Avoiding Injury: Five Tips for Bass Players

Bass player - photo by Miguel

Photo by Miguel

As bassists, our health is important, and paying attention to our routine is paramount to avoiding injury.

Here are five tips to keep in mind to staying healthy and injury free.

1. Stay Loose

Keep those joints flexible and muscles moving. Excessive tension is the enemy. Upright players tend to have problems in shoulders and upper back, followed by issues in the lower back and finally in the hands. Hold nothing completely still for any extended period of time. Keep things moving when you play to reduce the possibility of injury.

2. Use Minimum Effort

Closely related to “staying loose” is using minimum effort. Not only does using more effort than necessary affect how well you can ultimately play your instrument, it can result in a host of physical problems. Everything from simple muscle aches to more serious conditions like carpal tunnel syndrome can result. It does us all well to figure out the minimum amount of effort needed to perform a particular action on the bass (put the string down, move the bow, etc.) and aim for that each time we play.

3. Play More Days Than Not

Make bass playing a daily part of your life, while abiding by the above suggestions, and you will find that it becomes easier over time. Playing at irregular intervals, or with stretches of time off in between sessions, sets the stage not only for minimal progress, but also for potential injury. Especially if we are too ambitious when we begin playing again after some time off. Which is why we should…

4. Be Reasonable When Coming back After a Break

Ease into it. The longer your break was, the shorter your initial sessions should be. Don’t take two months off and then start playing 6 hours a day. At best your muscles will regret it. At worst, you could hurt yourself. Star slowly and add time little by little over the course of a few weeks.

5. Incorporate Regular Physical Activity

Maintaining a general level of fitness away from the bass can go a long way in preventing injury from playing. If you are averse to fitness routines, never fear. It needn’t be vigorous, just regular. Whatever activity you decide on, stretches for the back, shoulders and upper torso should be incorporated.

How about you? What are your tips for staying healthy and injury free? Please share in the comments.

Dr. Donovan Stokes is on the faculty of Shenandoah University-Conservatory. Visit him online at www.donovanstokes.com and check out the Bass Coalition at www.basscoalition.com.

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  1. Point 5 is the most important, in my opinion. This presentation given by Happy Jack, a member of basschat.co.uk, at one of the forum’s meetups explains in detail how to stretch before playing bass: http://youtu.be/XqBRxu21oZc

    • Thanks for sharing this! Currently watching and it’s reiterating a load of really useful stuff I learned when I used to see a physiotherapist about my common back problems.
      To anyone reading, I strongly recommend anyone who’s interested in improving their stature when playing and being more conscious about there stance, weight distribution and relieveing back problems etc :)

  2. Warming up is essential! Never forget to start with your favourite tune or some scales ina fast way until you feel your palm and fingers become lighter. Also correct tuning is very important- so that you wouldn;t have to overtension strings to get pure tone.