Bass for bad back.

Discussion in 'Basses [BG]' started by arginator, Jun 27, 2020.

  1. arginator


    Feb 28, 2009
    Upstate NY
    Hey TalkBass-

    I've been away for awhile, and in that time haven’t played much due to a bad back. I was diagnosed with spondylolisthesis (slipped vertebrae) and degenerative disc disease at my L5/S1 vertebrae, which are the lowest in the back. I just had surgery last week, in which they fused the vertebrae with rods and screws, and inserted an artificial disc. After going through the most excruciating pain I’ve ever experienced, I’m thinking about how to eventually get back in to playing when I’m ready for it. Which of course means I’m seeing a NBD in my future! (Any excuse is a good one, right?).

    So what are your suggestions for basses that will be comfortable to play for someone with lower back issues? Currently I own a Fender Jazz 5 string and an Ibanez Hollow body. Before surgery, I had already decidedly that the Jazz is too heavy, and possibly too long of a reach now. The Ibanez is lighter and has a shorter scale, which is easier to reach. But the body is thicker, which causes my forearm to stick out more and put more stress on my back.

    So I would assume I’d be looking for something light, with a short scale and thin body, like a Fender Mustang or Gretsch Junior Jet. Any other suggestions? Or better yet, does anyone have any suggestions on how to get back in to playing after back surgery?
  2. Sid the Kid

    Sid the Kid

    Jun 7, 2013
    I just recently purchased one of the Ibanez electric upright Basses and it is the most fun I have had in a long time playing bass. Being on an adjustable stand means you won’t have to wear a bass guitar. The stand up bass position of playing keeps a bend on both elbows And will keep your shoulders squared up more so than wearing a bass guitar. I have shoulder issues and so far this thing is keeping me in a comfortable playing position.

    I could suggest several bass guitars, but they will all have the same common factor. How much pain can you take? There will always be a compromise, unless you are made of money.
  3. TrustRod

    TrustRod Supporting Member

    Mar 13, 2016
    Northern California
    Ibanez Mikro is worth looking into. The 28.6" scale may be too small for you but if it's doable they are very light and comfortable. And cheap! And they sound great if you don't over play them.
  4. pineweasel


    Nov 21, 2003
    If long scale is still an option, consider a Sandberg Superlight. I recently bought a TM5 Superlight, a 34” scale active Jazz 5 string, which is nicely balanced on a strap, well under 7lbs, and a pleasure to play.
  5. buldog5151bass

    buldog5151bass Kibble, milkbones, and P Basses. And redheads.

    Oct 22, 2003
    Lots of short scales out there (which tend to be lighter), but you need to try them out - you may love the feel or hate it. Hofner, Epiphone Viola or Rumblecat, Gretch Junior Jet, etc.

    I wouldn't buy sight unseen.
  6. Tom Bomb

    Tom Bomb Hypocognitive

    Apr 23, 2014
    Don't forget, a sensible, well thought-out exercise regime should increase your options. Maybe, the old Jazz will ride again. All the best for your recovery.

    Shimamura, in Japan, has a very nice Jazz, with a medium scale. Might be worth looking into :) I don't have this model but I'm almost certain it'll serve :)

    CoolZ ZJB-M10R

  7. Matty Koff

    Matty Koff Inactive

    Aug 21, 2014
    Strandberg's are headless and supposedly pretty lightweight.. but you'll pay like $3g's for one.

    The new headless ibanez basses are supposedly under 8 lbs.. ranging from 1k to 1.7k depending on whether you're ok with Bartolinis or want Nordstand pickups.. and perhaps a flashier finish.

