The Doctor Is In…
Hello to all… it’s been a while. Hope you are all enjoying your summer.
I’d like to revisit something that is always important – posture. This column has addressed this subject before, but we all can use reminders from time to time, so I’d like to reinforce some key concepts and add some new ones.
As I have been playing double bass more and seeing more patients who play this instrument lately, this will be geared more toward that instrument, but the concepts are sound for all bassists, and all musicians, especially those who stand.
The most important time to set your posture is when you first approach the instrument. Pick it up, set up as you normally would, and before playing pay attention to how you are standing. Are you balancing your weight and thereby the weight of the instrument on one side of your body, and leaning that way? Usually, if we start that way, that is the way we will finish, and our bodies will become accustomed to hours and ultimately years of this seemingly comfortable position. The problem is that when you lean on one side, this makes that side of the body support more weight, the weight of the body and by extension that of the instrument. This makes muscles tighten, muscles in the back, which will extend from the lower back to the upper back, and after remaining in that tightened state from leaning on that side for extended periods of time, it will become a learned behavior for the body, that is the body will think it should be this way, which will cause other muscle groups to tighten to compensate. This is why, in addition to your technique and arm motions when playing, bowing, etc., your shoulder blades feel tight so often.
Once you have picked up the instrument and noticed if you lean to one side or the other, start out by planting both feet flat on the ground, with your weight balanced evenly on both sides. This is important because it all starts at the bottom, the knee bone connects to the leg bone, etc., it all starts from the ground up. When you set your bass against your body, if you can keep this even weight balanced between both sides while playing that would be optimal, but for those who can’t /won’t, what I would like you to do is to come back to that even weight balance position when you are not playing, such as when someone else is soloing or you are not playing for a particular passage. If, for those few minutes, you straighten yourself out rather than leaning further into that one-sided position, you reduce the time spent in bad posture, you reinforce the idea that you want to have better posture, and you will actually be more comfortable than if you were leaning constantly.
When you are standing with weight evenly balanced on both sides, if you also think about standing up straight you will improve your posture and take pressure off of your muscles even further. Obviously, this will be tough to do when playing in thumb position and leaning over the bass, but when coming back to that even weight posture in between tunes or during other players’ solos as we discussed earlier if you pretend you have a string attached to the top of your head going to the ceiling and allow it to pull your head up with it, like a puppet, your back will straighten, your shoulders will automatically pull back and you will have beautiful posture.
So to recap, balance weight evenly on both sides when playing if possible, if not during those times when you are not playing. Let an imaginary string attached from the top of your head to the ceiling pull you up so that your head, neck and body straighten with it and your shoulders fall back into beautiful posture. Your body will thank you.
All the best always,