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The Piccolo Bass

The Piccolo Bass

by Frederick C. Lyman, Jr.

Originally published in Guild of American Luthiers Quarterly, Volume 8 ,#1, 1980

In the last ten or fifteen years there has been a virtual explosion of interest in the string bass. Many bassists now use their instruments in ways that were hardly thought of just a few years ago. Especially, solo playing employing the extreme upper register of the bass is a prominent technique among soloists in the classical and jazz fields. Modern string technology permits a brilliance, solidity, and assurance of sound in this register that was hard to obtain previously. Electronic means of recording and amplification have brought the sounds closer to the consciousness of a large audience.

Most existing basses, build in other eras for other not necessarily good( reasons, are not much help to the skilled and ambitious player of today. They are hard to play and hard to hear, except in the limited roles they were designed to fulfill. This situation suggested a new instrument which would fill the large gap between the bass and the ‘cello’ and which could be used in the melodic register but with the tonal density of the bass rather than the thinner sound of the ‘cello. I think many people had this idea, and of course we know of Mr. Hutchins’ work which approached the problem from a scientific direction. However, I had never seen a small bass that had the musical properties which were needed.

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