A new world of sounds – recent advancements in contemporary double bass techniques

Project leader:
Håkon Thelin

Project period:
2007 – 2011

Artistic research

Instrument innovation, Interpretation, Double bass, Contemporary music

Fellowship project
Ph.D. in Artistic Research

This project comprises analysis and development of novel techniques for the double bass.

The objective of the project is twofold:

1. Investigate novel playing techniques for the double bass as found in the works Zab ou la passion selon st. Nectaire (1981, ca. 30 min.) by Philippe Boivin, and Luciano Berio: Sequenza XIVb – Versione per Contrabasso di Stefano Scodanibbio (2004, ca. 15 min.). Analyses of these techniques will be compared to related techniques, where such exists in other works.

2. Develop new techniques for the double bass.

The playing techniques investigated and developed through this project are mainly based on harmonics (tones where the natural fundamental frequency and some of its overtones are suppressed by lightly touching the string), multiphonics (complex sounds based on overtones), and percussive techniques. It is in combination with unorthodox bowing- and pizzicato techniques that quite new sounds have emerged.

Knowledge of these techniques is still not widely established, as they only exist in a few cutting-edge works, played by a few dedicated performers. Through musical and technical analysis, Thelin seeks to master playing techniques that are used in the work Zab ou la passion selon st. Nectaire, composed by Philippe Boivin in collaboration with the French double-bassist Jean-Pierre Robert. It is especially necessary to learn skills in order to perform the percussive techniques in the work.

Project leader


Håkon Thelin

Associate Professor

Contemporary Music

Last updated: 29. June 2015