3.3 Double Bass Ergonomics

Body position with and without instrument

Try Exercise 8.1 xxx to find a stable standing position in which there is freedom to shift the weight from one leg to the other, and with a feeling of “oil” in the joints, i.e. stable but not completely locked, which can occur when you stand with overstretched knees. Support the instrument on your left side, placing it close to the edge of the pelvis.

Exercise to examine the placement of the left hand

It is now time for an exercise for the placement of the left hand and the instrument considering the effect it has on the shoulder musculature and in the other muscles in the neck and back. Notice how your shoulder feels and also your breathing.

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Illustration 3.3.1. Begin by holding your arm/hand in a comfortable position from the cervical spine and shoulder.
Illustration 3.3.2. Now take the instrument to the same position that previously felt comfortable without the instrument.
Illustration 3.3.3. The wrist becomes tense from being bent inwards; this can be avoided by changing the angle of the fingerboard or moving the elbow outwards. Here the fingerboard is placed considerably closer to the cervical spine than in Illustration 3.3.2.

For sitting position, go to Exercise 8.2 xxx and try to find a stable position while seated with both feet on the floor or on the chair’s footrest, but without using the backrest, in order to achieve greater freedom. Place the instrument at an angle so you can minimise the backward stretching of the left arm to get to first position.

The angle/rotation of the instrument depends on how well the bow functions on the highest and lowest strings. Try different angles and feel what happens in the shoulders and neck. You can also change the angle when you need to get to the lowest string.

The bow

Exercise with and without the bow

In the thumb/finger grip, it is important to use as little power as possible. The thumb should not be in an overstretched position in its middle joint, as then the thumb muscle will become overstrained, the thumb’s joints will lock, and the movements of the fingers will be inhibited.

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Illustrations 3.3.4–5. Aim for a relaxed grip in the thumb and index finger with a bend in the joints of the thumb to minimise strain.

Hand position

The left thumb should be flexible without requiring you to press or squeeze it against the fingerboard. The grip reflex in the hand is always present with increased activity in the thumb when the fingers are active. This can lead to unnecessary tension in the hand and in the musculature of the arm. Make sure the muscle between the thumb and index finger maintains a low level of activity.

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Illustration 3.3.9. The position of the fingers becomes more locked as the joints of the thumb are stretched.
Illustration 3.3.10. When the joints of the thumb are bent and relaxed, the hand’s position is more stable and free, and the knuckles appear more clearly.

 

In thumb position you should lean the upper body forwards so that the upper body is kept stable and the arm will be able to reach. Imagine an axis of movement through the hip joints. Try to lean slightly forwards.

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Illustration 3.3.6. When leaning forwards from the hip, there is no strain on the shoulder joint itself.
 

A left-hand grip with larger distance between the fourth and fifth fingers increases strain on the musculature of the forearm, especially on the outer side.

When using the “hanging” technique in the left hand, there can be an increased bending of the wrist, which can lead to strain on the disc in the wrist; quite simply, it becomes pinched. To avoid this, the elbow should be lifted slightly outwards, and in this way the distribution of weight to the fingers can also function better. If you have a short little finger, there will be less strain on the musculature if you distribute the weight more effectively when the left little finger plays.

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Illustration 3.3.7. The forearm is rotated slightly outwards for the weight to be transferred to the little finger and thus decrease tension in the hand.
Illustration 3.3.8. Here there is increased tension in the little finger, which almost has to twist its outer joint.

If you play with overstretched fingers, your fingers are more likely to lock. When playing in thumb position, tension will lessen if the outer joint of the thumb is slightly bent.

Try to distribute the weight from the shoulders down through the arm and to the pad of the finger; feel how this forms an interconnected chain without requiring you to press or squeeze the fingers against the fingerboard. Finally, breathe as you play so that the muscles in your body can vary their levels of tension.

Pizzicato technique with the right hand

The thumb acts as the point of support on the fingerboard, and the impulses for movement come from the arm and shoulder to lessen strain on the fingers. The thumb should be placed on the fingerboard so that the hand continues to be in a straight line with the forearm, and so that the wrist is not subjected to extra strain. The string should be placed somewhere between the first joint and the pad of the finger, at the same level as the cuticle.

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Illustration 3.3.11. The finger touches the string between the outer joint and the pad of the finger.

The power in the stroke is directed in towards your own body and the finger slides off the string during the movement.