Wednesday 17 July 2013

The bass part of music


The bass part seems to be liked - even though it is seldom noticed (some unmusical people seem unable to hear it). When the bass comes in, the music lifts.

The bass part works as a support, sitting underneath the melody and harmony; and to accentuate the rhythm. A band, an orchestra or choir will always sound much better with a good bass - and a poor, weak or absent bass part is a significant flaw.

Interestingly, the bass very seldom works well if it carries the main melody, but the baroque composers (Bach, Handel etc) perfected the use of the bass part as the principal counter-melody, as well as harmonic underpinning. 

But (at least in acoustic instruments) a bass tone implies a large size of instrument - a bass tube must be long, same with a bass string, and a bass drum must be large.

Thus the bass is sometimes neglected on purely practical grounds, since large instruments (double bass, tuba) are relatively bulky and unwieldy, or expensive (bassoon).

The lowest bass pipe on a cathedral organ is sixty four feet long (19.5 metres) - but even the more usual 32 feet is... big.


1 comment:

dearieme said...

Allow me to recommend a CD of Armstrong and Ellington playing Ellington compositions - the bass playing is superb throughout.

Accordingly you may enjoy an irony in the Wikipedia article.