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Tech Talk: Enormous Octobasse Produces Sound Too Low For Human Ears

By Ian Holubiak i.holubiak@classicalite.com on Jun 04, 2015 05:18 PM EDT
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For you gear junkies, this is no new invention. The octobasse (dubbed "octobass") is a stringed instrument hailing form 1850 by French instrument maker Jean-Baptiste Vuillaume. Requiring a heavy-handed player, the instrument is capable of producing a sound humans are incapable of hearing.

Sure, it's low but how low? As So Bad So Good points out, it's tuned two octaves below a cello, with its lowest C note emitting a frequency at 16 Hz. And if you were wondering, yes, it's too low for the naked ear.

The article continues:

"The strings are so massive that the vibrations are slow enough for us to see them. Which is a great visual for people to understand what's happening when we drag the bow across the strings."

With only two legitimate octobasses to date, there is a quite passable replica at the Musical Instrument Museum in Phoenix, Arizona, where curator Colin Pearson demonstrated the use of the behemoth.

It requires quite an enormous bow as well as a stool to stand and hold onto. If there were something to hit those low tones that wasn't in your arsenal before, the octobass, thus, takes shape the fractals of sound we otherwise are ignorant to noticing.

If you're into it, a few musicians took to playing the Jaws theme song below. And that might be the best application of the instrument to date.

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TagsOctobasse, Octobass, Jean-Baptiste Vuillaume, Colin Pearson Musical Instrument Museum, Musical Instrument Museum Phoenix, Octobass in person, Octobass replica, French instrument maker, instrument produces lowest frequency, lowest frequency for humans, Jaws theme song bass

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