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Common Double Bass Construction terms…

The anatomy of the bass is pretty simple, many of the names are like the human body! This should fill you in on all that, so that you know what I am talking about in my lessons!

First of all, you need to know that there are multiple names people use to refer to this instrument. Here are most of them that I know of and the genre of music that typically uses that term:

  • Double Bass – Classical
  • Contra Bass – Classical
  • Upright Bass – Jazz, Blues…. “Upright” distinguishes it from the electric bass.
  • String Bass – Classical, Jazz/Blues
  • Bass Viol – I’m not sure who typically uses this term…..Please let me know, if you know the answer!
  • Bass Fiddle – Bluegrass, Country
  • Doghouse Bass – Bluegrass, Country

These are some of the terms you will see when people talk about the bass. I will try and add to this over time to have a complete list of bass parts! 🙂

Bass Anatomy


Thanks to Bottesini for the diagram.*

The part at the end of the neck where the strings stop and we find the tuners.

The squared-off opening in the top of the neck where the strings are wound onto the tuning machine posts.

Tuning Machines
The mechanism that you turn to change the pitch of the strings located within the scroll. Also known as tuning keys or tuners

An ebony piece at the end of the fingerboard near the scroll.

The part that attaches to the body, which the strings run along.

The part of the bass where you place your fingers to play; the front side of the neck, normally made of ebony.

The main part of the bass, where you’ll find the bridge and the “F holes”. This is easy to remember: the body is the part that is shaped like a female body!

The top, or front of the bass, usually spruce. The back and sides of basses are usually maple.

The top part of the body below the neck joint; more sloping shoulders can be useful to soloists and other thumb position players, for easier access.

The curved sides of the bass that create the body’s depth.

These sections of the bass are defined by the shape of the top: upper, “c” (the middle, indented section), and lower.

The piece of wood on which the strings ride over before they attach to the tailpiece.  It is on the far end of the strings from the nut, held by the tension of the strings onto the belly of the bass. The bridge is the key piece used to transmit the vibrations from the strings to the body of the bass.

This part secures the strings through the keyholes at the top, and is held in place by the tension of the Tailgut at the bottom. It is typically made of ebony or whatever hardwood matches the fingerboard. Its weight can be a critical contributor to the sound of the bass, so light ebony is often favored, but as with most parts, it depends on the instrument. Tailpieces are can also made of composite materials, metal, exotic woods, and there are even devices that use nothing but wire in order to eliminate the mass of the tailpiece

And then, there is the BOW:

The bow is what makes the sting vibrate as you pull it across the string. Many bows are made from Pernambuco, also known as Brazilwood, and it is regarded as an excellent quality stick material, but as it is getting scarce, other materials are beginning to be used. Less expensive student bows may be constructed of solid fiberglass. The bass bow comes in two styles. The “French” or “overhand” bow is similar to the bow used on the other orchestral string instruments such as the violin, while the “German” bow is typically broader and shorter, and is held in a “hand shake” position.

The screw is found at one end of the bow and is used for tightening and loosening the hair.The hair is real horsehair taken from the tail. White hair is most commonly used. Black hair is sometimes used but is more coarse. Some players perfer a “salt and pepper” hair, which is somewhere between white and black in coarseness. The other end of the bow is called the tip, or point. The tip is the lightest and most fragile part of the bow. The bow is held at the frog, the heaviest part of the bow.


Thanks to Bottesini for the diagram.*

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“Bassdiagram” by user:Bottesini of the English Wikipedia. Licensed under CC BY 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons –

“French bow2” by Bottesini at the English language Wikipedia. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons –