Saturday November 28, 2015
Silvio Dalla Torre
Chameleon Double Bass Double Bass as Solo Instrument? Tunings - Orchestral Tuning - Solo Tuning - Viennese Tuning - Fifths Tuning Playing Techniques I Playing Techniques II New Dutch School

Viennese Tuning

The problems in interpreting the works for solo double bass from the Viennese Classical period that are described in the section on solo tuning have led to the so-called "Viennese tuning"
A-D-F#-A again acquiring new adherents. With this four-string version of the tuning F-A-D-F#-A that was very popular between c. 1750 and 1810 (which was in fact mentioned by James Talbot in 1697) it is possible to perform the works composed for it in their original form. The ideal of that time was oriented towards a free, resonant sound with frequent use of open strings and harmonics, which is what this tuning is best suited for. In his first concerto, written in 1767, Karl Ditters von Dittersdorf made extensive use of these (bars one to four could be played exclusively in this way, without the use of any stopped notes). Similarly, the double bass part of Mozart´s concert aria Per questa bella mano (KV 612) also requires extensive use of open strings and harmonics, and these are just two of some thirty compositions for solo double bass from the Viennese Classical period.

But the advantage of the open triad tuning is also the source of its biggest disadvantage: while it is ideal for a few keys such as D major and B minor, A major and F# minor, others are difficult or next to impossible to achieve with it. (For the keys Eb major, C minor, Bb major and G minor, the instruments were tuned a semitone higher.) For this reason, although the modern use of the Viennese tuning makes sense from the point of view of historical performance practice, universal application is not practical because of the limited possibilities it offers.