Rockabilly and bluegrass bassists also prefer gut because it is much easier to perform the "slapping" upright bass style (in which the strings are percussively slapped and clicked against the fingerboard) with gut strings than with steel strings.

The double bass bow is strung with white or black horsehair, or a combination of black and white (known as "salt and pepper") as opposed to the customary white horsehair used on the bows of other string instruments. "Slap style" had an important influence on electric bass guitar players who from about 1970 developed a technique called " slap and pop," where the thumb of the plucking hand is used to hit the string, making a slapping sound but still allowing the note to ring, and the index or middle finger of the plucking hand is used to pull the string back so it hits the fretboard, achieving the pop sound described above.
This produces a very resounding sound which is used for percussive effects. A small number of bass players choose to tune their strings in fifths, like a cello but an octave lower (C-G-D-A low to high). The bowing style was handed down from the time when the bows of all stringed instruments played had to be held in that fashion (middle three fingers between the stick and the hair) to maintain tension of the hair before screw threads were used. The double bass also differs from members of the violin family in that the shoulders are (sometimes) sloped, the back is often angled (both to allow easier access to the instrument, particularly in the upper range) and machine heads are almost always used for tuning. Early pre-bluegrass music was often accompanied by the cello, which was bowed as often as plucked. This is in contrast to the other members of the classical string family for which the tensions in the lowest pitch strings are significantly higher. The sound and tone of the double bass is distinct from that of the fretted bass guitar and is similar to a cello. In the 1990s, improvements in pickups and amplifier designs for electro-acoustic horizontal and upright basses made it easier for bassists to get a good, clear amplified tone from an acoustic instrument.

Sergei Prokofiev's "Lieutenant Kijé Suite" features an important double bass solo in the "Romance" movement.

Col legno (with the wood, French: avec le bois)Hitting or bowing the string with the wood of the bow. Unlike the rest of the violin family, the double bass still reflects influence and can be considered partly derived from the viol family of instruments, in particular the violone, the bass member of the viol family. As a rule many bowstrokes which come under staccato are not notated but played in the appropriate manner by the violinist. The effect is of two notes being joined together in a suggestion of a glissando. The recitative at the beginning of the fourth movement of Beethoven's Ninth Symphony is also an extremely famous orchestral excerpt.

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