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Height of bass matters?

Discussion in 'Technique [BG]' started by Wes Whitmore, Mar 25, 2003.


  1. Wes Whitmore

    Wes Whitmore Supporting Member

    Mar 10, 2003
    Columbus, OH
    I have been playing for about a year and a half. I play 4 strings, and I primarily use 2 fingers. Sometimes I use a pick, but not often. From the very beginning, I have played with the strap extended and the bass pretty far down (pocket level). Speed has always been an issue. Prolonged 16th notes have always been pretty taxing on me. Tonight, I decided to raise it. It is clear up on my stomach. I swear I can go faster and keep it going so much longer. It makes me wonder if I have been doing it wrong this whole time. I look at music videos, and some basses are high and low. I just want to do the right techniques so I can learn how do do it the right way. What do you guys think?
    Wes
     
  2. It's all about what's comfortable to you. If you're playing gigs, looks *might, MIGHT* be a little important, but if you can't play, what's the point of looking good.

    Sound good, then look good, then look good sounding good.
     
  3. I'm very comfortable playing with the lower horn just above my pockets, and do so for my rock band, but when playing with my singer-songwriter type band, i keep it, with close to my chest. It almost feels too high, and is more taxing on my left shoulder, but my hands can just keep going. Go for a balance of the two, but put much more importance on feel than looks.
     
  4. Toony

    Toony

    Jun 15, 2001
    Texas
    I play with my basses in the medium-high range, about waist (belt) level. I play this way so that I can use proper technique (straight wrist, pivot) and so that I can move and change around in technique (finger to slap/pop, etc) quicker. It also allows me to stay away from strain, and maintain stamina and etc. I'm totally relax when I play, unless it's one of our harder songs that makes me want to thrash around a bit.

    This works for me, screw trying to look cool. Your bass is cooler than you are anyway, likely....so play where you can utilize it and make it "speak" as well as possible. Like someone said, you can look as cool as you like, but at the end of the day...if you can't play, no float.

    Comfort is the key.

    The end. =)
     
  5. Ziggy

    Ziggy

    May 9, 2001
    Orange County, CA
    Wes,

    Adding my voice to the choir; play it where it's comfortable for 'you'. I'm not sure who and when it was decided that having your bass, or guitar for that matter, down at your ankles "looks cool"?? But, if it's difficult to play, and you have to bend over to reach, well...

    I'm a bit on the short side for bassists - 5'4". So, I play my bass with the 'horn' up near my chest. For my bass students, I tell them that the 'general rule of thumb' is to attach the strap to the butt near the bridge. Then, pull the strap over the pick-ups and down the neck towards the headstock. The other end of the strap should just reach the first fret. Strap it on, play a short while and see how it feels... make your adjustments from there as needed.

    BTW: if the music videos you're watching are speed metal, chainsaw rock n' roll and the like, you might just find alot of the basses hanging down low. On the other hand, seeing Tony Levin with Peter Gabriel or King Crimson, Jaco with Weather Report or Joni Mitchell, or; most any 'reputable' bassist, I'm confident you'll see the bass at a more comfortable height..

    michael s.
     
  6. Bruce Lindfield

    Bruce Lindfield Unprofessional TalkBass Contributor Gold Supporting Member

    Well - any physiotherapist will tell you the "right" way - take your bass and go and see one, for an independent, professional opinion!! ;)

    Playing low may look cool to some - looks "stooopid" to me - but if you want to be playing for more than a few years, then finding the right height is an essential!!
     
  7. moley

    moley

    Sep 5, 2002
    Hampshire, UK
    Looking at the promo videos for songs isn't really an authoritative source on playing technique!! Especially rock bands - for some reason, they seem to like to wear their basses & guitars pretty low. I think it looks pretty lame.
     
  8. Well, I never got the whole "bass to your knees" thing. I'm more or less a metal 6 string bassist who plays his instrument up a bit high (not quite as high as alot of jazzers do), and I pluck with 4 fingers (not a pick). So I'm an odd-ball.
    There's actually some good examples in metal circles. The sophisticated and educated guitarists/bassist like Marty Friedman and Alex Skolnick play their instruments at a medium height. While some poor guys, like Dave Mustaine, play strapped low and have to quit playing from bad tendinitis (great player, but bad way to have to play).
    Of course, there's always exceptions. Some people can play forever like that without harmful side effects. I'd personally rather not take that chance.
     
  9. Wes Whitmore

    Wes Whitmore Supporting Member

    Mar 10, 2003
    Columbus, OH
    Thanks for all of the helpful replies everybody. This forum rocks for quick reply turnaround time.

    I guess from the beginning, I was just looking at how everyone else was doing it. I know some very good bassists who play pretty high, but since they were not playing the Nu Rock and Punk stuff that we are playing, the image didn't seem to fit. For the past year I have been playing with it low, like I said. My right arm is strait, and the left arm is bent somewhat. I can't really even see any other string but the E string, now that I think about it (without bending over). Here is a picture of how low I was playing. I am on the right...

    http://mydelight.ods.org/mine/images/img_0645.jpg


    Man, Technique is important, and I wish I knew a year ago. I only found this forum recently, and have learned a lot from you guys. Thanks for everything, and keep up the good posts.
    Wes
     
  10. Ziggy

    Ziggy

    May 9, 2001
    Orange County, CA
    Wes,

    Yepper, down a bit low... not as low as I'd originally thought.

    From what I see in the pic, I would venture to say; bring the 'horn' up about half way to the blk & gold stripe on your shirt... here's a link to a site that has a pic of myself: it's an open mic, Blues Jam I occasionally sit in on. (I'm in the middle of the 10th row, between the sax and harmonica players)
    http://www.gooddeal3.com/chasers_jam.htm

    As you can see, a bit on the higher side...

    michael s.
     
  11. Hehe, Ziggy, all I can say is that the dancing baby rules.
     
  12. From watching Sting, long ago I decided to try to sling my bass the same way.

    Lowest part of the body equal to the bottom of my pocket.

    From there I've discovered that this position stays the same when sitting.

    Sitting or standing the instrument is in about the same.

    Then, more recently I read an article by Billy Sheehan and he mentioned that the proper position was to have sitting/standing the same.

    I've also found that many other's offer the same advice.

    It works for me.
     
  13. Toony

    Toony

    Jun 15, 2001
    Texas
    Wes, just for reference and my opinion.....and I'll use your image for illustrative purposes....

    ....the bottom of my bass' body would likely fall right around where the bottom of your shirt ends, maybe only slightly higher.

    I imagined that you meant that you wore it lower though. =)
     
  14. Wes Whitmore

    Wes Whitmore Supporting Member

    Mar 10, 2003
    Columbus, OH
    I am glad I gave you guys the picture then. I mentioned my pockets to give you a level, and I guess I should have said that I don't where my pants down below my a**!
    I am using a nylon guitar strap, which isn't as wide as some bass straps. It has two small nylon jumbers that actually screw into the bass, and the straps all snap together like a duffle bag handle does. It makes it nice, and the strap won't come off. Dimargio (sp) makes it, and they are kinda hard to find. Anyhow, it is extended as far as I can possibily get it, and that is how I found the height to go with when I started. It's too low to perform any type of slap bass on, or at least it is hard to learn to do when the bass that low. I'm still learning that too...
    Wes