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The octobass is an extremely large bowed string instrument constructed about 1850 in Paris by the French luthier Jean Baptiste Vuillaume (1798-1875). It has three strings and is essentially a larger version of the double bass (the specimen in the collection of the Musée de la Musique in Paris measures 3.48 meters in length, whereas a full size double bass is generally approximately 2 meters in length). Because of the impractically large size of its fingerboard and thickness of its strings, the strings were stopped by the use of an intricate system of hand- and foot-activated levers and pedals. The instrument was, in fact, so large that it took two musicians to play: one to bow and the other to control the "fingering," and was consequently never produced on a large scale or used much by composers (although Hector Berlioz wrote favorably about the instrument and proposed its widespread adoption).

Its lowest string is tuned to the C1, one octave below the lowest C of the cello (32.7 Hz). This note is the same as the lowest note of a modern double bass with a low C extension.

A similar but more recent instrument, the triple contrabass viol, has appeared on a recording by the American composer Roscoe Mitchell.

[edit] References

  • Berlioz, Hector & Strauss, Richard. Treatise on Instrumentation New York: Dover, 1991: 405

[edit] External links

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