Playing the Bass
The bass is the lowest-pitched and largest instrument in the string family. It is often referred to as the Double Bass, Upright Bass, Contrabass, or String Bass. Its very low tone creates the foundation for orchestral music.
Producing Sound With Your Bass
A bass player usually sits on a high stool or stands when playing. The bass can be played with a bow or plucked with the fingers, depending on the desired sound. Whether plucking or bowing, the strings vibrate to create sound. The hollow wood body of the bass amplifies the string vibrations. The player changes notes by depressing strings with their left hand, in effect shortening the vibrating length of the string.
Bass Care and Maintenance
Before you play:
- Lift the bow out of the case by the frog. Avoid touching the hair. It will absorb oils from the skin that will keep it from playing well.
- Tighten the adjustment screw at the end of the bow until the hair is about the width of a pencil from the bow stick.
- Apply rosin to the bow hair if it needs it. The bow shouldn't need rosin every time it is used. In fact, too much rosin will leave a powdery mess on the strings, bass, and bow.
- Lay the bow across your lap or music stand.
- Lift your bass from its case by its neck.
- Adjust your endpin to the playing height you prefer.
- Holding the bass by its neck in your left hand, move it into playing position.
- With your right hand pick up the bow by its frog. You're ready to play.
- If you take a break, put your bass and bow in a safe place so they don't get bumped, knocked off, or kicked.
After you play:
- Set the bow in its case or on the music stand temporarily.
- Use a soft cloth to wipe the rosin dust off your bass and each of its strings. Rosin will eat into the finish, and excess rosin on the strings will dampen their sound.
- Slide the endpin back inside the bass.
- Put the bass in its case. Most damage occurs when your instrument is left out.
- Pick up the bow by the frog and loosen the adjustment screw until the hair just goes slack. Loosening the bow lets it rest and keeps it from warping.
- Use your soft cloth to wipe the rosin dust off the bow stick. Be careful not to touch the hair. Put the bow in its compartment in the case.
- Put your rosin, tuner, and any other small items in the compartments inside your case.
- Put your lesson book and music in the pocket on the outside of the case or carry them separately. Putting anything extra on top of your bass inside its case could damage it.
- Fasten the case latches and/or zipper.
- Store your bass indoors where the temperature and humidity are stable. Never leave your bass in a car on a cold night or hot afternoon because temperature changes can damage the finish and cause cracks in the wood.
- Clean the finish of your bass with a bass polish cloth. A bass polish cloth contains enough polish to remove fingerprints and impurities and is preferable to liquid polish which can harm the strings and bow hair.
- If you get a build-up of rosin on your bass, use liquid Fiddlebrite or a Miracle Cloth to remove it.
- Wash out your cleaning cloth or replace it with a new one.
- Bring your bass to the Amro repair shop at least once a year or whenever you feel it's not playing its best. We'll inspect and test it free of charge, usually while you wait.
- If you have Amro’s Maintenance & Replacement plan, any repair and adjustments it needs are free.
Tuning the Bass
Basses are tuned E-A-D-G, with E being the lowest string.
The easiest way to check that your bass is in tune is with a digital tuner. Most models produce a drone pitch for tuning by ear. These tuners also have a display that indicates whether the string is sharp, flat, or in tune. If you don't have a digital tuner with you, you can use a pitch pipe, piano, or virtually any other instrument to produce the pitches you need. Some players prefer to use a tuning fork.
Basses are tuned by turning the pegs the strings are wrapped around. Tightening the string raises the pitch; loosening the string lowers the pitch. Many basses also have fine-tuners mounted on each string near the tailpiece. With these, the tension of the string can be adjusted more gradually by turning the small screw. The player can use a fine tuner to adjust the string even more precisely by turning the small screw.