by Soo Han
EEi Contributing Editor
Should we allow our bass players to sit while practicing and playing in orchestra or always ask them to stand?
Sitting vs. Standing while practicing and playing the bass is an issue that many orchestra directors and bassists face. There are many misunderstandings about this issue especially for the young beginners and directors who may not be native bass players. Of course, there are different schools of thought on this issue, and depending on your fundamental set-up approach to bass playing, you may promote one approach over another. In addition to the fundamental approach, many orchestra directors also point to non-musical reasons for sitting VS standing (e.g. students won’t get tired so easily if they sit, which will promote better focus and less classroom management issues, or students will feel more engaged if they stand).
No matter on what side you land on this issue as a fundamental approach, one of the main misunderstandings about sitting while playing is that students and teachers tend to believe sitting while playing equates to bad posture and/or less physical engagement. However, good posture and strong physical engagement could be accomplished if students are taught properly how to sit on the stool while playing.
Set aside 5-10 minutes to spend time with your bass players to teach them how to properly sit on the stool using the guidelines below:
1. Proper Stool Alignment
Begin by rotating the stool so that one leg of the stool is in the front. This will allow the player face the proper direction.
2. Proper Sitting Position
Sit with straight spine, shoulders back and relaxed
Left-foot resting on the rung, right foot slightly larger than shoulder-width and is flat on the floor with slight bend at the knee
3. Endpin Height Adjustment Technique
Adjust the height of the bass so that while properly sitting on the stool, the middle knuckle meets the bridge.
4. Endpin Placement
Set the endpin, left of the center-leg of the stool, at about half-arm length away
5. Bass Placement in Playing Position
Finally, lean the bass to you so that the back upper-bout is resting on the left-inner hip. Inside of the left-knee may be used to provide additional support on the back.
By taking a few minutes to teach your basses how to properly sit on the stool may resolve any misunderstandings about the nature of sitting while playing. This will in turn, help orchestra directors make a more informed decision on this important aspect of orchestra bass playing.