    I want one of those headless ibby's pretty badly.. but I'd want the Nordstrands, and I don't have that kind of money currently.
    leftybass54 and arginator like this.
  8. Bass V

    Bass V

    Dec 11, 2008
    Honolulu, Hawaii
    those Danos get tons of luv, the single PU seems to be preferred, but I want both lol
  9. Mark 63

    Mark 63 Supporting Member

    Apr 3, 2012
    Elrick makes a pretty light bass.
    arginator and Turnaround like this.
  10. lucas303


    Mar 11, 2019
    The new Ibanez headless basses are incredibly light. I believe mine is only just a bit over 7 lbs. (I don't remember the exact number).
  11. FRoss6788

    FRoss6788 Gold Supporting Member

    Mar 25, 2012
    Olympic Peninsula
    78 Gibson RD Artist...:ninja:
    arginator likes this.
  12. climber


    Oct 21, 2006
    I had a fusion of L5/S1 in 1976! It was successful, but maintaining core strength and flexibility is critical. Several years ago I got a Groove Gear strap that really helped. It was well worth the investment.

    DuoStrap Neo
    Outbush, Huw Phillips and arginator like this.
  13. tpaul

    tpaul Supporting Member

    Mar 19, 2011
    Aside from looking at light basses (Danelectro, Steinberger headless types) and short scale basses, you might want to look into a strap that distributes the weight differently. I believe there are some that have a belt to put some of the weight on your hips. There are double straps that use both shoulders too. And of course there is padding, wide straps, and stretchy materials... Do some research and find what works for you.

    Also don't rule out playing while sitting or using a bass stand.
  14. roller

    roller Supporting Member

    Mar 30, 2014
    Kala U-Bass
  15. 210superair


    Sep 10, 2019
    Upright. Other than moving it.
  16. FRoss6788

    FRoss6788 Gold Supporting Member

    Mar 25, 2012
    Olympic Peninsula
    The suggestions here for building up core strength are key.
    It may seem counter intuitive, but building up your abs really helps stabilize your back. It's helped me immensely.
  17. Fender Am JP90, jazz neck, pj lightweight and cheap used.
    arginator likes this.
  18. 4StringTheorist

    4StringTheorist Supporting Member


    I owned a Steinberger XP-2 for a while. It weighed nothing.
    BassoProf, arginator and JES like this.
  19. 2playbass


    Aug 12, 2013
    I had almost the exact same surgery 3 years ago. Same diagnosis as you, but mine was caused by a congenital defect in my L5 and S1. They never formed properly, and wore my disc out. I had L5-S1 fusion with a bone graft in between to keep them fused together (ie. no artificial disc). I played a gig 10 days after my surgery! I played sitting on a stool with a back rest, and I was not allowed to lift any gear. I sat down (gently), and one of the guys handed me my bass. I was on a no-lifting no-bending regime for 6 months. As others have pointed out, lots of core strengthening and flexibility work on the leg and hip muscles. It does get better. I am jogging (gently), cycling, and was gigging regularly until the COVID thing hit.

    I only have relatively lightweight basses now. My main gigging bass was a Fender Aerodyne P. Super comfortable and light. I also had an MIM P that was pretty light (8.5 lbs). My other main bass is a Roscoe Century Custom 5 with a mahogany body. I think it's under 9 lbs as well. I also have a Steinberger XL2, but it's not as light as you'd think (around 8.5 lbs). My lightest bass by far is a Rob Allen Deep 4, around 7 lbs. I do have a couple of heavier basses that I may play occasionally at a gig, but not for the whole night. I also don't have a single head or cab that weighs more than 30 lbs.

    Feel free to send me a PM. I'd be happy to share more of my experience and tips that would be too much for this thread.
  20. BarfanyShart


    Sep 19, 2019
    DC Metro
    EUB isn't a crazy idea, upright just is more ergonomic than BG - that's why its possible to play much longer scale lengths. Of course, short scale basses are having a full blown Renaissance, lots of good options depending on price range. I got a Supro Huntington 3 that I love, but it's a bit heavy at 9 lbs. Of the two you mention the Gretsch is beautiful, but a Player series Mustang is probably better, more versatile.

    Rumblekat and Sterling short stingray are also options not to be overlooked.
    arginator likes this.