Sitting or standing?

Discussion in 'Orchestral Technique [DB]' started by Vangoens13, Apr 7, 2014.

  1. Vangoens13


    Mar 3, 2014
    I know this is probably one of the most basic questions out there, but what are the advantages of sitting on a stool compared to standing? I saw CSO the other day, and Alex Hanna along with several other section members were sitting with a lower endpin, and a more upright bass. Most of the section plays French bow, along with sitting down. Does the now play as a factor when deciding whether to sit or stand? I like to stand for solo, and I'm not sure for when I play in the symphony.
  2. Lee Moses

    Lee Moses

    Apr 2, 2013
    I started standing, but after several years I had an instructor move me to sitting. It helped me immensely, as the task of balancing the instrument was lifted.

    Sitting does muffle the sound somewhat.
  3. In a very generalized nutshell: standing is easier for the right hand, sitting is easier for the left.

    When you stand, your ability to physically maneuver around the instrument is enhanced. Your entire body can move around as needed, and it is easier to adjust the instrument's position to adapt to your needs. However, your left hand will have to help stabilize the instrument on top of everything else it has to do. This can make shifting, and the resultant intonation, especially problematic, particularly in low positions. You can minimize these shortcomings with good posture and a bent endpin, but you'll still need to address the underlying problem.

    Sitting frees up the left hand to do its thing, but this causes its own problems. Sitting cuts you off from your legs, which can otherwise be useful for leverage. Your ability to get around the instrument is significantly lessened, which can be a big problem if you have short arms or are generally a smaller person.

    You can minimize these problems by taking an appropriate stance and posture. I set my stool to lean slightly forward, and sit on my sitz-bone on the edge of the seat so that if I were to lean forward (without the bass) I would naturally stand up. This keeps my legs engaged and allows a little more flexibility from the waist up. I also use a foam block under my left foot. This does two things: (1) keeps my knee at a more comfortable 90-degree angle rather than bent inward toward the stool's rung, and (2) allows me to adjust everything so that only my knee makes contact with the edge of the bass, which prevents the "damping" issue addressed above.

    Most professional orchestra players sit, particularly in the US. It's partly tradition, partly for comfort (nobody wants to stand through a Wagner opera), and partly because the majority of what they do is in lower registers, which requires a free left hand.
  4. Violen

    Violen Instructor in the Vance/Rabbath Method Banned

    Apr 19, 2004
    Kansas City Metro Area
    Endorsing Artist: Conklin Guitars (Basses)
    Standing with a bent endpin gives you all the advantages of sitting, and standing. You also don't have to lug a stool around.
  5. As somebody who spent years trying to do that while working with the people who invented the idea, I call BS. The bass will never be as stable as when you sit, and there will always be some amount of balancing to distract you. Yes, it takes practice and plenty of people are most comfortable when standing with a Laborie pin, but it never completely clicked for me. Adding a C-extension to the mix made it 100 times worse. Maybe it's because I'm a million feet tall and never had a problem sitting.

    Haven't you ever noticed that half of Rabbath's technique is essentially a means of avoiding shifts?
  6. Violen

    Violen Instructor in the Vance/Rabbath Method Banned

    Apr 19, 2004
    Kansas City Metro Area
    Endorsing Artist: Conklin Guitars (Basses)
    Paul if you are standing with the bent endpin and you are attempting to hold the instrument, then your posture isn't correct. This is why it didn't click for you. I am 6'2 and i have no problem standing with the bass.

    When you stand correctly behind a bass with a bent endpin, shifting or pivoting should be effortless. This is why a good Rabbath/Vance teacher is necessary.

    If you have any questions please ask further, or you can contact me privately and I would be happy to show you, or anyone how to hold an angled endpin bass properly on Skype.
  7. Steve Freides

    Steve Freides Former Mannes College Theory Faculty Supporting Member

    Dec 11, 2007
    Ridgewood, NJ
    I sit too much; most of us do. I choose to stand up to play bass because it's better for me overall.

    A few folks, who undoubtedly play better than I do, talked about issues of balance when standing and using the left hand to support the instrument. I don't get this - I can bow all my open strings without having my left hand on the bass while standing and I thought everyone was supposed to learn how to do that from the get-go.

    Steve "novice, rising" Freides
  8. eerbrev


    Dec 6, 2009
    Ottawa, ON, CAN
    I'm not saying that Paul would be unwilling to learn from you (or anyone he felt like he could learn something from), but i think after years of working with Paul Ellison and François Rabbath (including a teaching certificate and diploma in the rabbath method), i think he's mostly got it covered.

    I sit with a low stool (german bow), and a moderately straight bass (maybe 20* off of vertical? just an estimate). never had an issue with left or right hands in this setup. I had issues for a long time when I stood and when I sat on a tall stool. Laborie was no good for me. as always, Ymmv
  9. I guess I need to clarify: I know how to play standing, and I'm pretty good at it. It's something I've taught many students how to do, and I've recommended it to dozens of people. It has some big advantages, which I talked about in my first post, and the Laborie pin seems to be the best compromise for some people.

    But it is a compromise. If you don't admit that, you're doing your students a disservice. For me, especially with my big bass, sitting works better. Most of the things I learned from standing were readily applicable to my sitting technique. None of the advantages I have sitting are available when I stand.

    Not everyone wants to spend their lives struggling with something that wasn't a problem beforehand. Paul Ellison understood that when we had this same discussion. François came around, eventually, once he was satisfied I knew how to stand properly.
  10. Justin K-ski

    Justin K-ski

    May 13, 2005
    Coming up next on ridiculous propositions Violen offers Paul Warburton lessons on walking bass lines.
  11. mattgray


    Nov 16, 2007
    Cincinnati, OH
    Explore both ideas. Realize that regardless of if you're standing or sitting, playing the bass is ultimately an unnatural action and each way is imperfect. Try standing with a straight pin, bent pin, sitting with a high stool, low stool, etc. Eventually you'll come up with a formula that works for you.
  12. Les Fret

    Les Fret

    Sep 9, 2009
    Totally agree. You must do what is right for YOU not what is right for anybody else including your teacher. Everyone's physics is different. Tons of good players who play with a straight endpin, bent endpin, sitting or standing.
  13. robobass


    Aug 1, 2005
    Cologne, Germany
    Private Inventor - Bass Capos
    Agreed. Personally, when sitting I can play more in tune in both the upper positions and on the extension, since it's easier to keep the bass in place. I do always stand when playing jazz, which I think makes for a better show, but I know that my upper register solos suffer from this.

    As far as orchestra work goes, I like your Wagner opera analogy. Besides a long performance, what about endless hours of rehearsal of a Brahms symphony or something where the conductor spends 80% of the time on the upper strings and another 19% on the winds? I can't imagine who would want to stand for all this time doing nothing.
  14. chicagodoubler


    Aug 7, 2007
    Chicago, that toddling town
    Endorsing Artist: Lakland, Genz Benz
    We've been over this MANY times, here as well as the jazz side.

    There are excellent players who prefer both. There is no objective absolute "better" way to play, though many orchestral sections sit, across the section. So, if you want to be an orchestral player, you better learn to play sitting. And yes, you'll get tired and bored standing for eight hours a day.

    I personally prefer sitting for a few reasons- increased stability, comfort, and the angle puts the sound more in your ear, and the weight of the arm naturally into the string, giving you more power with the bow... which more than negates any muffling issues you may have from sitting touching the instrument.

    Regarding the bent endpin... I've tried to give it a chance. It doesn't work for everyone. There's a reason we have so many variations in technique and setup. We're all different.