Attention all "armpit or higher" bass players

Discussion in 'Technique [BG]' started by ampeglb100, Jan 2, 2003.

  1. ampeglb100


    Oct 1, 2002
    Portland, OR
    I know there have been previous threads about strap height, but I wanted to discuss the results of what playing really high has on your left hand technique (and right, to a lesser degree). So, first off, please don't reply to this thread with the whole "is it or is it not cool cool to play low" debate, because I am only talking about about the "neutral zone" (meaning roughly the same height as when you are sitting) and above.

    I started in the neutral zone and gradually raised my bass higher over the years. I play 4 string mostly, and a bit of 6 string. I play alot of 3 note and 4 note chords, many double stops, and deeply beleive in the idea of using the whole neck, so I am really concerned about comfort and accessability from low to high. However, I got to the point where the thing was just too damn high. At one point, the top of the body was well above my armpit and I must admit, I probably did look a bit geeky (not that I cared). But it seemed once the armpit area threashold was broken (which was still higher than the neutral zone) that some things became really easy to play and others became much more difficult. I found that I was arching my wrist more and playing on my fingertips alot. Certain chords were easier, I could span more frets, etc, etc. But "simple" things, like the natural minor scale fretted somewhere mid-neck, were hard. Mostly due to the relation of the pinky and ring fingers. I found that there was some not-so-smooth dynamics going on and I decided to come back to earth after living in the stratosphere for so long. Since then, I am back to the armpit area and things seems alot more natural and I feel that I have struck a balance between comfort, accessability, being able to finger and play chords cleanly, keeping my wrist flat (rather than arching it at the higher levels), minimizing fatigue, and being able to play scales cleanly with no "automatic" fingering dynamics. But, none the less, I do feel like the fingerboard is a million miles away, and that some things just aren't as easy to play.

    So I was just wondering if anyone else has gone through this and where the sweet spot is for you. The right hand has been affected as well and my tone tends to thin out a bit up higher, and now the contact point is closer to where it should be, but in general, the right hand has just gone along for the ride.

    At the risk of being cheesy and using this thread as a plug for my music, I ahve included a link to my solo bass (and guitar) page for reference only to the chordal stuff I mentioned. I only say this only because I think that playing lower, for some people, goes along with the music they are playing, and opinions on the topic can be very biased depending on what you are trying to play.

    Thanks for you time,

  2. Bruce Lindfield

    Bruce Lindfield Unprofessional TalkBass Contributor Gold Supporting Member

    I go through phases and adjust the height quite frequently. I sometimes think that higher is better, but at other times it can make it harder to play near the headstock - I have no theories and just adjust it until it feels comfortable when I am standing as well as sitting.
  3. joel

    joel Supporting Member

    Sep 21, 2002
    for some reason i feel like i can play a lot faster with my bass up by my armpit.when i try and where my bass low i get really sloppy in the higher registers (and i like to take advantage of the whole fret board)
    and besides the fact that i find it easier to play with my bass higher (although when im playing lows sometimes my arm starts to cramp) the cool thing to do!!!
  4. Bryan R. Tyler

    Bryan R. Tyler TalkBass: Usurping My Practice Time Since 2002 Staff Member Administrator Gold Supporting Member

    May 3, 2002
    I keep my basses fairly high (mid-chest), although I used to have them even higher (armpit level). I just had to compromise to have it where I'd use it most.

    I've also found that the height isn't as important to me as to the bass' closeness to my body. Depending on the body design, some basses I have to constantly shift to my right side so that everything lines up better. My Warwick Corvette was pretty bad as far as this when standing; it tended to center itself in the middle of my torso so my left and right hands had to go to the left far more than comfortable, while my Conklin tends to hang on the right side of my body, so my hands can stay in a comfortable place in close proximity to my body. That in addition to a decent amount of angle in the neck to keep it close is what's most comfortable at the moment.
  5. Nick man

    Nick man

    Apr 7, 2002
    Tampa Bay
    I find it uncomfortable on my right hand to play with the bass up high, but more comfortable for the left, so I just go back and forth between high and low to acommodate whichever hand is feelling whichever way when I play.

  6. Wrong Robot

    Wrong Robot Guest

    Apr 8, 2002
    Using the Straplocks that I use It is difficult to adjust the height of my bass, So when I initially set it up I went for a litle higher than I normally play, and I have not regretted that decision at all.
  7. I used to play "at my knees," but then began raising it as I grew.
    I think it reflected my maturity as a Player, because it dosn't look near as uh.."cool" but it's easier, comfortable, and therefore more fun, to play.

    I'd say I'm sitting in the nutral zone right now.
    I can reach the entire fretboard, and my posture is actually improving.!!

  8. NJL


    Apr 12, 2002
    San Antonio
    i used to play high, now i'm getting a little lower.

    i'm a little higher then sitting position (when i play sitting down i have to use my strap, it just doesn't feel the same without it)