It’ll give you one less thing to worry about
By Jon Liebman
September 23, 2022
You’re learning bass. You’re happy when you tackle something new. You’re making strides. You’re making progress. Good for you!
But how do you feel after you’ve been standing up and playing for, 40 minutes? An hour? Two hours?
You may already be dealing with physical issues that make playing bass more challenging. As we get older, a lot of us encounter things like arthritis, tendonitis, carpal tunnel issues, and the like.
Or maybe we just get tired from standing for long periods of time, supporting the weight of the bass on our shoulder.
Well, here’s an idea that might make playing the bass a little easier.
It sounds pretty obvious, but have you dared to try it on a gig?
One bass player’s advice
I had a wonderful conversation with Dr. Angela Smith the other day, published as this week’s FBPO interview. Angela, who’s both a member of the Bottom Line Club at forbassplayersonly.com and an owner of my Power Grooving digital course, is incredibly passionate about her music, including of course, playing bass.
She also happens to be an actual rocket scientist. For real! You can learn more about that when you watch the interview.
When I asked Dr. Angela what advice she had for someone who wants to learn bass, particularly someone older than 50, she said, without batting an eye, “Sit down.”
“Now you didn’t expect that,” she says. “Most bass players, at the back of the band, seem to stand up, whether they’re playing the (bass) guitar or the upright. That’s great. Absolutely nothing wrong with that.”
Before we go any further, what’s your initial reaction to what Angela says? If you’re concerned that sitting down won’t give you the right “look” as part of the band, read on…
Consider your surroundings
First off, I assume you’re not playing in an arena full of 30,000 screaming fans. It’s more likely you’re playing in a wedding band, a cover band, or just getting together with your friends.
So take a chance, and sit down! If a regular chair detracts from the vibe you’re going for, try sitting on a stool.
“As we get older, and it applies to me too,” Angela says, “I can’t stand for playing a bass for more than an hour now, so I use a nice bass stool, sit down on that, and it’s much more comfortable.”
Taking care of business is what’s important
Sound good? Sitting down can also give you one less thing to worry about while you concentrate on playing the bass. You’ve already got a lot to think about, like locking in with the drummer, laying down the groove, making the music feel good, you know, things bass players do.
“And that makes it so much easier then, for me,” Angela continues, “to really focus on what I’m trying to do with the instrument, rather than worrying about holding it and all that sort of thing.”
Would anyone really object if you were to sit down? As long as you’re taking care of business, it really shouldn’t matter.
Angela finds it helpful in playing not just electric, but upright bass too. “Sitting down helps keep it a lot more stable,” she says, “makes it much easier to really focus on getting the notes when you want them in the right place, and so on.”
“So that’s my advice,” she says. “Sit down.”
Your turn. What are your thoughts about sitting down while playing bass, particularly in a live situation? Leave a comment below and let me know where you stand on the issue (sorry, I couldn’t resist!). And be sure to watch my interview with Dr. Angela here.
It’s a personal thing – sitting down doesn’t work for me. I don’t groove as well and I find myself nodding off. Both my wife and my favorite drummer have commented that I play better standing up. But that’s me. I know a lot of hard grooving bassists in town that sit and play. I play a lot of 2 hour sets. And – at 76 yrs of age – I’ve had to lick carpal tunnel, thoracic outlet syndrome and a spasmed muscle on my neck’s right side (which happens if I’m sitting and practicing for too long – a reason to stand.) So for me, sitting doesn’t work.
I love your perseverance and persistence, Charlie, not to mention your determination! Thanks for weighing in.
I’m 69 with a history of severe ankle injuries. The thing that wears me out is load in/load out; set up and tear down.
However, if it’s a pop/dance gig – I always stand. To do otherwise looks bad. (Skunk Baxter excepted). Jazz or cocktail gig? It’s ok to sit if you want or need to.
I always prefer to sit when playing upright and agree with Angela.
One other consideration. I’ve read that you are most creative when lying down, a bit less when seated, and the least when standing.
Thanks, Conrad. I really like how you assess each situation individually. As to your last point, I think it varies from person to person as to what position evokes the most creativity. Whatever works for you, go for it!
I prefer to stand. I feel I can groove better while “dancing”.
However, due to hearing loss, I have balance issues, too.
Therefore, I must sit to groove and wriggle.
Whatever it takes, Joe. Thanks, and keep on wriggling! 🙂
I started at 65 and I knew I wouldn’t be able to stand
for long periods of time, so I learned to sit on a stool
immediately. Twenty years later I’m doing the same
thing. If I have to pizz for long periods of time, every
once in a while I’ll stand to change positions.
Wow, Theodore, what an inspiration you are. Keep it going!
Theres nothing wrong with using a stool to sit down on while you’re playing. All that matters is that it sounds good. Besides, the legendary Anthony Jackson always sat down while he was playing bass and it didn’t do him any harm. Me personally, when I’m rehearsing with the band during practice I’ll sit down, but on most gigs I stand and play. It just depends.
Makes sense to me! Thanks, Marcus.
What a fantastic article, dealing with the issues some of face as we get older.
I believe that it really comes down to personal choice. If you can handle standing for extended periods of time, go for it.
In some cases the venue might dictate how you present yourself as an overall band.
Personally,as part of the backline, I don’t see sitting as a problem as long as you can lock in and hold a groove. The focus should always be on the vocalist and supporting the song.
Right on, John! Thanks.
I recently discovered an ‘old guy’ bassist called Will Lee (you probably know him Jon!), through being into Oz Noy’s music (guitarist) – I was surprised to see him sitting down throughout some of the YouTube videos I watched but it didn’t affect his ability to groove one little bit and he’s a great bassist – timing spot on, giving the music what it needs, making it feel good (all the things you like Jon).
Here’s an example of him sitting: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gmgC6VwOVPE
And here’s one of him standing: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=02P8X1rZZ-M
Judge for yourself whether it affects his playing ability or not!
Maybe if you’re young and have a need to wear your bass round your knees cos it looks cool, you should probably stand up then. At the end of the day if it’s electric bass, the sound comes out of the sound system, so as long as it sounds good no-one should care if you’re sitting or standing.
Hi, Celia! It’s not uncommon to sit down for an in-studio recording session, which oftentimes requires reading a chart. On the other hand, if you’re really into the music, you might feel compelled to stand. As you say, if it sounds good, no one should care in that context. BTW, I’ve got a few interviews with Will, as well as one with Oz. Check them out! Thanks as always for weighing in!
Here’s my latest interview with Will: https://forbassplayersonly.com/will-lee/
Here’s the one with Oz: https://forbassplayersonly.com/oz-noy/