your question.
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    Registered User man dough nollij's Avatar
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    Default Re: Bass, mandocello, or mandobass?

    So why do they call it a double bass? Is there such thing as a single bass?

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    coprolite mandroid's Avatar
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    Default Re: Bass, mandocello, or mandobass?

    3/4 sized basses , abound.. in acoustic groups.. many don't want to haul around a 4/4 .

    maybe its 'double bass', as its an octave lower than the bass clef staves, off the bottom,
    in regular piano scores..

    Aka Contra bass .. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Double_bass
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    Mando accumulator allenhopkins's Avatar
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    Default Re: Bass, mandocello, or mandobass?

    "Bass fiddle" is tuned in 4ths, rather than 5ths like the rest of the violin family. The viol apparently was also tuned in 4ths, which lends some support to the idea that the bass comes from viol rather than violin ancestry. There were "bass violins" tuned in 5ths, but they seem to be ancestors of the violoncello or 'cello for short, rather than of the current double bass or "bass fiddle." However, other historians cite the similarities of construction between violin family and the bass to argue that it's truly a member of that kindred.

    Rodney Slatford writes, "The earliest known illustration of a double bass type of instrument dates from 1516 but in 1493 Prospero wrote of 'viols as big as myself.'" Basses then often had more strings, up to six, and some had the tied-on "frets" usually associated with the viol family. There was an extensive 18th-century repertoire for bass, which by that time had pretty much standardized on three or four strings. The major method of bass playing then was with the bow (arco), but like other bowed instruments, the bass was sometimes played pizzicato when the music called for it.

    When I play bass fiddle on 19th-century dance music, as at a Civil War re-enactors' ball, I play arco since that would have been much more likely for the period. The use of almost exclusive plucked bass, and the even more percussive slap technique, is characteristic of jazz, country and popular styles from the 20th century; the bass often was the major timekeeping instrument, such as in bluegrass, and the more staccato attack of a plucked instrument makes a more metronomic contribution to the sound. Orchestral bass is still played arco except for specific passages.

    I've had little luck in finding pre-19th-century mandocellos (mandocelli?) or mando-basses. The development of the mandolin orchestra, rather than mandolin being used in a standard string orchestra or in smaller ensembles, probably motivated the construction of an entire mandolin "family," rather than the mandolin and mandola and their relative antecedents. Clearly the 19th century called forth great numbers of European mandolin makers, and toward the end of the 1800's, mandocellos and mando-basses were being made in Europe and, in the early 20th century, in America. Pamela's Music in the UK used to have for sale a "bass mandolin" designed like a small bass fiddle, with four two-string courses, presumably tuned like a bass. It was dated "early 20th century," and has apparently been sold, since I couldn't find the picture.

    I'm sure some of the real classical mandolin authorities on the Cafe can be more specific as to the history of mandocello and mando-bass. The earliest ones I've seen have been late 19th-century, and the American ones, by Gibson and Vega, have dated from the early 20th century.
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    ISO TEKNO delsbrother's Avatar
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    Default Re: Bass, mandocello, or mandobass?

    Quote Originally Posted by David Miller View Post
    If you asking instead when people started using the double bass (primarily plucked) as the bass instrument in small bands and combos, that began in the early 1900's as popular music styles started to move indoors, and the use of the tuba as the primary bass instrument started giving way to the quieter stringed bass. That movement really solidified in the jazz music of the 20's and 30's..
    Yes, this was closer to what I was asking. I know the bass in bowed form has been around forever, I was just wondering how it was introduced to small group playing. You could even add the harp guitar into that mix. I've seen several pictures of Hawaiian bands from 1900 to maybe the '30s that show harp guitars, mandocellos, and a sprinkling of basses and even mandobasses. But then as time goes on all you see is the plucked stand-up bass.

    Thanks for all the replies.

  7. #7

    Default Re: Bass, mandocello, or mandobass?

    The Double bass is called the double bass or contrabass because it "doubles the bass lines" in symphones....if you look at baroque music, like Bach, you will see that the cello (real name the violoncello) and the double bass/string bass/contrabass play the exact same music, but the bass is actually SOUNDING an octave lower, thereby DOUBLING the octave. It does that up through most of the Romantic period except during some more difficult or soloistic sections for the celli. That confuses a lot of folks about the string bass, needless to say. Also, that a "full-size" bass is somewhat of a rarity; 95% of players either play a 3/4 size or a maybe 7/8 size; full sizes are EXTREMELY rare to come by, even if some eBay sellers call their basses that, they are not.
    And yes, I have both my music degrees in double bass, but I minored in cello and play mandocello now.
    Yvonne
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    ISO TEKNO delsbrother's Avatar
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    Default Re: Bass, mandocello, or mandobass?

    So Yvonne, is the wiki article correct as far as you know vis––vis the development of string bass in small group settings? Do you know anything more about how string bass/mandobass/mandocello/harp guitar related to one another in the development of the mandolin orchestra?

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    Mando accumulator allenhopkins's Avatar
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    Default Re: Bass, mandocello, or mandobass?

    Quote Originally Posted by delsbrother View Post
    I've seen several pictures of Hawaiian bands from 1900 to maybe the '30s that show harp guitars, mandocellos, and a sprinkling of basses and even mandobasses. But then as time goes on all you see is the plucked stand-up bass.
    Probably one reason was that mandocellos and mando-basses stopped being manufactured, with the decline in popularity of mandolin orchestras. Of course that's a circular argument; if those instruments had continued to be readily available, perhaps mandolin orchestras and ensembles would have continued to be relatively popular. But the development of large, more bassy guitars, the invention of electric amplification, and the sonic superiority of the "bass fiddle" over the mando-bass, whose smaller body probably couldn't produce the same kind of bass tone and volume, sorta "squeezed out" the larger mandolin instruments. The double bass is very well designed for the tonal range in which it plays, and until the electric bass guitar became widely played in the '50's, no other instrument could provide the "bottom" it provided.
    Allen Hopkins
    Gibsn: '54 F5 3pt F2 A-N Custm K1 m'cello
    Natl Triolian Dobro mando
    Victoria b-back Merrill alumnm b-back
    H-O mandolinetto
    Stradolin Vega banjolin
    Sobell'dola Washburn b-back'dola
    Eastmn: 615'dola 805 m'cello
    Flatiron 3K OM

  10. #10

    Default Re: Bass, mandocello, or mandobass?

    Allen is right. The big string bass or double bass is best played with small acoustic groups, although there are good pickups available, but its size makes it less than ideal (and it's not that easy to play in tune w/o frets) so the bass guitar became more popular for the popular styles. String bass will still be ideal for classical, jazz purists, and some bluegrass groups. I meet folks all the time who try it out after playing bass guitar, only to decide it's "not for them." Maybe it's the lugging it around, maybe it's the lack of frets....? Even though I only play mine sporadically now, due to fibromyalgia, I will always consider myself a bassist FIRST...and I don't consider myself that great of bass guitarist because I don't know all that technique. More later
    "There are two refuges from the miseries of life--music and cats" Albert Schweitzer

  11. #11

    Default Re: Bass, mandocello, or mandobass?

    If you can find a copy of the Classical mandolin, I think there is more on this discussion. On loaned mine out, or I'd look for you....Paul Sparks is the guy to talk to. Yvonne
    "There are two refuges from the miseries of life--music and cats" Albert Schweitzer

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