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Bass height- How high and why? [Why is more important]

Discussion in 'Technique [BG]' started by vindibona1, Jul 19, 2019.

  1. vindibona1


    Apr 18, 2015
    I always thought I strapped my basses on a little on the high side. But on a couple of my 5ers whose necks are a little wide I felt my left thumb was using too much pressure than I wanted or perhaps even necessary. My right hand seemed comfortable. Both wrists were pretty straight. I asked myself if I really needed that much thumb pressure- if any?

    So I got the crazy idea to shorten my strap(s) and raise the bass up higher. Now, I've seen guys that have their basses super high, with the horn up by their collar bones. I have to suspect that such a high position might allow the right hand to operate more freely with slap? I don't know. But my strap was on the inner-most "notch" but I was on the end hole of the tail. The next hole was 3.5" shorter. But I tried it.

    It was odd feeling at first. The bass felt really high. The horn was just a bit below my collar bone and that was the first sensation that was strange. The horn was now pressing a bit ON my chest. I felt like my left arm had to be held higher, which would be expected so I didn't think much of it. And yes, the thumb pressure was relieved considerably. Finger pressure came from my hand more than an opposing thumb.

    My right arm and hand, OTOH felt less natural. Obviously my forearm would be higher and elbow bent more. At first I felt like my right arm must have looked like that of Tyrannosaurus Rex in Jurasic Park :). But as I adjusted my wrist was still relatively straight. But what I didn't expect was that my fingers could more easily get to the 1st and 2nd strings with more authority than before. When the bass was one hole lower I felt that I had to stretch my fingers out more.

    But it was all still a bit too odd feeling. And so I took my hole punch and split the difference between the first and 2nd hole and created on 1.75" from the first. Less odd feeling and for the time a happy medium.

    So tell me if you can... How high is too high- and why? Why do some guys have their basses so high it's almost to the top of their shoulders? What is the benefit of the additional height? How does one find their ideal bass height?

    Thanks for reading this long winded set of questions.
  2. FloridaTim


    May 29, 2013
    Kissimmee, FL
    I can't do the "bass necklace" I have seen so many do. It would put my wrist at a very awkward angle.
  3. vindibona1


    Apr 18, 2015
    If your avatar resembles how high your bass it, I definitely couldn't even THINK about having my bass that low without both wrists hurting. A 5 string bass with a wider neck can't be gripped with a near baseball bat grip as many slim 4 stringers can.

    The Yamaha TRBX bass in the photo has a much slimmer neck than my MIM 5er or my BTB675. The neck is slim enough that can wrap my thumb around the curvature on the neck's back. This is how high it had been, I'm trying this one a bit higher. When I'm actually playing my wrist is straighter than in this photo. My other basses have wider, flatter necks and my left hand seems to like the bass almost another 2" higher than shown.
  4. FloridaTim


    May 29, 2013
    Kissimmee, FL
    Well. the avatar is 37 years ago. Here is an accurate depiction of how is carry my basses now. Maybe a few inches higher?
    John6 and Oddly like this.
  5. FloridaTim


    May 29, 2013
    Kissimmee, FL
    Here is what I mean by a "bass necklace". That wrist angle looks very painful to me and resting the arm would limit my motion. To each their own...

  6. Wasnex


    Dec 25, 2011
    I use height to strike a balance between the plucking and fingering hand. IMHO, higher benefits the fingering hand and lower benefits the plucking hand. Your dominant plucking technique and they style of music you play should be considered in the equation as well. For example a slap player may benefit from a higher position and pick player may benefit from a lower position.
    JMarkD likes this.
  7. Malcolm35


    Aug 7, 2018
    The old guys tell us to put the bass so it falls the same place sitting or standing. Main thing IMO is the wrist is in a normal position. Not much more is needed. If the wrist is happy the thumb is happy.
  8. Wasnex


    Dec 25, 2011
    That's pretty much what I do, and have done for years.

    Keep in mind you have two wrists. In my experience wearing the bass higher straightens the wrist on the fingering hand, and wearing the bass low straightens the wrist the plucking hand. Hopefully somewhere in the middle is a good compromise for both wrists.
    SactoBass, JRA, ctmullins and 2 others like this.
  9. jackn1202


    Feb 14, 2018
    Austin, TX
    I’ve got mine hanging just under my belt. Protects me from beer bottles and pretty girls.

