Bass height: what's ergonomic and comfortable?

Discussion in 'Technique [BG]' started by Mo Boogs, Apr 18, 2014.

  1. Mo Boogs

    Mo Boogs

    Mar 26, 2014
    Hi I've recently been trying to figure out the most ergonomic and comfortable way to position my bass with its strap. I'm sure its all personal preference but I figured there must be some logic behind bass height. I've seen a YouTube and read an instructional site that talks about having your bass on knee when sitting with the stap tought so when you stand it's the same height. I'd love to be able to play this way but my fret hand cramps up bad when it's that high. What works for others?
  2. What you read is the correct way, i.e. high up on your chest. Normally when sitting and standing the bass is in the same place does work. Since you are asking this question I assume you are just starting out and some of the fretting hand problem could be that your asking your fingers to do things they never have before - a little discomfort may be normal. Now if you are practicing for hours and hours you may want to cut back to 30 minute segments, 15 minute of rest, reading, etc. and then hit it for another 30 minute segment. There should be no pain.

    Yes up high on the chest is were I have my bass. How high should you have yours? We all are a little different, find your exact spot. We have not talked about angle of the bass, or where your thumb is on the back of the neck, things like that I'd have to see. The thumb goes in the center of the neck, and the angle of the bass is where it's comfortable. I know that angle part did not help, but, could be important.

    A month of lessons will help with all that gotta know stuff. Cost in my neck of the woods - $75 to $100 for four 30 minute lessons. If that is not in the cards the book Bass Guitar for Dummies starts out with how to hold the beast.

    Good luck.
    Last edited: Apr 18, 2014
  3. Mo Boogs

    Mo Boogs

    Mar 26, 2014
    Thanks for the info. I think you're right. I'm asking my fingers to do a different position than I have the last 8 months or so. I'm going to try messing around with my neck angle and thumb position to see what happens. I also find which way my bass is swaying off my chest makes a hell of difference too. Like the neck towards or away from me. I've actually been playing bass off and on for about 10 years but I wanted to get my heights right to maximize my playing efficiency. Since I play finger style 99% of the time I've found I need to find a sweet spot height wise for my plucking hand.
  4. mambo4


    Jun 9, 2006
    high up on the chest is common and has its merits ( particularly sitting and standing are the same ) but "correct" may be too strong of a word.
    high riding can often create a bad bend in the right hand.
    My bass rides lower, and rather than making a rule that sitting and standing bass height be identical,
    I choose to "practice like I gig" and stand when practicing.

    There is no "correct" height. What matters is positioning your bass so that you can keep your wrists more or less straight.

    consider this "recommended standing position" Image
    which I stole from

    To me, his wrists are a little too bent -and he's not even 'riding high'.
    This creates extra strain and fatigue and could cause problems long term.
    that's about how high my bass is, but if you compare to my avatar you can see that I angle up the head stock and am able to keep my wrists very straight. Like these guys:
    james-jamerson.jpg 04.jpg

    Also know the position doesn't need to be fixed. I as I play closer to the nut, I angle my neck up more to facilitate straight wrists.
    Last edited: Apr 18, 2014
    Moosehead1966 likes this.
  5. lyla1953


    Jul 18, 2012
    This took me some time to find using the books as a general starting guide...Even now I mess with it a bit
    To get the correct and comfortable left hand position my neck/nut must be high and close to my face - see Jamerson pix above.
    This however tends to create a significant bent wrist (anchored thumb) on the right hand. Moving the main body of the bass to my right side (Jamerson pix again)
    and lowering it helps to get my wrist straight but I can't get it as straight as Jamersons without sticking my right elbow way out (I rest my forearm on the body - floating thumb would probably fix this) AND my left wrist bends unless the bass goes very vertical.
    So my compromise is to have a very conformable left wrist/hand but a little bend in my right wrist. The bass sits high.
    This also keeps the bass positioned the same when sitting or standing.
  6. To some extent it is personal preference, but there is also an underlying logic that ought to override that in the interests of long-term health.

    The 'same height sitting as when standing' schtick is often quoted, but I feel is dangerous advice as it assumes that everybody's body geometry is more or less the same, & it ain't.

    Have a look at these two videos by TB'er havic5:

    Left hand technique:

    Right hand technique:

    The 'neutral position (NP) is the key here, as it automatically takes into account the fact that we're all built differently. Find your NP standing up & fit your bass into it, then see if it remains the same sitting down - odds are it won't, but if it does then = win. If it doesn't, then you'll just have to get used to practising stood up... just like you will at a gig.

    I can't practise sitting as my NP gets all fouled up & I end up with pain in my right wrist after about 10 minutes. Standing up, I can put in hours at a stretch.

    Check out Fergie Fulton's 'Health' page too:
    Lots of good info there from a player that's really been through the injury mill.

  7. bluesdogblues


    Nov 13, 2007
  8. Bass guitar can and will destroy your hands if not played right.

    I have found over the years that set too low my fret hand cramps because of the extremely curved position it will fall into. Too high will do the same for the picking hand instead, too much curve and pain. Doctors, pills, etc... I have been there.

    It worked for me to find that sweet spot where both hands are comfortable. Not too curved, no painfull positions. Enough room to relax as much as possible. Both hands.

    That being said, my "healthy sweet spot" ended up with the strings at the same height of my bellybutton. Which ends up being pretty close to the sitting-standing equal height that much teachers talk about.

    Jus find that sweet spot where both hands will be comfortable. In the long run, you will experience effectiveness since they will keep healthy and not stressed. You will play longer, with strength and stamina.
  9. addicted


    May 23, 2012
    Bringing this thread up again. I am having issues with strap height.

    I am very used to playing in sitting position since I am sitting during my practice. Been doing this for 2-3 years without any gigging experience that the first time I gig, it was quite shocking since I become very awkward for my fretting hand. I still can do fretting but my muscle tensed up and I was not as fast as when I am sitting.

    To emulate my practice posture, my bass have to be held up to my chest level. This is good for my fretting hand but it's awkward for my plucking and I look silly in the mirror with my bass held up so high. I definitely can't go low since it hurts me to bend my wrist that too much (I wonder how some people can play sooo low...doesn't it hurt?.). I think that James Jamerson posture might suit me best. High neck for the fretting hand and low body for plucking hand, making the bass stays in 45-60' angle. I am still awkward with that position though. I find that the having the bass somewhere in the middle looks the best and compensates my hand the best too. But it is still not as comfy as when I am sitting. Any opinions?
  10. fearceol


    Nov 14, 2006
    As mentioned earlier in the thread, playing high or low is a compromise. Too high and the plucking hand suffers, too low and the fretting hand suffers. The general accepted compromised height is to have the main body of the bass at about belt buckle height. This will provide minimal bending of both wrists, as well as having the bass in the same position, while both standing and sitting.

    It would also be a good idea to break up your practice time between standing and sitting.
  11. Pacman

    Pacman Layin' Down Time Staff Member Gold Supporting Member

    Apr 1, 2000
    Omaha, Nebraska
    Endorsing Artist: Roscoe Guitars, DR Strings, Aguilar Amplification
    Moved to Technique
  12. enricogaletta


    May 21, 2011
    Try to develop your personal approach, that's the best way.
    Everyone has a different way to wear the bass, so don't bother yourself watching others, just try the most one fit you more comfortably, listen your gut!
  13. Primary

    Primary TB Assistant

    Here are some related products that TB members are talking about. Clicking on a product will take you to TB’s partner, Primary, where you can find links to TB discussions about these products.

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