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Do most orchestral players sit?

Discussion in 'Orchestral Technique [DB]' started by Swing Doom, Jan 27, 2013.

  1. I'm primarily a jazz bassist and prefer to stand when I play, regardless of whether I'm playing pizz. or arco. However, I've noticed that many orchestral players, far more than jazz players, sit when they play.

    Do most players stand when playing jazz and sit when playing classical? Or do most just choose one method for both?
  2. I think it's part because bringin a stool to a jazz gig is such a bother, while standing through a symphony is a pain. Also, standing and playing pizz is much eaiser than standing and bowing, as your pizz hand helps with balance.
  3. I've wanted to try sitting for some time now but my band director refuses to let me.

    However, I have tried sitting in orchestra. I don't think I'm holding the bass right since I can't really play the E string without bowing into my leg.
  4. Adam Attard

    Adam Attard

    Feb 9, 2009
    I've seen both people sit and stand for both orchestra and jazz. It's a personal preference thing, obviously, and I've seen more people stand for jazz, but with orchestra it's generally mixed. I have seen a few sections entirely seated, but again, it varies from orchestra to orchestra, and player to player.

    I play almost entirely orchestra and I sit, but I know amazing players who also stand entirely. You can make it work either way. But If you can't bow your e while sitting, you're doing it wrong- try bringing the bass to be slightly more flat faced (tilting it to your left) and bracing the left lower bout with your thigh so you have better access to all four strings.
  5. I will be sure to try this. I have noticed that I have better left hand control when I sit. Thanks for your input.

    Just to be clear, this isn't a topic asking whether I should sit or stand. I know it's a matter of preference. I was just wondering about the general trend between jazz and orchestral players.
  6. I am primarily a classical player but I also do jazz here and there. I stand in both situations because it's what I've always done. Occasionally, I'll sit during longer classical gigs, such as the Nutcracker or opera. It really depends on how long I have been on my feet that day. I like having the option of doing both.
  7. Most orchestras sit. If you're playing period style for Mozart or earlier, then it's more authentic to stand.

    You do have to practice seated if you haven't played that way much before... bow clearance can become an issue (make sure and sit so you can move your left leg to rotate the bass away from the bow). Sit with your left foot on a rung of your stool and your right on the floor, that makes more space.

    Also practice turning pages, it's a tricky thing grabbing the neck of the bass with your right hand (holding your bow) so you can reach for the page with the left... don't do it the other way or you will be blocking your stand partner's bow. Practice what you will do with your bow when playing pizz, so you don't hit anything with it.
  8. If you play with a Laborie endpin you stand.
  9. Adam Attard

    Adam Attard

    Feb 9, 2009
    Not true at all. Many people sit with Laborie pins. I have on several occasions. You just need a shorter pin... And a stool.
  10. Thanks for the input. Another question I have regarding sitting technique is about endpin height. Do you leave your endpin the same height as if you were standing and just lean the bass more or do you shorten it?
  11. AdmiralScreed


    Oct 10, 2011
    I'm an orchestral player, I've stood for all 8 years I've played the bass. I have occasionally sat in orchestra, but I much prefer to stand because I feel much more control that way. I am considering having the laborie endpin installed into my bass soon, though, in which case I would obviously continue to stand, just with the bass at a different angle. Most of my orchestral buddies sit, though. Matter of preference, although I've never liked sitting.....tried it plenty of times and it just doesn't work for me.
  12. Adam Attard

    Adam Attard

    Feb 9, 2009
    Shorten it, generally.
  13. Herbie 80's

    Herbie 80's

    Dec 15, 2008
    I use to stand as a preference, and now I sit. I find it to be better. I have more control of my left hand, everything is more fluid, and it is easier to execute anything. I found that while standing I had to conform around the bass, but while I sit, it conforms around me.

    I also play with a short laborie end pin, a medium height stool, and a large 7/8 bass. the bass is fairly vertical for me, and I have it rotated so that my left knee is not on the back, but is rather resting on the outer linings on the top rib. Super comfy, but it took me a few days and a lot of experimenting to get it right.
  14. Herbie,

    I spent a good deal of time, a while ago, finding a good sitting position with my bass, where my physical position in relation to the bass was very close to what it was while standing. I was pretty happy with my ability to move comfortably on the finger board, shifting and finding all the notes in tune, almost as comfortable and confident as when I was playing standing.