    In all seriousness, I always try to have the bass as low as I can comfortably. Image is more important than people like to admit, and I think most people would agree that lower looks better. That usually ends up putting the upper horn just above my belt. I could play it a little lower if I moved my right hand toward the neck, but I’m pretty much locked in with my thumb on the bridge pickup.

    I’m a tall fella, so having long arms helps.
  10. walterw

    walterw Supportive Fender Gold Supporting Member Commercial User

    Feb 20, 2009
    or you could do like rob deleo so that both wrists are straight:
  11. sometimes there is no right answer, just opinion, however:

    if you put the bass in a position so that it plays the same seated as it does standing, that's the correct position
  12. vindibona1


    Apr 18, 2015
    That's what I'm discovering.

    I'm trying to find that "happy place". I think where my Yamaha is in the photo is pretty good. I seem to like my Jazz5 and BTB675 a bit higher as the necks are wider. I haven't checked my Jazz4. It's cased- in the closet :0.

    "I think most people would agree that lower looks better" Yikes! Don't put me in that group. Personally I think it looks more geeky than the "necklace". Somehow thinking about that remark reminds me of the story of the old lady who approached the band leader just before his group was to begin playing. She went up to him and said "Do you think you could turn down the volume?". The band leader replied, "But we haven't even started playing yet, maam". The old lady retorted, "But it LOOKS loud!".

    I think that's kind of where I'm ending up. The bass gigs I've been doing have some standing some seated playing. I like my bass to be suspended, even when seated, so even when I think I have the strap adjusted for both, I often end up going to the next hole shorter. And with the way my hands feel, I guess it all confirms the situation. It's just that I'm not used to it feeling that high nor having to lift my left arm quite so high. My shoulder impingement isn't make that part any funner :).

    Skip to 1:30 if you really want to see something!
    ahc, John6 and Wasnex like this.
  13. FrenchBassQC

    FrenchBassQC Supporting Member

    Jul 13, 2011
    Gatineau QC CA
    Ok very simple, sit down on your favorite chair and put the bass on your right lap (if you're a righty, the other way if your're the other waythy), play the hell out of it.... If it feels good set the strap to that height and you will be in heaven...
  14. JimmyM

    JimmyM Supporting Member

    Apr 11, 2005
    Apopka, FL
    Endorsing: Ampeg Amps, EMG Pickups
    If I had to play my bass the same height I sit with it when I stand, I would be hating life. So uncomfortable, and I feel so bunched up.
  15. Wasnex


    Dec 25, 2011
    Just goes to show, not all us old guys think alike :woot: (re post #7).
    Last edited: Jul 20, 2019
    JimmyM likes this.
  16. biguglyman


    Jul 27, 2017
    Rochester, NY
    I think over the years I've changed some.

    Back in the day (don't ask how far back):




    If anything, I may go even higher with my Beatle bass. Tummy size may have something to do with it too...:rolleyes:
  17. Nashrakh


    Aug 16, 2008
    Hamburg, Germany
    If only it were that easy. I find that when seated, the body of the bass is pushed to the right because of the way it rests on the leg. Whereas when standing, the body is hanging dead center. I'm trying my bass to get it to hang on the strap like when I'm seated, but it's never quite the same.

    One thing I do though is loop the strap through a belt hoop on the right side of my pants. Alleviates neck dive a bit too, the bass is nigh unmovable then.
    Groove Doctor likes this.
  18. Standard rule of thumb... the bass should be at the same height standing as when you sit and play. In my case, it’s a tad lower (standing) then when I sit. Just feels more natural that way for me. And my plucking hand is in a comfortable position, with my wrist at a very slight angle. I can play for hours and my plucking hand/wrist never gets sore or fatigued.
    Ezmar and Shardik like this.
  19. Shardik


    May 24, 2011
    Halden, Norway
    Actually... I don't do that, but I do have the neck at a pretty steep upward angle. The body of the bass is centered approximately at the height of my belt buckle, but I often see the head of the bass at my shoulder height. I think this gets me the best angle for both arms.
  20. Element Zero

    Element Zero Supporting Member

    Dec 14, 2016
    For over 2 decades I wore my bass more on the higher side. Not necklace status but higher than “normal”. Definitely higher than in the seated position. Now that I play a Pbass style 5er and a Jazz style 5er, I’ve been experimenting with lower straps heights than what I’ve been used to. Doesn’t feel too bad on the Jbass and is a bit more comfortable on the left hand as I angle the headstock more towards the sky. Not Rob Deleo status in any way though. However the Pbass with the same strap feels VERY low and mildly awkward. I’ll keep experimenting.

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