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Ergonomic Bass Guitar

Discussion in 'Basses [BG]' started by drozzy, Jan 23, 2007.

  1. drozzy


    Dec 1, 2006

    I am completeing a project that entails the ergonomic redesign of a bass guitar, in doing so, altering the conventional bass design and constructing and producing my own.

    Keeping in mind i am actually a percussionist, i only have limited knowledge of bass guitars from being employed in a music store.

    So, here is my main question, what parts of the bass guitar are most ergonomically uncomfortable for you? Which parts would make it more comfortable/less straining to play? Have you any gripes about the action or shape of your guitar?

    Anything and everything will be helpful for me, and is greatly appreciated,

    Many thanks,

  2. JimmyM


    Apr 11, 2005
    Apopka, FL
    Endorsing: Ampeg Amps, EMG Pickups
    Having to wear it around my shoulder is the worst part of playing a bass for me. But that's about it. I have a feeling you're going to have a bit of a hard time coming up with something that's not been tried before. But if you do, I hope it catches on.
  3. drozzy


    Dec 1, 2006
    What i am mainly looking at are the smaller things that tend to get overlooked, mainly, leg cutouts/restings, ability to be played pseudo-upright, correct body tapering, areas to leave the thumb resting comfortably, even weighting.

    But i am also keen to find things that are much mroe prominant. I thought this would be the perfect place to ask
  4. exin


    Dec 2, 2006
    Some basses can be neck heavy, i think balance is important. As in, when you strap it on ... does it tilt towards the head or is more of the weight on the body.
  5. Sorax


    Sep 9, 2005
    Sydney, Australia
    Balance is a key issue. Something that irritates me is chunky neck joints, and design that restricts access to upper frets.
  6. Bruce Lindfield

    Bruce Lindfield Unprofessional TalkBass Contributor Gold Supporting Member

    But there are plenty of basses out there of conventional design, that are very well-balanced!

    I wouldn't buy a bass that was neck heavy and in 20 -30 years of playing Bass Guitar, I've never needed to! :)
  7. Bruce Lindfield

    Bruce Lindfield Unprofessional TalkBass Contributor Gold Supporting Member

    You just need to play upright bass - EUB or DB!! :)
  8. A9X


    Dec 27, 2003
    Sinny, Oztraya
    One of my pet gripes about the bass. Most, and that includes almost all the Fender, MM etc and clones* are uncomfortable to me. I know lots will ask "how can that be?" when so many others find them fine, but I don't care. Tradition, what-you're-used-to and not having a better reference make a big difference. Note: if you're comfortable playing these basses, then more power to you. I'm not, never have been, and am stuffed if I know why I should adjust me instead of the tool. So I don't: I mod basses or find the one's that suit me.

    So, the two main issues I have are wrist angles and the placement of the centreline of the bass relative to the spine.
    Take a look at Dammann Basses for a hint about where I'm coming from. They're as ugly as hell, but look at the natural wrist angles and hand placement!

    Next, take a look at one of the other few great innovators in bass design, Ned Steinberger. The pivot plate on the original XL2A was inspired, hanging the bass at it's natural balance point and allowing it to be easily adjusted to suit the user's preference. Recently the new strap system for the EUB's etc he now produces were introduced, including a modified version for the XL2 (which I have). It's a work of simple engineering art and makes a superbly comfortable bass (to me) even better. The improved balance, shape of the strap brackets, the ability to adjust the rotation (CW and CCW as well as the fretboard angle towards/away from the body) all mean that I can set this up the way I like, not some generic positioning. I like it so much so that I'm going to get a couple more and add them to other, more conventional basses. I'll post some pix of mine if you want.

    FWIW, my most comfortable 'conventional' bass is my Conklin GT5 with it's extended upper horn making it 'nearly' optimum for me.

    As well as neck heel joints on BO's, this is my main issue wrt ergonomics, and hopefully will give you something to think about a bit.

    * All of thses are basically copies of Leo's originals wrt ergonomics, and for all that he got right, this I think he could have improved upon a lot. Meant as a respectful, analytical comment.
  9. Dragonlord

    Dragonlord Rocks Around The Glocks

    Aug 30, 2000
    Greece, Europe
    From the photos, it seems to me that the strap would get in the way when you want to go further up the neck.
  10. *smb


    Nov 26, 2006
    The idea reminds me of these basses.
  11. JimmyM


    Apr 11, 2005
    Apopka, FL
    Endorsing: Ampeg Amps, EMG Pickups
    Um, I do, remember?
  12. Reasonable wood choices, extended top horn, singlecuts, chambering the body, nice neck profiles, light tuners and minimized headstocks, etc.

