All the parts of the double bass explained

The double bass has a lot of parts to it, which can be a little intimidating when starting out! Here’s a breakdown of all the various parts and what they’re for.

With Jason Heath · San Francisco, CA

There are a lot of parts that go into making a double bass! Here’s a breakdown of each part and its purpose.

Top

The top is made out of spruce for most basses. If you have an entry-level bass, you may have it made out of laminate or plywood. The top helps give the instrument its character and its body and is one of the key pieces of vibrating wood on a bass.

On the top, you’ll see F-holes. They help with the quality of the sound, and they help to get the sound out in the world.

Back and Ribs

The back and ribs of a bass are generally made out of maple. Your back and ribs might be laminate if it is an entry level bass.

Flamed maple is prized and instrument-making for how it looks, though not all ribs and backs will be flamed.

Round-Backs vs Flat-Backs

About half of all basses are round-backs, and about half are flat-backs.

I’ve talked with many luthiers about flat back versus round back. Making a flat back is a little bit cheaper, so that can be attractive. Some players think that flat-backs have a little bit more punch and round-backs have a little more body, but there’s a lot of debate about that.

“Hybrid” basses

Some basses will have a carved spruce top and will have laminate sides and back. Some will have a carved top and back and laminate ribs.

Laminate tends to be sturdier, but carved wood tends to sound better. Depending on where you are and what kind of playing you do, you may consider a hybrid double bass.

Varnish

Varnish helps to protect the instrument. It helps to give the instrument its “look,” and it helps with the sound too. I’m not exactly sure how that works, but it definitely makes a difference in the sound. You will see varnish on all finished basses.

Some varnishes are made out of oil, and some are made out of spirit varnish or other substances.

Scroll

The scroll has a few different parts. There are the “pegs,” but they aren’t really pegs on basses because the tension of the strings is so high that a violin-type peg is impractical. Therefore, we use tuning machines.

Inside the scroll is the peg box, which is where strings attach to the pegs (tuning machines).

Many basses also have extensions to play notes below the low E string.

Fingerboard

There’s a wonderful bass luthier in Houston named Joey Naeger who calls the fingerboard “the interface between player and instrument.” Fingerboards are typically made of ebony and are shaped carefully to work well for each individual bass.

Strings

Strings have a huge impact on the sound and feel of the bass. They go from the peg box, go all the way down, and attach to the tailpiece. You can tell what brand they are by the winding between the bridge and tailpiece.

Tailpiece

The tailpiece can be made out of many different materials. Usually, it’s ebony, but pearwood and many other materials are also used.

Bridge

The bridge is made of maple and is set at a 90-degree angle to the top. It helps to transmit the sound into the bass. On the bridge, you’ll see these little black things called bridge adjusters.

We can move the bridge adjusters to bring the bridge up and down. This is great if you’re in a climate that gets really cold and really hot. I also bring my bridge adjusters up and down depending on the type of playing I’m doing (orchestral, solo, jazz).

Endpin

The endpin can be made out of many different materials. It can be tightened or loosened with a little screw (which is very easy to break off!). I’ve got this little rubber stopper on mine, which I use frequently, but it also unscrews to have this nice dagger-like point that I can put into a wooden stage.

Keep Exploring

double bass stool

How to use a double bass stool

Buying a Double Bass - The Ultimate Guide

Buying a Double Bass: The Ultimate Guide

rock stop double bass

What’s a rockstop and why do I need one?

Share This Post

real-map

Get connected to double bassists, events, and communities all over the world.

clef-logo-white

Listen to the Podcast

Contrabass conversations

Share your ideas with the double bass community.