Photo by Rhona-Mae Arca
Most musicians are aware of the importance of warming up. Warming up properly helps to prevent injuries, and increases our ease of play. It can even help solidify our technique and ensure we play at our best that day. Fewer musicians, however, seem aware of the benefits of cooling down.
Playing the bass for hours on end can be physically taxing, and a cool-down session can help protect our body from injury, just as a warm-up session does. There are obviously times when cooling down is not feasible, but after a strenuous session of bass playing, it can be very helpful.
After your next physically demanding day of bass, try the following three part system to help transition from playing bass to just hanging around.
Take it down a notch (with some scales)
You’ve been playing for hours all up and down that instrument: Bowing, trilling, shifting, vibrato-ing, maybe even slapping and hitting. Time to slow things down for a few minutes.
Play some slow scales.
Start by playing a simple scale in whole notes, for the entire rage of your instrument. G major fits the bill here, and let’s say your range is 4 octaves:
- No vibrato
- Focus on a lightness of the left hand.
- Release and relax both thumbs.
- Use minimum left hand pressure.
- If using the bow, play at a mezzo-forte dynamic, or softer. Use the entire bow, keep things smooth and light. Use minimum effort.
- If playing pizzicato, don’t play “all out,” and keep your arm loose. Use minimum effort, maximum flexibility.
- Keep your general posture efficient and plyable.
- Next play the same scale, same speed, same way, for 3 octaves.
- Now two octaves.
- Now one.
- End with some open strings
A few minutes of stretching at the end of a session will go a long way. Pick your favorite ones, but I advise the following order:
- Do some light finger, hand and wrist stretches for a few minutes.
- Next, focus on the arms, shoulders, neck and upper body.
- End with some waist, lower back and leg stretching.
Playing the bass is a physical activity, and it requires muscular effort. Drinking some water after a tough session will help decrease any muscle soreness, as well as increase your flexibility and decrease your recuperation time. Unless you’ve been under the bright lights of a stage and sweating, a glass or so of water ought to do the trick.
You may not need to cool-down if your day of bass was particularly light, but, in general, it’s a good preventative measure, just like warming up. So, after your next tough session, add a 10-minute cool-down to your routine to help relieve muscle tension and increase your recuperation time. Your body will thank you and your next session will be all the easier.