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Seated Technique

Discussion in 'Orchestral Technique [DB]' started by Thumpie, Nov 19, 2012.

  1. I've been playing about 15 years, but as I've learned the instrument, I've mostly stood up.

    One of my goals for 2013 is to become as comfortable playing while sitting down. I'm having trouble keeping the bass from sliding on the floor as I move from the low positions to thumb. Is the bass not supposed to move and I have to be content to stretch over it with my arms only? I'm used to leaning the bass back and pulling my upper body over the top to access above the octave--I guess a seated player doesn't do this...

    At the moment I'm just using a bar stool. I want to figure this out before I buy (or make) something more custom.

    Maybe someone could offer some tips or direct me to an online tutorial on this topic...
  2. This is more a matter of gear versus technique, for once.

    The enlish term eludes me, but it's customary to use some kind of "End-pin Anchor", directly translated from my native swedish. That is, like the cello players use, something that is connected to the stool/chair's leg and your endpin, preventing the bass from sliding. A plank, a strap, or whatever. I've used a luggage-strap as well as my shoulder strap from the bass case when I did not have access to the proper thing.
  3. So, there's a thing 'cellists use called a 'rock stop', which is basically a rubber blob with a little metal cup for the end pin in it. That doesn't work for bass, you want something that has a cord with a loop attaching it to a leg of your stool. I just made one out of a bit of oak (hardest wood I had lying around at the time) with some holes drilled, a screwed in loop to attach the cord, and a length of nylon cord with a toggle to adjust the length. I think 'end pin anchor' is a perfectly reasonable term for this... I've never heard it given a proper name.

    Far as the technique is concerned, you want everything positioned so you can reach thumb position without having to move the bass other than what naturally happens as you reach forward. That means you end up approaching the strings from quite a different angle in low positions. You might find you need to move your left leg to roll the bass leftward so you can reach the low strings with the bow.
  4. eerbrev


    Dec 6, 2009
    Ottawa, ON, CAN
    If you're not afraid of ruining the floor, use your endpin spike. If it doesn't work, get it sharpened. It's better than any other option, and has the added benefit of helping transfer your sound into the floor. If you can't do that because you value your floor (or your significant other does!) then the end pin anchor with the loop of cord attaching to your stool (we call it a "leash" around here) is your best option.

    In terms of technique, I can't really speak much to it. I use a much smaller stool than a bar stool because I couldn't get comfortable at that height. maybe try getting a comfortable position for thumb position, then using your lower back and abdominal muscles to back out of it into a comfortable. vertical sitting position. The key is to make sure you use your abdominal muscles as well as your back muscles, otherwise you can hurt your back pretty fiercely.

    I'm sure there are people much more qualified on here to talk to you about this, but I felt like I wouldn't step too deeply in it if I tried.

  5. mattgray


    Nov 16, 2007
    Cincinnati, OH
    If you can't find an end-pin anchor and you have a rubber tip on the end of your endpin, you can also try taking a damp towel to the bottom of the tip (it should have several pronounced circles of rubber on it), or I usually just take a little spit to it to get the dust off which will make a more stable grip to the floor.

    As with anything technique related, how you approach the bass should always be discussed with your teacher, or if you can arrange it, someone with a medical background or Alexander Technique teacher can help immensely. Every bass is different, every body is different, and you'll find that you'll make more and more adjustments as you continue to play sitting down, there is no 'one-size-fits-all' for this type of thing.
  6. mjt0229


    Aug 8, 2007
    Bellingham, WA
    I suggest a Xeros end pin rest. No chance that the bass will slip, if it's set in right.

    I sit on a 29" chair and position the bass so that the nut is near my left eyebrow and the long axis of the instrument angles down and slightly away from my body (that is, the endpin points down and to my left). The bass is cradled so that the inside edge of the back digs into my right leg; as I look down, the bass makes about a 90 to 100 degree angle with my right leg.

    In this position, the bass is entirely supported by the endpin and my legs; my arms are completely free to move. I use my right arm weight to bow, and there is almost no tension whatsoever on my left thumb; for fingering, downward pressure on the strings comes from the weight of my left arm, and I can move my left arm freely without having to reposition the bass more than a tiny bit, even as I shift from half position to the nether regions.

    The downside, of course, is that I'm almost useless if I have to stand when I play.

    Hope this helps. YMMV, talk to a teacher, etc, etc. But that's what I do.
  7. Violen

    Violen Instructor in the Vance/Rabbath Method Banned

    Apr 19, 2004
    Kansas City Metro Area
    Endorsing Artist: Conklin Guitars (Basses)
    A lot of people on here like a really high stool. I don't.

