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Behold the Octobasse: an Enormous Stringed Instrument with Sounds Too Low for Humans to Hear

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How familiar are you with all the stringed instruments out there? Sure, you probably know violins, guitars, cellos, and basses. But I’m betting few of you are familiar with the granddaddy of them all – the octobasse, which genuinely sounds more like a legendary monster than a string instrument.

The octobasse is a string instrument that can create sounds so low, humans can’t hear them. What is the point of that, you ask? Maybe to feel the vibrations? Unclear, but it’s pretty metal.

Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons

Though this totally sounds like the invention of a bored millennial, the octobasse was built in 1850 by the French instrument maker Jean-Baptise Vuillaume. The octobasse is quite a lot larger than a human and not very practical to transport; also, there are rumored to only be seven in existence. But there is a playable replica at the Musical Instrument Museum in Phoenix, Arizona. The octobass is in use by exactly one (1) orchestra in the world: the Montreal Symphony Orchestra.

Playing an octobass is different than playing other stringed instruments, because it’s too big for musicians to use their hands on the strings. Instead, there’s a system of levers and pedals that create each note.

Watch some musicians experimenting with the octobasse in Phoenix:

Is it amazing or is it terrifying? Maybe a little of both.