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The ergonomics of bass playing

Discussion in 'Barker Bass Forum' started by Lee Barker, Mar 20, 2006.

  1. Lee Barker

    Lee Barker Labor of evident value satisfies the soul. Supporting Member

    Oct 25, 2005
    Redmond, Oregon
    owner, Barker Musical Instruments, maker of the Barker Bass, No Longer In Production.
    I came across this very thoughtful and well-written post on a bass mailing list. I thought it might inspire some discussion:

    About two years ago I was posting about electric bass ergonomics,
    trying to share my thoughts on that. This is a subject I have
    explored and meditated in depth, and I can't help but be very
    critical about what I see: an instrument (the electric bass) which
    ergonomically is in a state of underdevelopment. The model of
    reference on bass design is still the Fender. Other aspects have been
    unquestionably improved (materials, methods of construction,
    electronics, hardware, etc.), but the instrument has remained too
    close to the Fender shape, thereby attaining no substantial ergonomic
    improvement. The solution of the main problem, which is that of bent
    wrists, however already exists, it's out there: Jerome Little's
    twisted neck invention. But due to the little attention people have
    shown to this radical novelty I doubt that bass players have
    understood the importance of the problem. Out there players and
    teachers alike keep recommending nonsensical fingering approaches
    that contradict themselves when confronted with the real physical
    object to be handled. If the time tested classical and logical
    fingering principle of one finger per fret is a technical concept to
    be value in general, its application on the lowest positions of the
    electric bass is medically counter recommended. The extreme bend or
    flexion of the wrist is one if not the main cause of carpal tunnel
    syndrome and other kinds of tenosinovities, the repetitive work under
    such circumstances is a killer. This is true as well for the right
    hand articulation, the kind most seen everywhere, which makes us bend
    as badly the wrist while our forehand rests on top of the body. But
    who seems to care? Perhaps only people who already are suffering or
    have suffered from tendonitis. Check www.littleguitarworks.com

    One thing I found that helps both hands positioning on a Fender type
    of bass is to double-strap as follows: use one strap as usual, and
    then another one that you first attach to the lowest pin of the bass
    and goes around your waist to end attached back into the same pin.
    The length of the pin should be longer in order to handle the
    resulting three strap inputs. You can simply replace the pin of your
    bass by one secure pin like the Dunlop, which is longer. Strapping a
    standard bass in this way reduces wrist bending for the bass acquires
    a more vertical stance, and give the player a relief on the shoulder
    since part of the weight of the instrument goes to the waist.
    Besides, the bass gains an immense stability relative to your body,
    it doesn't move, you don't need to hold it anymore with your hands,
    and you are therefore freer to play.

    Xavier Padilla

  2. Scwwitt


    Nov 2, 2005
    Santa Cruz
    That is a good idea, seems though it could get irritating if you do a lot of moving around, not in the case of jumping around kicking over amps and smashing guitars like some monkeys do, but even just bouncing around to the beat, with the strap around your waist rubbing, I could be very wrong, but it seems pretty uncomfortable just thinking about it. Isnt there a company that makes straps that are of that "shape"?.....pro strap?...maybe, i believe i have seen them.
  3. Interesting - this double-strapping thing. Anyone have pictures to help illustrate this technique? I know that my Spector is a longer scale instrument (35") as opposed to my MMSR5 (34") and the Spector tends to cause me more discomfort on my left hand due to the extended reach, I believe. I bought a thicker strap because I was not happy with the 'neck dive' on this bass. The strap helped a little, but the neck still wants to dive. I am going to try this double-strapping thing to see how handles this situation.

  4. Tom7

    Tom7 I'm so bright, my mom called me son! ;-)

    Jan 31, 2000
    Eagle River, Alaska
    Get a chance to try it yet? If so, what were your observations?

    I can't see slapping like that, but fingerstyle I can ... and I wonder what the change in hand position would do to tapping.
  5. WalterBush


    Feb 27, 2005
    Yuma, Az
    Full disclosure, I'm a certified Fender technician working in a music store that carries Fender, Yamaha, and Ibanez products among others.
    The change in hand position seems to put it (if I've followed the instructons correctly) in a position similar to what Stick players use as the standard playing position, and although my tapping skills are meager, I didn't have a problem putting them to full use. The neck of the bass was elevated to such an extent that my left wrist was still bent, just like when when I play my DB at the lower positions, so I'm not sure what gain I might be getting out of it.

    My OLP kept trying to pull my pants down when I did this, though. The NS Cello mounts on a device that holds the instrument firmly in place as described, and its special mount rotates between an upright and guitar-like playing position. Maybe Mr. Steinberger's on to something that needs to be adapted to a standard BG.

    My guess is that if you're playing predominantly slap-style, your right wrist is not under the same "bent" conditions described below, and not subject to the same stresses, so maybe this isn't an issue with slap players. I don't slap enough to speak with authority, though.

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