    Other things I enjoy is a nice 35" scale with a good neck pitch that allows for fret tapping all the way up to the 24th fret. Radiused pickups give me a nice stacato sound and allow me to play faster.

    I have been lucky that I started with a nice ergonomic bass and knew what too look for.
  13. Planet Boulder

    Planet Boulder Hey, this is a private residence...man

    Nov 10, 2001
    6,482 feet above sea level
    I once had impure thoughts. Oh, and I pluck my ear hair.
    Contoured bodies are definitely a plus in the ergo dept.
  14. Check out Status Graphite and Parker basses for several ergonomic design tips! ;)
  15. drozzy


    Dec 1, 2006
    Many thanks for all this, this is coming in handy no end!

    IM using all australian woods for the constrution, jarrah (a heavier wood to prevent scratches and surface marrs) as well as to even out the wieght of the 5 ply neck thru.

    Most of what i see from these sights, particularly the Dammann bass, is that the design hasnt changed so much, but its primarily the attachment of the end pins that change the centre of gravity.

    Keeping in mind i am addressing the issue of playing whilst sitting and standing.

    Any mroe help woudl be fantastic! Planet boulder - can you give me some examples of contoured bodies? Keep in mind i dont have much experience with bass designs, examples of problems would be extremely helpful.

    Thankyou once again
  16. Christopher


    Apr 28, 2000
    New York, NY
    I think Elrick have it right as far as ergonomics go. Make the bass super-light for standing up, and have the lower horn curve around the leg for sitting down. Of course, the instrument should balance in standard playing position (i.e. around 45 degrees from the floor) both standing and seated. For standing purposes, this may mean extending the upper horn a little, a la Matt Pulcinella's body shape.

    Really, that's all you have to do to make a bass guitar "ergonomic" IMO. Keep it light in weight and make sure the instrument stays in place standing and seated without the support of either hand. There are some other bells and whistles you can add, like the forearm chamfer, the belly cutaway, and various thumbrests/ramps etc.

    You can also experiment with fretboard radius and neck profile and thickness, but assuming that the neck isn't ridiculously huge, those adjustments come down to personal taste. For example, I dislike Pedulla's V-neck profile but find Michael Tobias' asymmetrical neck very comfortable. I also generally prefer a flatter radius for bass guitar. Someone else might have the exact opposite opinion.

    More radical innovations, such as the Steinberger tiny body and headless designs, take away more than they add, IMO. The basic shapes that Leo Fender came up with are actually pretty good.
  17. yodedude2

    yodedude2 Supporting Member

    someone forgot to mention barker basses.



    later, ron

  18. X Wolf

    X Wolf Guest

    I find the Precision shape to be the most comfortable especially sitting and even it could probably benefit from even a little more radiusing/contouring. I also am a firm believer in radiusing the edges of the Fingerboard/Frets and even the ends of the nut. I also like the idea of designing basses with the bridge as far back as possible for a shorter overall length and lastly I like at least 3" between the neck and the neck pickup. My personal preference is a 7.25" fingerboard radius for comfortable finger style playing.

  19. ehque


    Jan 8, 2006
    +100. bridge as far back as possible i dont understand basses that make the neck longer than it needs to be. however, doing this usually results in poor upper fret access.

    which needs to be corrected by shorter upper horn, or a smaller right half of the body, which usually leads to poor sitting balance and neck heavy basses.

    fixing neck heavy basses is quite easy, requiring a longer upper horn and lightweight tuners, or maybe headlessness.

    fixing poor sitting balance while retaining upper fret access usually results in something that looks like zon's hyperbass, which is, IMHO, ugly.

    my point is, you have tons of things to balance, and ergonomics is usually not pretty. ive highlighted the things i would like standard above.

    there are more things, of course. i hate chunky neck joints, sticky finishes, bad battery access, non-radiused pickups.

    im also hoping someone designs a bridge that can take multiple gagues without much adjustment, and definitely no filing.