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How to hold the bass?

Discussion in 'Jazz Technique [DB]' started by Bar Talk, Sep 24, 2005.

  1. Bar Talk

    Bar Talk

    Sep 22, 2005
    Just got my first DB yesterday after 20 years of guitar playing (both jazz/blues and classical). I'm finding my way through simple blues using roots, thirds, fifths and sevenths and having a great time. It's not the best bass in the world (Chinese - well constructed, laminate, and with an adjustable bridge), but I like the sound and feel. But my main frustration (apart from intonation- but I know how to work on that) is holding the darn thing.

    I've looked at the short videos on Ron Carter's website. The bass seems to be resting on his hip and leaning towards him. I tried that, and it seems to be good for some things. Standing at the side of the bass is great for low position playing, but not so good for high positions. I've also tried standing behind the bass, but can't get used to that.

    I have a gig stand which the bass rests on when not in use, but I experimented playing whilst the bass is on the stand. It seemed to solve all my problems (except the stand grips the neck about half way up!). But high and low playing are easier. So I'm wondering (being a dumb newbie to DB playing) do some players use a stand? The instrument projects and resonates slightly better because there are no clothes, hip or leg damping the vibrations.

    OK, I know - get a teacher! But I've just spent all my cash on buying the bass!

  2. Uncletoad


    May 6, 2003
    Columbus Ohio
    Proprietor Fifth Avenue Fret Shop. Technical Editor Bass Gear Magazine
    Justifications will be moot if you cause yourself hand injury. You already know there is no substitute for a teacher. Carpal Tunnel or other impingements await if you ignore this simple truth.
  3. Freddels

    Freddels Musical Anarchist

    Apr 7, 2005
    Sutton, MA
    My teacher insists that the bass stand vertical. If you let go of the bass it will stand by itself (for a few seconds at least). This keeps you from holding the bass up with your left hand thumb which what you'll be doing.
  4. tzadik


    Jan 6, 2005
    Hmmmm. I don't know anyone who uses a stand.

    I absolutely agree that the left hand should be involved <b>as little as possible</b> in holding up the bass.

    My two most recent teachers taught that the bass should not ever be vertical.

    On the contrary, the back corner ot the top bout should lean on your middle (think cradling it in front of the jut of your hipbone). As you climb into higher positions, your hips shift backward and the bass leans in toward you more. That's how you reach all those notes up in the twilight zone.

    This method works well for me and I would recommend that those who are curious about it, give it a try.

    Oh. And get thee a good teacher!
  5. I tend to take a more "behind the bass" approach...This involves my left knee resting/slightly supporting the inside corner of the lower bout. Foot positioning is also key...stand with your feet about a shoulder with apart (remember to try and balance your weight evenly between both legs, not allowing yourself to place too much weight on your left leg). I point my right foot at about 12 o'clock, and my left foot (with my left knee behind the bass) at about 10 o'clock. Lean the bass back into you, with the corner resting toward the left side of your stomach. I find this method of being more behind the instrument really helped me develop a full pizz sound (enabling me to pull on the strings in a more sideways than downward motion) and has given me much mobility when playing arco. Check out John Patitucci...his style of holding the instrument is quite similar to this. Best of luck!
  6. jallenbass

    jallenbass Supporting Member Commercial User

    May 17, 2005
    Bend, Oregon
    You can also sit on a 30" barstool. Right leg on the ground and left leg on one of the rungs.
  7. WillBuckingham


    Mar 30, 2005
    I like to sit.
  8. KSB - Ken Smith

    KSB - Ken Smith Banned Commercial User

    Mar 1, 2002
    Perkasie, PA USA
    Owner: Ken Smith Basses, Ltd.

    Your name says it all. lol.. If you are sick, go to a Doctor. To learn to drive, go to a driving school. To learn Bass, go to a professional Symphony player that also teaches.

    I have studied with many teachers and some have studied with higher-ups as well passing down the secrets. The closer you get to the source, the less watered down the medicine! The more experienced players in the Orchestra will get you there better. Starting with a decendant is better than nothing. Some can teach better than they can play if they apply what they have learned and coach you up the ladder. When progress starts slowing down as you are actually practicing alot, move up the teacher ladder. The local Symphony is the best place to look for a teacher. The Bass is the Bass. Bb is Bb. They will teach you better no matter what style of music you play your Bb in!
  9. Damon Rondeau

    Damon Rondeau Journeyman Clam Artist Supporting Member

    Nov 19, 2002
    Winnipeg, baby
    Get the teacher, even if only for one lesson. The first thing you'll learn is how to hold the bass. Seriously -- getting the physicality of this instrument right is extremely important. You'll hurt yourself or winding up hating the instrument down the road if you don't pay attention to these things.

    On the other hand, here's what I was taught (for standing): get the body of the bass into about a 45-degree angle relative to your torso. If you're standing facing a wall, the bass should face the corner. Lean the bass back into your body a bit such that the back of the instrument is contacting the left side of your body somewhere around your hip. End-pin height is a big issue at the beginning -- you need to get comfy with the bass at a height suitable for good pizz and/or good bowing. You may need to set a compromise between these two -- for my height and my bass, I can't find an endpin height that is optimal for both pizz and arco.
  10. Ike Harris

    Ike Harris

    May 16, 2001
    Nashville TN
    What he said. But short of having a real teacher, Rufus Reid's book has a good photo sequence and explanation of how to hold the bass. Basically, the idea is to have the body hold it and not your hands, which are reserved for playing only. And as you move to the thumb position, you have your body shift to accommodate the hands moving the nether regions without being encumbered with the bass shoulders, etc.

    Even with a teacher, you won't get the first day. Takes a lot of experimentation. There are too many variables; different heights, body styles, both you AND the bass. But once you get it, it's great.



    Aug 26, 2005

    Yup...get a teacher, and pay close attention to Rufus's excellent method book. But you may also wish to try an angled endpin, such as the Laborie endpin, which changes the center of gravity on the instrument and forces the bass up and back into your body. With such an arrangement, playing in thumb position becomes much easier, and the bass will virtually balance itself against your torso, leaving both hands totally free to get down to business-- pizz or arco. Rufus's book does not mention the fact that he too has now switched to the Laborie endpin, as he has become a devoted student of Francois Rabbath. I stood next to him in one of Rabbath's master classes two years ago, and noticed Rufus's georgeous 1805 German bass was fitted with the Laborie endpin. When I saw that, I realized the Laborie system was not just for classical performers. I've used a Laborie ever since on all 3 of my instruments. And if you don't like it, you can always revert to a straight endpin....