(Photo: Jean-Pierre Dalbéra)
It’s called the octobass or octobasse. French violinmaker Jean-Baptiste Vuillaume invented it in 1849 or 1850. He wanted to add a very low tone to orchestral performances. The octobasse is 2 octaves lower than a cello. Its lowest C note can’t even be heard by the human ear.
The body is so huge that the performer can’t play it like a bass violin. It rests in a purpose-built stand that the player climbs to reach it. Levers at the top permit the player to press the strings.
Vuillaume built 3 octobasses. 2 of these instruments survive to this day. There are also 2 replicas. The Musical Instrument Museum in Phoenix, Arizona has one of those replicas. In this video, curator Colin Pearson demonstrates how to play it.
Now here’s a real treat! In the video below, a few people play the theme from the movie Jaws on the octobasse:
-via The Presurfer