Making Musical Instruments
Opus 20 - Double Bass

Making Musical Instruments
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    The double bass has changed considerably since the late fifteenth century. It is the lowest-pitched instrument in the orchestra, where its traditional role has been to bolster the bass and rhythm. Moreover, some works call for great virtuosity, for example, Mussorgsky's Pictures at an Exhibition, orchestrated by Ravel in 1922. Concertos and sonatas have also been written for solo performances of the double bass. Prominent in jazz, the instrument is usually plucked and imparts great vigour to the rhythm.

      Double Base - CMC 92-12/S92-3497/CD95-652 Double Base
    In the manner of Georges Louis Panormo
    By Peter Mach
    Ottawa, Ontario
    British Columbia maple and spruce, ebony, brass, rosewood, steel; brass machine heads by J.-M. Forget
    Overall length: 188 cm;
    body: 114.5 x 7.3 cm;
    ribs: 20 cm
    Label: "Peter Y Mach Fatto in Aylmer, Qué. 1992"

    Because of the large size of the double bass, the back is normally in two parts. When it is built of a single piece, as it is in this double bass, the wood must come from a tree whose diameter is at least twice the width of the instrument. It should be noted that the luthier generally saws the wood in quarters. When two pieces of wood are used to make the back of the instrument, two adjacent pieces from the same tree are selected and placed side by side to create a pleasing mirror effect.

    Peter Mach's reproduction is based on a double bass by George Lewis Panormo which belongs to a member of the Montreal Symphony Orchestra. Panormo (1774-1842) spent his whole life in London, where his father, a luthier of Italian origin, had settled. He built instruments of the violin family as well as bows and guitars.

    Mach made this instrument in the late fall and early winter of 1991-92, when the humidity in his workshop was relatively low. Under such conditions, wood releases the moisture that it normally tends to retain; it can reabsorb moisture when ambient humidity increases, without harming the instrument.


    Peter Mach

    While Peter Mach has always been fascinated by the luthier's art, he was initially trained as a pattern maker in his native Czechoslovakia before turning to instrument making. After immigrating to Canada in 1969, he studied the art under Joseph Kun, a fellow Czech and a luthier and bow maker. In 1976, he enrolled in the international school of stringed-instrument making in Cremona, Italy. After a four-year apprenticeship, he opened his own workshop in Aylmer, Quebec, where he makes and repairs violins and bows. Several musicians in the National Arts Centre Orchestra own instruments by Peter Mach.

    Peter Mach's label