Bass Question

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Bass Question

Postby EJA » Thu Sep 26, 2002 2:59 pm

I asked this question in another thread, but I suppose it got buried. <P>I was recently at the symphony, and I noticed that three of the four double-bass players had some sort of shiny, metallic covering seemingly over the tuning peg box of their instuments. In fact, it appeared to extend from the end of the finger board to the base of the scroll. When I saw the first one I wondered if maybe the musician had found it necessary to duct tape his instrument, but when I realized that three of them had the same accoutrement, I concluded that it was a more conventional contrivance. Barfle concurred with my observations in another thread, so the burning question is, <I>what is that thing?</I> I know that Nicole and Dave are both bass players, so they must know. Please enlighten us!
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Re: Bass Question

Postby Nicole Marie » Thu Sep 26, 2002 3:43 pm

Are you asking about the device that sticks up from the top of the scroll? If that is what you are asking about, it's called an extension. <P>The lowest note on the double bass is an E (open string) but with the extension it extends our lowest string from an E to a low C. The extension has a lever that when flipped up or open the string will play a low C. When it's flipped down or closed it shortens the string to a low E which is the standard note for most double basses. My bass does not have one so my lowest note is a E but Dave's does so he can hit a low C. I'll ask him to post about the device.
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Re: Bass Question

Postby EJA » Thu Sep 26, 2002 4:31 pm

Sounds promising, but I'm not sure if that's what I saw. If it wouldn't be too much trouble, your highness, could you post a link to a picture of one of those contraptions? I searched around and couldn't find one, so maybe it would be too much trouble. Thanks for the answer in any case. <P>Say, why not just retune the lowest sting if you needed to hit that low C? Would two whole steps put the string at too low a tension? Or does this extension gadget just facilitate quick shifts to "low range?"
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Re: Bass Question

Postby Nicole Marie » Thu Sep 26, 2002 4:48 pm

Here's a site that has a picture of a pretty extensive extension:<BR> <A HREF="http://www.jazzpages.com/Doublebass/history_GB.html" TARGET=_blank>http://www.jazzpages.com/Doublebass/history_GB.html</A> <P>Here's what a normal one looks like:<BR> <A HREF="http://www.hammondashley.com/" TARGET=_blank>http://www.hammondashley.com/</A> <P>It's to much of a problem to tune down then back up in a performance. It's rude and most times you will not have enough time... enter the extension. For those players that have the extension they will play the low note or the rest will just play up an octave, that call is left to the conductor.
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Re: Bass Question

Postby EJA » Thu Sep 26, 2002 5:56 pm

<I>"During a performance. . ."</I> That explains a great deal. ;) Thanks for the pictures. I don't believe that's what I was seeing though. This looked like the whole nut box was covered with metal somehow. What do you think, Barfle?
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Re: Bass Question

Postby davechristiansen » Fri Sep 27, 2002 2:30 pm

what's up loyal listeners?<P>EJA... i have to agree with Nicole, what you saw was more likely than not, a C-extension. the link Nicole posted shows a side view, which looks pretty different from what you would see sitting in the audience. in order to corroborate, i'll have to start with a little history lesson...<P>the double bass started out as a five string instrument, doubling the low c of the cellos (one octave lower). that's why in a lot of classical to late romantic stuff there's low c's (and everything between c and e) in bass parts. however, the tremendous tension that this created would eventually cause instruments to collapse (basically implode), so the bass was a three string instrument for a while, before settling on the more standard four string version (tuned in fourths) that we know today. this presented a problem though, becuase there were all of these orchestral parts that called for the low c, so instrument makers devised the c-extension, which is just that... an extension of the fingerboard allowing the e string to run back a few more inches and vibrate a low c (again, one octave lower than the cellos... the double bass is actually a transposing instrument, or more specifically a doubling instrument because all of the notes the player reads sound one octave lower than written). anyway, there are two types of extensions... fingered extensions: which have a flat piece of fingerboard and a device at the nut (the normal end of the fingerboard) to close off the string at the low e. mechanical extensions: like the one you probably saw EJA, they have mechanical "fingers" at every half step between e and c. the player presses keys just around the nut that trigger the different mechanical fingers. <P>the orchestral parts that call for notes below the standard low e assume that the player has a whole other string to play on and require a facility that could not be met by detuning the low c. most instruments are also a little too "touchy" to take that kind of fluctuation in tension. if you've ever seen or heard a bass bridge snap, you'd know what i'm talking about... there's few instruments in the percussion section that can make an explosion that loud.<P>anyway, i digress. i hope that rambling response approached something like a useful answer.<P>davec<P>p.s. just for the curious... if you want to hear exactly what that low c sounds like, check out the first movement of Mahler's 2nd. :D
dc<P>"The purpose of art is not the release of a momentary ejection of adrenaline but rather the gradual, lifelong construction of a state of wonder and serenity."<BR>-Glenn Gould
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Re: Bass Question

Postby EJA » Sat Sep 28, 2002 2:08 pm

<BLOCKQUOTE><font size="1" face="Verdana, Arial">quote:</font><HR>Originally posted by davec:<BR><STRONG>what's up loyal listeners?<P>EJA... i have to agree with Nicole, </STRONG><HR></BLOCKQUOTE><BR>Well, of course you do. Nobody argues with Her Royal Highness. At least, nobody that wants to keep their head. (I've lost mine several times.) :)
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Re: Bass Question

Postby Brodie » Sat Sep 28, 2002 3:52 pm

Damn one of the first stupid things I knew for sure on this board and some one already answered it. Darn...<P>And if they have a shiney thingy on a bass guitar's E String (or any guitar for that matter but mostly basses) its called a Drop D since putting it to a C absolutely ruins all the tension and it makes a horrible sounding thud. And if you're really in-the-know (or very rich) you can even get a Pop A for the G string. Man those things are great, you can play notes that will make cats scream with that thing... : )<P>I once knew a guy who in a matter of a oh I'd say about 1 1/2 seconds could tune his entire guitar better than I can in a minute and a half. It was so cool he would just play his lick, Bam Bam Bam Bam Bam Bam, and he'd have about 4-5 entire octaves to play with. It was so friggin' cool.<P><BR>-Brodie
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Re: Bass Question

Postby davechristiansen » Sat Sep 28, 2002 8:22 pm

hey again...<P>not all string instruments are tuned in fourths. in the orchestra, the basses are the only string instrument tuned in fourths. violins, violas and cellos are tuned in fifths. <P>the advantage to having all four strings tuned in the same interval is a uniformity in fingering. it facilitates that whole "diatonic thing" that western classical music is all about. <P>davec
dc<P>"The purpose of art is not the release of a momentary ejection of adrenaline but rather the gradual, lifelong construction of a state of wonder and serenity."<BR>-Glenn Gould
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Re: Bass Question

Postby barfle » Mon Sep 30, 2002 11:05 am

Ethan, I'm afraid the combination of my slowly deterorating eyesight and the harsh lighting at the Orange County Performing Arts Center made it difficult for me to accuratly decipher just what was stuck on top of the double-basses, but the explanation provided by her Highest Highness and guru of the gadget seems to fit what I saw.
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