    If you go to walmart in their home decoration section they have two stools. I play on the shorter one. It was 17 bucks and if you dont like it, you can take it back.
  8. eerbrev


    Dec 6, 2009
    Ottawa, ON, CAN
    +1. the folding one? I used one of those for a couple of years until I abused it so terribly it fell apart. literally. There were four seperate pieces.

  9. Phil Rowan

    Phil Rowan Supporting Member

    Mar 2, 2005
    Brooklyn, NY
    I have a folding stool from Bed, Bath and Beyond (not the shortest kind, more medium heigh) whose legs I hacked down an inch or two, with the front legs a hair lower than the rear. I then removed the padding that came with it and threw a Butt Cradle I got a few Xmases back on there, and voila. Pretty sweet bass sitting device.

    In terms of sitting "technique", I like to keep both feet on the ground and with the endpin adjusted so that the bass is erring on the side of being just a hair low.
  10. Hi Thumpie,

    This is my approach, copied from a thread by MaxJacob titled Standinding vs Sitting, 8 - 31 - 2008. There was also a similar thread started by bassistpatrick in May, 2009.

    Standing or sitting I try to keep an arrow from my chest pointing towards the bridge or close to it. I also position the bass upright enough to have the strings forward about level with my face. The combined effect is to have my hands and arms doing the work in front of me and weighing back towards my body. My left elbow is forward of and lower than my shoulder to avoid neck and shoulder problems and give enough room between hand and shoulder for relaxed ease of shifting and vibrato. Also, standing or sitting, I set height of bass so that the nut is about 1 inch higher than the top of my left ear when using lower positions, which a compromise of posture between ease of use of left hand and ease of maintaining good bow contact points with the bow arm.

    When standing, the bass leans towards my body so that the corner between back and upper rib is resting in my left groin and the bass balances around to the right so the left thumb carries little weight and shifting and vibrato are as free and relaxed as possible. If you check this stance out you will see that the arrow from your chest is pointing at the bridge and the French bow will just miss your trouser leg when playing on the E string.

    When sitting I have the back corner (between rib and back) further across my body to the right and tucked in under my right ribs where the bass ribs are lower. The bass is angled in towards my right leg and body and leans back across my body towards the support of my left knee. Both my feet are on the floor and, at 5 feet 7 inches tall, I am half sitting half leaning on the stool (a taller person can sit right down on top of the stool) The lower right rib is against my right calf, the arrow still points towards the bridge and the bow on the E string still misses my trouser leg. The height of the nut is again 1 inch above the top of my left ear, the bow contact point reachable and the left arm free to shift and vibrate. Both arms still weigh in towards the body.

    This seating position allows pretty good posture and works for me when practicing or doing orchestral playing but I would choose to sit differently to play high solo material. I would also choose a smaller bass than mine, with more dropped shoulders too!!!!!

    Much depends on your height and shape as well as the size and shape of your bass, and whether your are a French or German user.


    Ps Using a block under your left foot is fine. I believe lifting your left knee too high risks distorting posture and putting too much strain on your lower back. Someone once told me your thighs should be hanging down at about 45 degrees to the floor when sitting on a stool for best posture. Can an Alexander teacher confirm this?
  11. eerbrev


    Dec 6, 2009
    Ottawa, ON, CAN
    I spoke to Jennifer Johnson, a strings pedagogue who is certified in Alexander Technique (She wrote "What Every Violinist Needs to Know About The Body") at a chamber music camp about two years ago. I was just getting back into sitting after having stood for a few years, and expressed my concerns about sitting on a stool (specifically my worries regarding scoliosis in the lower back from having one leg higher up than another).

    My memory is a bit fuzzy, but what she essentially told me was that if you are sitting properly on your sitting bones then your knees, short of lifting them past their natural range of motion in the joint, should have no effect on where your pelvic bones (where your legs attach to the rest of your body. sorry if I have the correct terminology)are sitting, and should not cause them to create a bend in your lower spine.

    I can't remember offhand if she mentioned anything regarding the use of a foot stool or yoga block etc. but I can't imagine it would be a problem. I don't, simply because the rung on my stool is low enough that I'm not creating a severely acute angle with my knee (and also because I'm too lazy to carry my bass AND a stool AND a yoga block AND my music AND a stand. it's just another piece of crap to carry).

    Now, I am more than happy to be corrected on this information, because disseminating knowledge that can hurt others is bad news, but from what I remember being told and what I have personally experienced, this seems to be correct.

    cheers guys,