The String Family

The Double Bass

The double bass, or just bass for short, is the lowest instrument in the string family. Like the cello, the instrument is fixed to the ground with an endpin. There are often between 6 and 8 basses in an orchestra. The bass section is usually placed behind the cello section, however our Artistic Director, Yannick Nézet-Séguin, prefers placing them behind the entire orchestra, as seen on the previous page.

René Gosselin, Principal Bass and his colleagues of the Orchestre Métropolitain

Did you know?

It’s the tallest of the string family… and the entire orchestra! It is so tall (measuring around 1.8 metres) that in order to play it, the bass player must stand behind it to reach all the notes.

Musical excerpts

In the first excerpt, you may recognize the melody of a famous song, but with a melancholic tone. It’s actually the theme to Frère Jacques, but in a minor key. At the end of the excerpt, the bass passes the melody off to the bassoons and cellos. In the last excerpt, from Stravinsky’s Pulcinella, a trombone seems to rudely usurp the bassist's solo!

Gustav Mahler

Symphony No. 1, “Titan”: III. Feierlich und gemessen, ohne zu schleppen

Benjamin Britten

Young Person’s Guide to the Orchestra: Variation H

Igor Stravinsky

Pulcinella (Suite): VII. Vivo (Duetto)