Setting the Endpin/Playing Height of Double Bass

Discussion in 'Bluegrass [DB]' started by Doug Lindsay, Dec 26, 2014.

  1. I wasn't sure if this was the best forum category but I didn't see it in "Setup" so please forgive me if I ended up in the wrong place. I will be using my double bass to play Bluegrass primarily. I am largely self taught, so far, as a bassist but I have played a variety of stringed instruments for 35 years. I felt very comfortable setting the endpin so that the nut is near the top of my head most of the time. At this height the tips of my fingers on my picking hand (right hand) reach near the end of he fingerboard fairly comfortably and my fretting hand (left hand) also seems fairly comfortable. My left arm gets a bit fatigued if I play for a long time but I think part of that is just the whole nature of a very different size and shaped instrument played vertically. I noticed that Michael Klinghoffer also sets it around that height. I noticed a poster commenting on Klinghoffer's setup and posture expressed concern that it was set too high. Dan Huckabee in his video "Beginning Bluegrass Country Bass" suggests the nut at eyebrow height which is only 3 or 4 inches different but it does make a difference. I have lowered it closer to Dan's suggested height in the last few weeks which has advantages but I feel like my posture is better when it's higher. Is there a rule of thumb or should I just totally go with my own comfort level and playing ease?
    Thanks and Happy Holidays,
  2. bobsax


    Jan 16, 2011
    Southern Oregon
    Hey Doug
    There's another thread in Bluegrass where we talk about how best too hear yourself .
    It seems like the closer your ears are to the bass the better you can hear it.
    So having it extra high helps, though
    I've had some pitch problems with it set above the head.

    Last night at a late night session all the guitars decided to sit so tried playing in a regular chair with the bass on my right leg.
    Your head is then right in front of the bass and I could hear better then ever.
    This is probably not a kosher way to play.
    Last edited: Dec 30, 2014
    Doug Lindsay likes this.
  3. Eyebrow height is better for me because it's easier on my arm, wrist and hand.
    My left arm doesn't tire over long sessions.
    Doug Lindsay likes this.
  4. Thanks Bob. I am more considering proper technique or rules of thumb than I am hearing myself play. So far that has not been a problem. That does seem like one other benefit of setting it high, which, luckily, I prefer at this point. I know a lot of responses will be "Do whatever suits you". I just thought someone might have some guidelines other than that. I'm okay either way.
  5. BobKay

    BobKay Supporting Member

    Nov 5, 2012
    Estero, Florida; USA
    I've been reading Klinghoffer's "...Drive a Double Bass" book. In that book he suggests the height be set so that the bridge hits the right hand index finger between the second and third segments. Seems kind of arbitrary but seems to work for me.
    Doug Lindsay likes this.
  6. Thanks Bob. I actually have ordered that book.
  7. Jeremy Darrow

    Jeremy Darrow

    Apr 6, 2007
    Nashville, TN
    Endorsing Artist: Fishman Transducers, Aguilar Amplifiers, Ear Trumpet Labs
    When looking at Klinghoffer, or any other Classical player, bear in mind that their decisions about bass height have a lot to do with bow position. If you're not going to use the bow regularly, you probably have a wider variety of heights that will work for you.
    Doug Lindsay likes this.
  8. Jay Corwin

    Jay Corwin Supporting Member

    Jan 29, 2008
    Sanborn, NY
    The rule of thumb is nut at or about eye level. I can personally feel the difference in my left shoulder and arm if I set up just a little to high. You might find fatigue setting in when playing in keys that keep you up near the nut if your setup as high as you mentioned originally.

    For stance and posture I follow Rufus Reid's Evolving Bassist.
    Doug Lindsay likes this.
  9. Matthijs

    Matthijs Supporting Member

    Jul 3, 2006
    Over time I've heard different rules of thumb. My first teacher was of the close to the top of your head persuasion. So that's how I started out. After seeing Cachaito live with his bass way lower I tried that myself and that worked out better trough the years. I'm tempted to say the classical school of thought is with the nut higher and more pizzicato oriented players have the bass lower. But it's probably not that simple. Double basses en their bassplayers are not cut from one mold. Everyone has a different optimum heigth and its not wise to directly link fatigue in your left arm to the heigth of the bass, as it very well might be caused by somtehing else in your posture. I guess what I'm trying to tell is that the rules of thumb leave a big range of settings and the best way is to try them all and at the same time have a professional reflect on your overall posture.
    Doug Lindsay likes this.
  10. Holdsg

    Holdsg Father of Pugs Gold Supporting Member

    Sep 10, 2009
    Alta Loma, CA
    right, bass players come in all shapes and sizes.
    I can only imagine how someone 5' tall thinks about what it means to have a 3/4 size bass with a nut at eyebrown height...this does not compute.

    doesn't seem to impact the artist in this band, which is fantastic, by the way.

    Last edited: Dec 30, 2014
    Doug Lindsay likes this.
  11. neddyrow

    neddyrow Supporting Member

    Apr 21, 2011
    Cortland, NY
    Start low and move higher as needed for comfort. as a person who frequently plays 3-hour shows, my left arm kills from playing as it is. if you have it too high, fatigue sets in and your playing gets sloppy fast. one day after a long show, i thought i was going to have a heart attack because my left arm was feeling numb....luckily it was just from the playing not the bacon cheeseburgers.
    Doug Lindsay likes this.
  12. I like to set the endpin so that my right hand fingers could reach the bridge from almost the very playing position. I don't see much sence in setting the height in accordance with nut position. On one of my basses the scale is around 108cm, if I use my method I get the nut at the top of my head, on the other bass with 100.5 cm scale I have it at the eye level that way, but my right hand is always at roughly the same place for bowing/plucking the strings, wich to me is way more important.
    martinc and Doug Lindsay like this.
  13. Don't forget about the angle the bass rests against you. More angle means you can use more arm weight in your left arm, but it also means the further the right arm has to reach.
    I found this to be the hardest compromise when playing bluegrass.
    Left hand is often clamping down 1,5's for long times, but right arm is givn'er to keep break neck tempos.
    I think this where classical and jazz techniques don't really work for bluegrass. If you set the height so the bridge lines up to your right middle finger knuckle, then lean the bass to you so the nut is somewhere in your fore head you will have a decent angle for the left arm and good reach to upper positions when you lean in a little. But I think this is too far for the right arm to reach for the rigors of bluegrass. So I decease the height to make the bass a little more vertical, keeping the nut in same spot to make it easier for my right arm.

    Also if you mark the height in your socks do it again in your shoes.
  14. martinc

    martinc In Memoriam

    For me, the most important part of bass height is where the right hand plays. I am 6-2 and have long arms so my right hand needs to be comfortable at the point on the fingerboard where I get the best response from my bass.
    When I am comfortable with the right hand, I find my left hand is usually OK too. I used the eyebrows/top of the head as a guide for a long time but I found that I was crouching too much when I play. I have slowly increased the height using the right hand as my guide and I feel much more comfortable.