I get lots of questions about my bass and “what’s up with that endpin?” ranks in the top ten. As you know, most endpins come straight out of the bass, at a angle more or less parallel with the back of the instrument, a 90 degrees relation to the bottom of the instrument. When the instrument is standing entirely upright, the endpin hits the ground more or less in line with the middle of the instrument. This is commonly referred to as a “straight” endpin. It’s what nearly all basses are equipped with when they are made new. They are usually metal, and height adjustable with a screw mechanism.
My endpin is what is referred to as an “angled endpin.” Some drill into the block of the bass for this setup. Others, like myself, attach a false block to the outside of the bass for such an installation. If you were to stand the bass totally upright, the endpin would touch the floor somewhere behind the bass.
The picture above should give you an idea of the angle at which the pin comes out from the bass. Additionally, videos of players such as myself, John Clayton, Rufus Reid and Francois Rabbath illustrate how the bass is generally held with this setup. Sometimes such endpins are also referred to as “bent”, “Rabbath,” “Stahlhammer” or “Laborie” endpins. Technically, each of these terms denotes certain differences in construction, specific mechanics, etc. but players often use the terms interchangeably. All the designs aim for a similar effect.
So what is that effect on the instrument and player? The effect is to change the center of gravity for the instrument, making it lighter in the hand when the bass is held more horizontally. Different players may state additional benefits, but I see this as the most significant one.
Why hold it more horizontally? To allow better left hand access to the full length of the string, primarily. We can achieve a more horizontal bass position easily while sitting on a stool, of course, but if we held the bass horizontally while standing and using a straight endpin it would be too heavy in the hand to be practical. Plus, if you use a stool, then you generally have to lug a stool around. Sometimes I describe the effect of the angled pin, while standing, as mimicking a sitting position for the instrument (bass more horizontal, no stress on left hand).
For those considering such a modification, I would consult a professional luthier with experience with this modification. It can be tricky work, and a professional will be able to guide to you to the specific design/solution for you. I would also consult a player who performs this way to guide you through issues of posture, bass height, etc. when considering the change.
There are two angles to consider when making this modification. The first is the angle at which the endpin comes away from the bottom of the instrument. The common angle for the endpin (for this setup) as it comes away from the bass is somewhere just shy of 45 degrees. Some say 44 degrees, but most of these are done by hand, so there is likely some variance. Anyway, angling the endpin in this manner causes the bass to feel lighter in the left hand, when the bass is held more horizontally. The sharper the angle of the pin, the lighter it feels. A 44 degree angle will cause the bass to feel lighter when holding it than a 10 degree angle (or 0 degree angle) will. I wouldn’t go past 44 degrees with this angle, however, for structural reasons.
The second item/angle to consider is whether you want to have the endpin go straight back, or hit the floor more on the “G” side or the “E” side of the bass. This has an effect on which way the bass “falls” when left to it’s own devices. In my experience, angling straight back has it fall into the hand, toward the G side makes the bass fall into the player, and angling toward the E side makes it fall away from the player. I prefer the instrument to fall into my body, rather than into my hand or away from my body. My endpin angles slightly to the G side.
All angled endpin installers will have to determine the two angles mentioned above before installation, which one reason an experienced luthier is advised. The specifics of the setup will largely be a matter of personal preference, influenced by the angles that feel best to the player on a specific bass.
So why make the change from a straight endpin? It’s not for everyone. In my case, I prefer holding the instrument more horizontally, primarily because it allows me to access to the full length of the string with my left hand without changing he position of the instrument. With a more horizontal position of the instrument, no change in instrument position is necessary when playing in the higher register, for example. I also like to stand, rather than use a stool, so the angled endpin was for me. When I sit, however, I still use a standard endpin. I find the angled endpin offers no benefit and some troubles when sitting.
This type of setup is not for everyone, but if you like to stand and like easy access to the entire string, it may be for you.