How to Hold a Bass Guitar : A Guide for Beginners

The bass guitar was invented in 1951. Relatively speaking, it’s quite a young instrument, especially in comparison with other string instruments. So there are loads of different playing techniques to experiment with (i.e. 2 fingers, 3 fingers or even a pick).

The aim of this article is to give you everything you need to play fluently and comfortably. It should teach you the correct posture to adopt when practicing. Your posture has a large impact on your relationship with your instrument (and therefore your sound quality), so it is vital to get it right when practising. 

Hold a bass guitar: seated position 

When practicing at home, you’ll most often be seated. 

Here are five pieces of advice for a good seated posture:

  1. sit on the edge of your hair, with your feet flat on the floor for support, keeping your shoulders straight. Your back should form a right angle with the seat of the chair
  2. place your bass on either your right or left leg depending on what’s more comfortable
  3. your elbows should be to the side
  4. your fretboard should be high enough to allow you to reach the notes near the top of your bass without moving your body too much
  5. we recommend using a strap, even in a seated position to make the instrument lighter and therefore easier to play

Seated position to hold your bass guitar.

Try to be relaxed, but not too much either!

Feel free to adjust your position until you find one that feels comfortable for you. Once you’ve found it, you should practice for a few hours (we recommend taking regular breaks to avoid burn-out)

💡 Useful hint: These tips will help you limit physical fatigue and avoid tension in your muscles.

⛔️  The two positions to avoid at all costs:

  • a bent back with your head leaning towards the fingerboard. 
  • reclining with your head resting against the back of the chair 

Avoid these two positions at all costs! Even just two minutes in these positions may lead to uncomfortable back pain. 

Hold a bass guitar: standing position 

The standing position isn’t that different from its seated alternative. You should adjust your strap so that the fretboard is raised high enough to allow you to reach all the notes, with the body of the bass in line with your naval. 

Check out the example of Jaco Pastorious:

Hold a bass guitar: hands

Your hand position will ensure you have the correct posture – you can’t have one without the other.  

Left hand

On the left hand, prefer the position “1 finger = 1 ” (1 = index finger, 2 = middle finger, 3 = ring finger, 4 = little finger). At the beginning, it will be complicated to control your little finger but this will allow you to work on your flexibility and dexterity in the long term. 

IMPORTANT: This is just one of countless different finger positions. Feel free to explore others when you’re more experienced. 

Right hand

The fingers of the right hand should be almost perpendicular to the strings. 

It is convenient to put your thumb on one of the previous strings. For example, when you play on the G string, you can put your thumb on the E or A string, depending on the size of your fingers.

How to tune your bass guitar.

Similarly, you can play by leaving your thumb on one of the microphones. This position is very common and develops your ability to move your fingers independently. 

Check out this demonstration from the incredible Esperanza Spalding:

The thumb is placed at the level of one of the bass pickups.

Good posture comes down to balance and comfort. Achieving good posture will enable you to make more precise movements, more nuanced playing and improve your stamina. 

It’s a good thing to get into the habit of and you’ll see significant long-term benefits. By paying particular attention to your posture you’ll save a lot of time in the long run and end up with a much better sound quality. 

Article written by Amy Cimpaye in its original version, translated by William  –

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About author
William Ridd is a writer based in London. After a messy divorce from the clarinet, William decided that playing music wasn’t for him, but he continues to appreciate it and likes writing about it.
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