Contra Bourdon English
Grand Bourdon English, French
Gros Bourdon French
Grossuntersatz German
Major Bass English
Majorbass German
Sub Bourdon English
Soubasse French
Sous Basse French
Subbass German
Subbasso Italian
Untersatz German
Double Stopped Diapason English
Bordun-Subbass German
Contrabass German?
Dopplt Unterbass German
Double-Stopped Bass English
Infra Bass Latin
Grossholzflöt German
Grosssubbass German
Grossunterbass German
Pileata Maxima Latin
Thunbass German
Unterbass German

These names have all been used denote a Bourdon pitched an octave lower, at 16' or 32'. Some, however, have alternate meanings:

This name is more commonly a synonym for Double Bass (a string). Adlung considered it a variety of Bourdon.
Grand Bourdon
This name also denotes a pedal mixture stop.
Major Bass
This name is also a synonym for Contra Principal. Audsley considered it to be stopped; Bonavia-Hunt and Wedgwood considered it to be open. Williams states that it was sometimes equivalent to a Coppel. Other authorities acknowledge the ambiguity of this name.
Sub Bass
According to Audsley, in England the Sub Bass could be open or stopped.
According to Grove and Williams, this name was used for large pipes placed below and behind the main chest (unter = "under"); these could be open or stopped pipes at 16' or 32'.

Several of these names are mentioned only by Adlung, and no examples are known other than those cited by him. Here are his words regarding those names:

In the pedal this stop [Bordun] is found, for example, in the Görlitz organ, where it is called Bordun-Subbass, since it is of the same size as a Subbass and thus can indeed take its place.
[see Grossholzflöt for a quote from Adlung]
Grossunterbass, Doppelt Unterbass
The Grossunterbass 32' at St. Marien in Danzig, as well as the Doppelt Unterbass at the [Kirche zu] Unsrer Lieben Frau in Lübeck (see Praetorius, pp. 163 and 166) are both this sort of stop [Gedakt]"
see Contrabass
According to Praetorius the large Hohlflöte at 8' pitch was also given this name, from "thönen" ["to ring, to resound], because it was broad and ringing. It is also called Subbass or Koppel; see Praetorius, p. 132.

See also Contras Profundas, Sub Octave.




Osiris contains about two dozen examples of Contra Bourdon, all at 32' pitch except for one at 16', about 130 examples of Untersatz, and over 600 examples of Sub Bass. No examples of Double-Stopped Bass (mentioned only by Locher), Grosssubbass, or Infra Bass are known. Contributions welcome.

Gross-Untersatz 32', Pedal; Petrikirche, Freiberg, Germany; Silbermann 1735.

Gross Untersatz 32', Pedal; The Colloge of the Holy Cross, Worcester, Massachusetts, USA; Taylor & Boody 1985.

Unterbass 16', Pedal; First Wayne Street Methodist Church, Fort Wayne, Indiana, USA; Beckerath 1974. This is the only known example of this name.

Pileata Maxima 32', Pedal; Zisterzienserstift Heiligenkreuz, Austria; Kober 1756, 1813. This is the only known example of this name.

Sound Clips

See the Sound Files appendix for general information.

Subbaß 16', Pedal Reinhardtsgrimma, Sachsen, Germany Silbermann, 1731 arpeggio
Sub-Bass 16', Pedal St. Anne's Church, Moseley, Birmingham, England Brindley & Foster, 1907 arpeggio
Subbass 16', Pedal University of Illinois, USA Buzard, 1986 arpeggio


Adlung[1]: §124 Bordun, §126 Contrabass, §150 Gedakt, §161 Infrabass, §196 Subbass, §199 Thunbass, §207 Unterbass, §207 Untersatz. Audsley[1]: Contra-Bourdon; Grand Bourdon; Majorbass; Pileata; Sub-Bass; Sub-Bourdon; Untersatz. Audsley[2]: I.XIII Contra-Bourdon; Double Stopped Diapason; Grand Bourdon; Grossuntersatz; Majorbass; Pileata; Sub-Bass. Bonavia-Hunt[1]: Bourdon; Major Bass; Stopped Diapason; Sub Bass. Grove[1]: Major; Untersatz. Hopkins & Rimbault[1]: § 562, 567. Irwin[1]: Major Bass. Locher[1]: Double-stopped Bass; Sub-Bass. Maclean[1]: Untersatz. Skinner[1]: XII Sub Bass. Sumner[1]: Grand; Major Bass; Sub-Bass; Untersatz. Wedgwood[1]: Basso Profundo; Bourdon; Diaocton; Infra Bass; Pedal Pipes; Stopped Diapason; Untersatz. Williams[1]: Glossary: Major; Subbass; Untersatz.
Copyright © 2006 Edward L. Stauff, all rights reserved.
ContraBourdon.html - Last updated 30 September 2007.
Full Index