Bass (sound)

Bass describes tones of low (also called "deep") frequency, pitch and range from 16-256 Hz (C0 to middle C4). In musical compositions, such as songs and pieces, these are the lowest parts of the harmony. In choral music without instrumental accompaniment, the bass is supplied by adult male bass singers. In an orchestra, the bass lines are played by the double bass and cellos, bassoon or contrabassoon, low brass such as the tuba and bass trombone, and the timpani (kettledrums). In many styles of traditional music such as Bluegrass, folk, and in styles such as Rockabilly and Big Band and Bebop jazz, the bass role is filled by the upright bass. In most rock and pop bands and in jazz fusion groups, the bass role is filled by the electric bass. In some 20th and 21st century pop genres, such as 1980s pop, hip hop music and Electronic Dance Music, the bass role may be filled with a bass synthesizer.

Musical role

When bass notes are played in a musical ensemble such an orchestra, they are frequently used to provide a counterpoint or counter-melody, in a harmonic context either to outline or juxtapose the progression of the chords, or with percussion to underline the rhythm. In popular music, the bass part, which is called the "bassline", typically provides harmonic and rhythmic support to the band. The bass player is a member of the rhythm section in a band, along with the drummer, rhythm guitarist, and, in some cases, a keyboard instrument player (e.g., piano or Hammond organ). The bass player usually plays the root or fifth of the chord (and to a lesser degree, the third of the chord) and accents the strong beats. "The bass differs from other voices because of the particular role it plays in supporting and defining harmonic motion. It does so at levels ranging from immediate, chord-by-chord events to the larger harmonic organization of a entire work."[2]

Kinds of bass harmony

In classical music, different forms of bass are: basso concertante, or basso recitante; the bass voice of the chorus; the bass which accompanies the softer passages of a composition, as well as those passages which employ the whole power of the ensemble, generally played by the violoncellos in orchestral music; contrabass (“under bass”), is described as that part which is performed by the double basses; violoncellos often play the same line an octave higher, or a different melodic or rhythmic part which is not a bassline when double basses are used; basso ripieno; that bass which joins in the full passages of a composition, and, by its depth of tone and energy of stroke, affords a powerul contrast to the lighter and softer passages or movements.[3] Basso continuo was an approach to writing music during the Baroque music era (1600-1750).

Bass instruments

Main article: Bass (instrument)

String bass

Bass wind instruments



See also


  1. Benward & Saker (2003). Music in Theory and Practice, Vol. I, p.168. ISBN 978-0-07-294262-0.
  2. Cadwallader, Allen (1998). Analysis of Tonal Music: A Schenkerian Approach, p. 45. ISBN 0195102320.
  3.  Rines, George Edwin, ed. (1920). "Bass (music)". Encyclopedia Americana.
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