Continuing with our theme from last time, posture, I’d like to touch on some other aspects of this all-important subject.
Additional considerations for seated posture include music stand height. You don’t want to have to look down to read the music as this will cause the body to slouch forward, making the muscles in the neck tighten up and pull on the bones that they attach to in the neck. These bones, called vertebrae, form the upper part of the spine, which is called the cervical spine. When pulled on by tight muscles this part of the spine can lose its natural shape, which is a curve in the neck, by straightening, which usually leads to chronic neck problems, such as pain. Having the stand too far away from you has the same effect, causing you to crane your neck forward. Same thing if the stand and music are not well lit. Sometimes you may have to share a stand, if this is the case keep these principles in mind and do the best you can. The take home is that music on a stand should be read at eye level in proper-seated posture, this includes the butt in the back of the chair and string concepts we addressed in the last column.
These considerations can be extrapolated to those of you working on music on your computers in real or makeshift home studios. Proper set up, or ergonomics, means that everything is at a ninety-degree angle, arms to the keyboard and mouse, and legs out in front of you with feet flat on the floor. The head should be straight up with the top of the monitor at eye level. Be close enough to the monitor so that you don’t have to lean forward to look at it or to use the mouse or keyboard.
Some things, which apply to standing posture, include how and where you wear your bass, high or low. You need to find your comfort zone, because too high or low can be equally detrimental not only to the muscles of the back, neck and shoulders which will support your bass but to the positions of the wrists, which when overly flexed or extended can cause problems which most are only too aware of and which have been covered in previous columns. Strap selection also is important, width, thickness, etc., as a strap that cuts into the muscles of the shoulder can cause pain, repetitive stress and muscle tightness, and nerve compression. If it doesn’t feel good, it isn’t.
In standing or sitting playing position, try not to rest your plucking/picking arm on the top of the instrument as this can cause nerve problems at the elbow and in the forearm. Too much bopping your head back and forth with the music can cause muscle tension and tightness with the previously mentioned symptoms being the result.
I know that a lot of your and my favorite players seem to disregard a lot of these rules and they do just fine. Well, some of them don’t do fine, and these bad habits accumulate over the years and cause problems down the line. Also, everybody is different, not only in playing methods, technique and experience, but physically. Ten players can come to my office with the same problem and they will all be different in some way, and need to be treated as such. The things that I talk about in these columns are based on the rules, not the exceptions, and another rule is if it doesn’t feel good, don’t do it. Analyze what you are doing and see if it can be done better, i.e. more comfortably or correctly based on proper technique. What works for everybody else may not work for you, and that includes what you have just read.
I am always open to ideas for future columns or to address questions on anything related to this subject matter that you might have. Drop me a line…
Thanks for reading.