String musicians take great care with their posture and playing technique to prevent stress- or overuse injuries. Those who play the upright bass must take extra precautions before ever removing the instrument from the case due to its large, heavy, and cumbersome anatomy.
Improper lifting, carrying, and maneuvering the bass causes muscular-skeletal strain and can lead to devastating injuries that inhibit your career.
CORRECT METHODS FOR CARRYING AN UPRIGHT BASS
There are distinct dos and don’ts when it comes to carrying and lifting:
Make sure the bass is the correct size for you. If you’re playing a bass that is too large for your frame, it complicates ergonomic carrying issues. Check the bass’s size with your instructor or at a professional music store, scaling it down if necessary.
Invest in a high-quality case. We’ll touch more on this below, but there is a direct correlation between a case designed for safe carrying, transportation, and greater ease for the person carrying it.
Look for wheeled bass accessories. There are a variety of accessories with wheels that minimize the need to lift and carry the bass while walking to and from classes, rehearsals, concerts, etc. These include wheel-on-a-stick adaptions that attach where the bass’s end-pin is located, wheeled carts that securely hold the bass whether it’s in its case or not, and bass cases with wheels on the bottom.
Switch up the method. Stress injuries result from repetitive motion or positions. Rather than carrying your bass the same way all the time, alternate between backpack-styled carrying straps, handles, and wheeled options, so muscles aren’t overworking in a single position. That said, make sure to read the case’s instructions. Only solidly reinforced straps are designed to be used exclusively without the additional support from a handle.
Put it on the hip. Many bassists and cellists carry it on their hip, sort of like a giant, horizontal baby carry, letting leg bones and muscles take the bulk of the weight.
Use healthy lifting techniques. Lifting the bass in and out of the car also takes its toll. Always engage your core muscles, keep your back straight, and use your knees to bend up and down (rather than lifting from a bent waist) to prevent lower back injury.
Never carry it from the neck/scroll, f-holes, or the end of the fingerboard. While it might not harm you, it’s a recipe for damage or breakage disaster for your bass.
Don’t lean the bass on a wall or a chair. Once you arrive, never lean your bass on a wall or chair because it’s prone to falling. Instead, lay it on its side on the floor, with the scroll and the end-pin out of the way of others’ feet.
Just as you had to develop muscle memory to play the bass, you may need to undo bad carrying habits. Focus on practicing consciously correct carrying techniques until they become the norm.
BEST EXERCISES FOR BASS PLAYERS TO STRENGTHEN THE ARMS AND BACK
Famous double bass playing soloist and Dallas School of Music instructor, Lauren Pierce, says that properly strengthening her arms and core was the best thing she ever did to support her playing. The stronger and more flexible your arms, back, and core muscles are, the less prone to injury you’ll be throughout your playing career.
Sometimes, soreness and aches are the results of doing something new such as the first few weeks and months you’re learning to play. However, new pain or discomfort after multiple months or years of playing is a sign that your posture and technique needs work or that strength training is in order.
Things you can do:
Strength train with a licensed trainer who understands the demands of carrying/playing your instrument so they can design a custom workout plan.
Yoga, Pilates, or other exercise forms that focus on strength, flexibility, and breathwork.
Cardio exercises that release stress, provide an endorphin rush and keep you in shape for the demands of travel and concert season.
Read, Strength Training Exercises for Cellists & Bassists, for specific examples of exercises that support bass players physical health.
Finally, don’t forget to ask your instructor for feedback about your posture. You may find it’s time to practice in front of a mirror again to correct typical, unconscious behaviors that affect playing comfort such as slouching, tensing your face, jaw, shoulders, or arms, unbalanced holds, etc.
THE BEST CASES FOR SUPPORTING YOU AND YOUR BASS.
As mentioned aove, the case is a key component in safe carrying practices. If you carry your bass frequently from place-to-place, spend more on a durably-constructed case with straps designed for a safe, comfortable carrying experience.
Some of the top brands that make soft, upright bass cases known for their solid handle and strap design include:
The combination of a durable, well-constructed soft case with reinforced handles and straps, and proper carrying techniques will help you move from rehearsal, to gig, to home without hurting yourself.