Holding Your Bass Guitar
If you watch other bass players, either live or on television, you may notice an array of different ways to hold a bass guitar. Some definitely look cooler than others, but you may have difficulty playing with a proper hand position when the instrument is scraping along your ankles. Compromise is the name of the game here.
Strapping on your bass: Strings to the outside
When you strap on your bass for the first time, sit down to do it. Adjusting the strap is easier this way. Ideally, the strings of the bass cross between your belt line and your belly button at a slight angle upwards (up on the neck end). This position ensures optimum right- and left-hand coverage, and it works well regardless of whether you’re standing or sitting. Oh, and yes, the strings should face the outside!
Strapping on a bass eventually becomes as natural as riding a bike or walking, but when you first start out, you have to follow some basic instructions to get it right. If your left hand is strained when playing, try raising the height of the bass. If your right hand feels uncomfortable, try lowering the bass.
You can achieve the ideal compromise position for both your left and right hands when you follow these steps:
1. Attach the thick end of your strap to the strap pin (the little metal knob) on the body at the neck end of the bass.
2. Attach the thin end of your strap to the bottom strap pin (also called the end pin) of the bass.
3. Hold your bass solidly by the body or the neck with your left hand, and pull the strap over your head and right shoulder, putting your right arm through as well.
Allow the strap (with the bass attached) to rest on your left shoulder and continue across your back until it connects with the bottom strap pin of the bass just below the right side of your rib cage.
4. Adjust your strap in length until the strings are in the area between your belly button and belt buckle, and then fine-tune it from there.
You can find your own personal preference, but you want your bass to rest in this general area. Take a look at Figures 1 and 2 and note that the general position of the bass is the same whether you’re standing or sitting.
Standing with your bass
And now, get on your feet! The time has come to take a stand with your bass. Here’s how:
1. Make sure that your strap is securely attached to the strap pins.
Also, make sure that your strap is straight, not twisted, from one end to the other.
2. Let your bass hang loosely from your shoulder.
Keep your left hand underneath the neck, but don’t clutch it. Some basses are a little neck-heavy, while others are perfectly balanced. No matter what type of bass you have, you need to get used to the feeling of it.
3. Position your hands on the bass.
Your left hand should be free to roam the neck from top to bottom without having to hold the bass. Your right hand should be able to reach all of the strings comfortably.
The standing position will most likely be your live or performance position (see Figure 1).
Sitting with your bass
During those endless hours of practice, you may want to sit down to play (see Figure 2). Use a stool or a tall chair without armrests. That way, the position of your bass is similar whether you’re standing or sitting. In addition, you want your thighs to be at least parallel to the floor; try to sit so that they are higher than your knees, if possible.
After you sit down, keep the strap on. You may feel a slight slack in the strap when the bass touches your thighs, but it should still hold the bass in place. Your left hand is free to roam across the neck without your having to worry about holding the bass in place, and your right hand can reach all of the strings comfortably.