Welcome to the fourth column. I’d like to get you thinking about posture this time around, a subject we touched upon but didn’t get into great detail with in the first column way back when.
Posture is that thing that everyone from your mom to the nuns to the school teacher told you about growing up, so naturally you ignored it, just like eating vegetables, and now it turns out that they were right. Let’s get into seated posture first, and how it relates to playing bass.
When first seated, whether to practice, or watch TV or eat a meal, or work on the computer, etc., slide your butt to the back of the chair and sit straight up with your back to the chair so that you will automatically go into proper posture. Congratulations! Make sure the chair is comfortable so that correct posture will be held by the chair and not the muscles. If the chair does not have a flat back and this posture is uncomfortable for the lower back, put a pillow or cushion or rolled up towel in the small of the back to help maintain the curve there (the small of the back being the short curvy part just above the waistline). This is something that most orchestral or ensemble players know a lot about because they usually have crappy chairs (Godspell anyone?). If there is discomfort in the buttocks, sit on a cushion.
As the muscles relax and the body begins to slouch, pretend there is a string attached to the top of your head, going to the ceiling and pulling up as if you were a puppet. As the muscles relax and the body begins to slouch, PRETEND THERE IS A STRING ATTACHED TO THE TOP OF YOUR HEAD, GOING TO THE CEILING AND PULLING UP AS IF YOU WERE A PUPPET. This is quite possibly the most important thing I can tell you about posture, in your musical life and otherwise. This keeps your spine erect and your shoulders will drop back and relax. Take a deep breath in and let it out, consciously dropping your shoulders to ensure that relaxation will happen, all the while keeping your head held erect by your imaginary string.
You will likely feel your shoulders drop a couple or few inches. This means that most if not all of the time you are walking around with your shoulders hiked up towards your ears, creating extra tension in the neck and shoulder blades and their associated muscles. Think about this several times a day, and take a deep breath in and out and drop your shoulders and see how much better you feel. This string theory, if you will, also applies to standing posture, with or without instrument, as well as seated. If this concept is hard to grasp, email me! Okay, sorry if you’re having flashbacks to unhappier times with this posture thing, but trust me, it is important.
In a seated posture, for performance or practice, classical posture is best, wearing the strap as you would if you were in a standing posture. If you rest the instrument on your knee like the cutouts allow, and like everybody does, it is unnatural. It feels natural because it’s the only way you’ve ever done it. Classically trained guitarists will frequently use a foot stool to help balance the guitar properly between their knees while sitting, while more progressive players finding this to be a strain on their lower back will plant the feet flat on the floor and use a cushion under the guitar instead of raising the leg. In this way the pelvis will be properly balanced and you will be less likely to experience discomfort. Try both, see what works best for you, and if you have a better way let me know.
Next time we’ll expand upon this, but master this concept first. I know it seems deceptively simple, and it is, but also super important.
Enjoy the summer!