    I had a terrible time adapting to the bowing position. I could bow well enough on any given string (easier on the lower strings though) but I had trouble finding the strings cleanly in across the string playing - string crossings were much more difficult.

    Did you find any difficulty with bowing?
  15. Phil Smith

    Phil Smith Mr Sumisu 2 U

    May 30, 2000
    Peoples Republic of Brooklyn
    Creator of: iGigBook for Android/iOS
    Simply straightening out your right leg overcomes this.
  16. Does it make a difference when playing jazz? I'm not really much of a jazzer, (still trying to figure it out) and student teacher (pianist) insisted that if I stood up, it'd make my pizz stronger (or something like that... He didn't really explain how it'd help). Is this legit advice, or was he talking out of his butt?
  17. DC Bass

    DC Bass Supporting Member

    Mar 28, 2010
    Washington DC
    You should ask the student teacher for clarification as to how and why standing would be better for you. Better, have him demonstrate.

    Whether one stands or sits, good jazz pizz sound comes from being able to stop the string securely with the left hand (finger tips please!), arm, shoulder and back- and from being able to pull a good sound from (through) the string with the right hand, arm and shoulder.

    Sometimes a seated position can make it difficult to pluck at the optimum place on the fingerboard, or to be able to put arm weight into the movement...just to name two possibilities.

    Just my two cents...

  18. ^that actually makes sense! Thank you. Whenever I tried to ask what difference it's make, he'd say "I don't know! I don't play bass!" So I was a little irritated with him.
  19. Phil Rowan

    Phil Rowan Supporting Member

    Mar 2, 2005
    Brooklyn, NY
    I sit for orchestral/etc playing and stand for jazz paying. For jazz pizz playing I feel I can connect better with the beat if I'm standing, and I think there's something to be said for the effect on the amount of sound you can get by having the bass almost completely upright (this goes for playing with the bow too, of course). I've recently started using a shorter stool for orchestra/etc playing and I find I have even more control now. If I'm standing next to the stool it lines up right at the midpoint between my knee and hip bone (I'm 5'11), and if anything I have the bass set up slightly lower than it'd be if I were standing (so it's just barely below eye level). Both feet are on the ground with knees bent, and all my weight's on my sit bone (= better posture.. the Butt Cradle cushion helps out too!). I also find that sitting for arco heavy stuff helps solidify intonation.

    I had one (classical) teacher tell me it's best to really learn to play standing before sitting. This seems to make a lot of sense as standing helps you see just how much your whole body is going into bowing (starts at the feet).
  20. Herbie 80's

    Herbie 80's

    Dec 15, 2008

    It took me a while to get use to sitting, and part of that was not hitting other strings. I do admit though, that mistakes still happen, and at times I do hit another string at the same time, but not very often. I find that when I play orchestral music, I prefer the bass to be more vertical, but when I'm playing solo like Bach or anything, I prefer it to be less vertical; but not so much that the neck is resting on my shoulder and I have to move to access the higher positions.

    My 'technique checker' for sitting is:
    1) Left leg should not be resting on the back of the bass because it will dampen it (Often I am the only bass player in the orchestra, so I need to be extra loud, so this is a big thing for me)
    2) I need to be able to play anywhere on the board, at any time. That means that I need to be able to play the high harmonics, and reach half position all very easily with the least amount of movement.
    3) Bowing needs to be easy. My right hand can't go too high to hit the G, or something in my posture is wrong.
    4) At least one foot on the ground, the other on a rung.
    5) I have to be able to page turn without getting up.
    6) I still need to have a bit of movement available to me, and freedom (ala standing).

    For me, that's the IDEAL when I sit. Sometimes I get uncomfortable because I practice a lot and my ass gets sore. But I don't even realize during a fun rehearsal or a good concert, so whatever.

    Also, I find that when I do have random jazz gigs, sitting allows me to play jazz pizz a lot more varied. I can do triple stops and double stops, or things across the strings with my right hand a lot easier.