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Height of the DB

Discussion in 'Jazz Technique [DB]' started by gruffpuppy, Dec 16, 2001.

  1. Quick question, lately I have been getting tightness in the muscles between my shoulder blades. Usually my DB stands so that the nut is right at my eyebrows. I noticed today when I adjusted it so the nut was about 2 inches higher that the tightness wasn't there. I think it is from leaning too much so I can bow close the bridge.

    Is there a hard and fast rule to the height of the bass? Most things I have read say nut at eyebrow.
    Seems a little easier to play with it up higher.
  2. There's no rule. I've done a lot of experimenting with the height of the bass. I noticed in photographs of the great players they always seemed to have to bass set high. Then in a masterclass, David Murray had me raise the bass even higher. He showed me how with the bass in it's previous lower position to reach the strings with the bow my shoulder blades were open. That tenses the muscles making it difficult to bow fluidly. Raising the bass closed my shoulder blades and solved the problem.

    What I discovered in the mean time is that raising the bass has other benefits. First, it's much easier on my lower back. Secondly, and more importantly, it became much easier to support and balance the bass. My left hand, especially my thumb, can be much more relaxed allowing me to play virtually without left hand fatigue for long periods of time. My left hand feels much more like it would if I were seated. Thirdly, I feel closer to the fingerboard, large shifts don't feel like such big movements, and navigating the geography requires less bending and leaning, etc. For example, shifting from half or first position to the octave position or lower thumb position doesn't require a huge movement, I don't have to bend much, and transferring the weight of the bass to keep it balanced is isn't much of a factor.

    However, if you raise the bass too high the benefits will all be lost and your left hand will be left supporting all the weight of the leaning bass. I'm about 6' 3" and I raise the bass 7 inches (7 notches in the endpin). The back of the bass' right shoulder leans in the abdomen next to my bellybutton. That's my "balance point". A little higher or lower and something goes off-kilter.
  3. Sam Sherry

    Sam Sherry Inadvertent Microtonalist Supporting Member

    Sep 26, 2001
    Portland, ME
    Euphonic Audio "Player"
    DK's making sense, per usual.

    Gary Karr puts Low F at eye-level. He also says to play with the bass standing straight up -- balancing itself so you don't have to use your muscles to balance it.

    That's obviously a very brief condensation of a long discussion, YMMV, but give it a try and don't hurt yerself.
  4. Don Higdon

    Don Higdon In Memoriam

    Dec 11, 1999
    Princeton Junction, NJ
    Lou DeLeone, a luthier who has done alot of work on Karr's Amati, told me that Karr's setup is designed for him to bow very close to the bridge. My guess is that everything flows from that fact, and that basses of different dimension would be higher/lower at the nut

    When I started with Michael Moore, I lowered the bass so that my arm and hand would hang straighter in thumb position. It felt better. My basses are at the 3rd notch on a Goetz endpin.
  5. My teacher told me to forget the eyebrow, forehead, etc. and concentrate on where the bow plane on the strings is. He has me set the bass height so that the bow crosses about 1-1/2 inches below the end of the fingerboard. This has worked very well for comfort and provides a "check" for when my bow begins to wander and I get those weird "mooing" noises. If you're not "in the plane" so to speak because the bass height isn't right, then your shoulder will probably get sore from trying to adjust.
  6. I raised it up a little, maybe about 2 inches. It is easier to get the bow closer to the bridge and it does seem to balance a lot better. I am going to take off a couple of days to let my upper back rest and then see if it comes back with the new height.
    I have to hold my left arm a little higher which get my shoulder tired but that take a while. Probably better than slouching to get the bow in position.
    The first downside to the change. . .I keep getting oil on my forehead from the tuner. :D
    Thanks for the information.
  7. When I briefly studied with Roger Fratena from the Dallas SO, his first advice was to lower the height of the bass so that the nut was approximately at eye/eyebrow level. His point was that in an orchestra with 4-8 other bassists it is more important to get a rich, full tone closer to the fingerboard than to get a more direct and "sharper" sound near the bridge.

    When I briefly studied with Jeff Bradetich at UNT his first advice was for me to raise the bass so that my eye was parallel with F# or G. His thinking was that it is more important to learn how to get the maximum amount of sound from the the instrument. Consequently, he favors having the bass in a position where it is easier to play near the bridge.

    I find it interesting how these differences highlight the teachers' strengths and backgrounds. Fratena is an orchestral player in a big, rich hall that is very bass-friendly (the Meyerson - a fantastic hall). Bradetich has a more solo-centric background and that is a major component of his teaching methods and his own playing.

    I prefer setting the bass fairly high - easier to get into thumb position and offers more comfortable flexibility for different bowing and plucking options. MHO. YMMV. ETC.
  8. Bow position in relation to the bridge or fingerboard wasn't a factor for me. I raise the bass high and lean it into my body because it's more comfortable and I can navigate and support the bass more easily. To change where I'm placing the bow I bend or straighten my arm or move the bass (to play n the normal position I keep it leaned back, if I have to play very close to the bridge I stand the bass up straighter).
  9. DavidKracz - I can just picture Murry putting his arms around you to give you the correct "feel". Sorry but it was just one of those LOL mind pictures.

    Jazboo - Is that 10W-40 or one of the synthetics they have out today?

