When you watch musicians playing their instruments on stage, they make it look so easy. Whether you play bass guitar or not, you have probably looked at a bassist and thought “I can do that.”
Well, we do not doubt that you can and will! But, one shock many beginners find is that there is a particular way to hold a bass guitar.
Before you get down to learning the notes, scales, and your favorite songs on your bass, you need to learn how to hold it properly.
Just learning how to hold your bass guitar correctly will make it easier to play and make the whole learning experience more enjoyable and faster.
The first time you pick up a bass guitar, you may be surprised by its weight. These instruments are generally heavier than your standard 6 string electric guitar or acoustic guitar.
Therefore, it’s easy to put too much strain on your shoulders and back when holding a bass. But, with a proper stance and technique, such issues can be avoided.
For the most comfortable playing position, you should use a strap. A wide strap that measures around 2 to 4 inches (8 to 10 cm) is your best option.
Therefore, the heavier weight of the bass will be evenly distributed. You will probably need to adjust the strap when you first put it on to make it comfortable but this is easy to do.
The bass’ full weight should rest on the shoulder strap while the angle of the instrument should be slightly upward with your left arm being free to move while you play.
For left-handed bassists, your right arm should be able to move freely.
Read on as we discover how to hold a bass properly whether you’re sitting down or standing up. Once you get this stance and posture right, you will be ready to show the world that it really is all about the bass.
Standing Bass Position
You need to look at the angle of the bass and its height. These can make a significant difference in your playing. Both can determine the positioning of your hands, the ease of access on the fretboard as you play different notes, the level of stamina and fatigue you experience, and when done correctly, can prevent common injuries.
One common mistake many bass-playing beginners make is called Horizontal Bass Syndrome or HBS. This is when the bass is positioned too horizontally. When this happens, it means the most commonly played notes, the low ones, are harder to reach as they are further away.
Therefore, your arm and hand which is on the neck and frets of the guitar will need to stretch out more than needed as you play. And, if you stay in this position for a long gig or practice session, you will start to ache.
This position also makes the lower strings more difficult to reach and the access for your fingers to reach the notes becomes increasingly limited. Moreover, it forces your wrists to bend at a sharper angle contributing to a higher risk of hand injuries such as Carpal Tunnel Syndrome.
So, if you have a friend who plays guitar, don’t learn your positional habits from them (even though all guitarists think they know how to play bass!) In truth, guitars are shorter and more time is spent on different areas of the fretboard when compared to bassists depending on the style or genre of music.
You need to slant your bass to achieve the best angle. This will straighten both of your wrists, bring both arms in closer to your body and allow you to relax better.
Furthermore, your fingers will have better access to each string and the whole fretboard. And, we can’t forget the thumb. This position allows your thumb to be positioned on the back of the neck allowing for a better range of motion for your fingers to move around the frets freely.
An angle that works for one bassist may not work for you. This is why you will need to experiment with the angles of your bass as you hold it. When adjusting, play around with the height of the bass by adjusting your strap. This helps your arms hang in a more relaxed manner.
For the majority of players, the body of the bass will end up between their chest and hips. The headstock of the bass should be between your shoulders and at eye level.
Of course, everyone is different. You may find a certain angle that suits your stature and posture better than the “correct” angle we have outlined here. There is always leeway.
However, we do not recommend having the bass hang too low. Yes, some of the biggest rock stars play like this and it looks damn cool but it’s harder than it looks.
Both of your legs will start knocking on the bass and your posture will suffer dramatically as you bend down to reach the strings and desired notes. Surely, playing the bass to your best ability is cooler than how you look!
A final tip for standing with your bass is to try adjusting it so it fits at around the same position whether you’re standing or sitting down. This makes it easier to play if you sit while practicing but stand when playing a live show. It’s all about being consistent. This is one of the main aspects of becoming a good bassist.
Sitting Bass Position
For beginners, we highly recommend standing while practicing as this is the position you will most likely be in for live performances.
If you only practice sitting down, you will feel uncomfortable and the bass will be like a foreign object when it comes to standing in front of an audience.
Firstly, find a comfortable, good chair without arms so your bass is easier to play. The best option is a stool or tall chair. Once you sit down, your leg is higher so your bass is pushed higher or to the side.
This can create more HBS problems that we mentioned earlier. Do not lean back or hunch over. Sit tall.
And, that’s how to hold a bass! Having the right posture, whether you’re standing or sitting will make learning bass a more enjoyable experience and help you learn the instrument a lot faster.
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