One of the things we most take for granted is our form. Form can be one of the contributing factors to great playing, as well as awful injury. The most important aspect of form is how we hold our instrument, as it dictates how we play.
Don’t believe it? Try wearing your bass low, then high. Watch the difference in how you approach the notes. When the bass is lower, you have to twist your wrist. When it is higher, you simply reach the frets.
First off, you need a proper strap for your bass guitar. While a strap isn’t necessary when sitting, using it while sitting can help make sure that you use proper form as it hugs the bass closer to your chest.
When you sit, it is important that you pay close attention to your posture. Posture is the main aspect of proper bass form. When you sit, keep your back erect. Pull your shoulder blades back gently, and lift your chest as if you were proud. Which you should be; you are taking that extra step to be sure that you will play injury free for years to come.
Next, elevation; when you are sitting, elevate your off-leg. This means that if you are a right handed player, and your right hand his your picking hand, you need to elevate your left leg so that the neck is arched slightly upwards. If you are left handed, lift your right leg slightly so that the neck is on a small upwards slant.
The best way to do this is to use a small box or other sturdy, solid object. This helps to keep your wrist from over straining when fretting. When the neck is level, your wrist has to turn on an awkward angle to reach further frets. This causes the nerves in your wrist to compress, which is the leading cause of carpal tunnel syndrome.
When standing, be sure to keep your back straight as well. If you feel yourself beginning to slouch, don’t ignore it; correct yourself. Once you allow yourself to slouch, the rest of your form will fall in tow.
Your bass should be no lower than your waist. If it is, you are going to be turning your wrist on awkward angles to reach lower frets. This can also lead to nerve compression, which, as mentioned before, can lead to carpel tunnel, among many other wrist related injuries.
Some bassists may claim that it is more comfortable to wear the bass lower, towards the knees in some cases, but in the long term it will lead to injury. There is a reason that professional players where their basses higher up; proper form is the key to playing injury free.
In the end, the most important thing is for you to be aware of your form. When you feel yourself slipping into bad habits, correct yourself immediately. The reason for this is that bad practice habits soon become bad playing habits. Once bad habits are ingrained into your playing, they will be much more difficult to correct.
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