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Contra Bourdon English (Primary)

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: Contrabass 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. Untersatz 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: Bordon-Subbass 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. Grossholzflöt



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:


Subbaß 16', Pedal
Reinhardtsgrimma, Sachsen, Germany
Silbermann, 1731,
Sub-Bass 16', Pedal
St. Anne's Church, Moseley, Birmingham, England
Brindley & Foster, 1907,
Subbass 16', Pedal
University of Illinois, USA
Buzard, 1986,
This page was last last built on June 24, 2020
Original site compiled by Edward L. Stauff. For educational use only.