    But seriously folks ( as the crowd starts to pick up stones to throw ) I have found myself extending my endpin beyond where I thought I would ever have it. I am now at the fifth hole on the Kolstein endpin and the nut is just at the top of my forehead. My teacher doesn't have any set rule as to where it should be, leaving it up to the student to find where they are most comfortable. He is quick to point out the differing styles and heights of endpins and bowing close to the bridge or close to the fingerboard.

  10. Tim Ludlam

    Tim Ludlam

    Dec 19, 1999
    Carmel, IN
    Now, now Old Saw don't be casting dispersions on my home town boy. Although it does make for an interesting picture.

    I am about the same height as David K, and I have found that the bass sounds better when I have the end pin locked at the seventh notch, verses the fifth (where I used to keep it). I think that it just boils down to the bow being optimally placed on the strings, and at the same time my arm being in the most relaxed and comfortable position.

    The adjustment has not really affected my left hand, other than I feel I have a little better intonation from middle to upper register.
  11. That's actually pretty much the way it went down. At first I wasn't sure if he was trying to help me with my technique and posture or if he was looking for a date.

    Tim, I also raise my bass to the 7th notch.
  12. anonymous0726

    anonymous0726 Guest

    Nov 4, 2001
    I prefer to play the bass straight up as well, but there are players who put the peg quite a ways out and the bass then starts to approach the cello/Rabbath position. This seems to be pretty neat as these players can then adjust the height of the bass on the fly by stepping into and away from the bass.

    In my case, my bass is large with narrowish shoulders and very deep from front to back, with no relief at the top of the back. With this bass I find that I play it 1"-1 1/2" lower than I would the average-shaped 3/4 German fiddle so that I can play comfortably.
  13. Allow me to correct myself, I raise it to the 8th.
  14. anonymous0726

    anonymous0726 Guest

    Nov 4, 2001
    I raise my peg to the second notch, or sometimes the first when I play sans shoes, but the body on my bass is 45 1/2" from bottom block to heel, so this puts the nut between my eyebrows and the top of my head.
  15. Con Trabajo

    Con Trabajo

    Feb 22, 2002
    North Florida
    Hi Everyone,

    I have some general questions about DB. For starters, I have only been playing DB for about 2 years, thanks in large part to Martin Sheridan (member) and a fantastic beginner bass he sold me. It's a 7/8 scale plywood Cristopher bass, but other than just a slight bit of dullness to the sound, you would have a hard time telling that it's plywood. martin did a fantastic setup job and got the fingerboard in shape.

    Anyway, here's the rub- I'm 6'7" tall, and long and lanky. My bass is 7/8 scale. I primarily pizz, but I am trying to teach myself bow (please, no flames, I'm in South GA, nowhere near a good teacher). I have noticed that the muscle aches vary with how high I have the endpin set, and currently my favorite height is as far as the endpin will go, around 14" out. Still I feel that due to my height and the scale of the bass that I may need a longer endpin. I have trouble reaching way up high in the Edgar's musical exclamation point range without my armpit 'bottoming out' on the shoulder of the bass.

    Is there anyone out there of my height or nearby that can illuminate me?


    -With Work
  16. Con Trabajo

    Con Trabajo

    Feb 22, 2002
    North Florida
    Regarding my peg height,

    I like to lean the bass at an angle against my body slightly. With the peg out 14", the nut of the bass is around my forehead when leaning against me as I like it.

  17. anonymous0726

    anonymous0726 Guest

    Nov 4, 2001
    You'll need to employ some of the body english we of less altitude need to employ. What you have to do is step back from the bass a step so that it is angled with the front starting to look toward the sky a bit, and then the top should be easily accessable. I'm about 5'8", and with a bit more stomach than I had in my youth, and can reach all the way up pretty easily on my large-bodied bass.

    If this description dosn't help, perhaps I can get my room mate to assist with my digital camera and I can get you some pix of the maneuver.
  18. Don Higdon

    Don Higdon In Memoriam

    Dec 11, 1999
    Princeton Junction, NJ
    Mucho trabajo, poco dinero:

    We can give guidelines, but not rules. Bass dimensions vary, as do string lengths. Nut elevation has to be reconciled with bow position. So you can't just say nut at the eyebrow (ear, whatever) and be done with it. Can you bow naturally and comfortably, can you get down to the bridge, etc.? And as persuasive an argument as David K gave for a high positioned bass, I improved my playing when I lowered my bass. Ultimately, you have to use your own bass and body as a laboratory.
  19. Chris Fitzgerald

    Chris Fitzgerald Student of Life Staff Member Administrator

    Oct 19, 2000
    Louisville, KY
    Wow, this thread has really taken off. What the hell...I'll play: I'm 6'2", I play seated, nearly cello style (before anybody pounces, my teacher has no problem with this), and my endpin gets extended to the 7th notch. I've never had any bass-related shoulder pain, but I've found that playing in this manner is easier on my lower back and knees than standing. Over the past year, I've raised the regular endpin height 2 notches...why, I couldn't say. It just feels better that way.
  20. EFischer1

    EFischer1 Guest

    Mar 17, 2002
    New York, New York
    I find that if I can stand comfortably without leaning over to much to play in thumb postition...then my bass is at a good height

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