Several months ago I wrote an article for Bass Guitar Magazine covering some myths and misconceptions around posture and playing bass, as the issue has passed and I own the copyright I can release it online here, enjoy.
Busting Bass Posture Myths & Misconceptions
The relationship between posture and pain is a very controversial and blurry topic currently.
It was previously thought that the aches and pains that bassists and musicians in general develop was due to “poor” posture and if they played in a more “proper” position it would be better for them, however not is all as it seems.
Is there a perfect playing posture?
No. There has been a ridiculous amount of research to try to find this out in the general public and a small amount in musicians, most of which is of pretty poor quality with lots of bias, and those of good quality generally found no association between those with and without pain and the way they sat and stood (Ref). For a long time it has been assumed (without any good evidence) that sitting/standing upright in an “aligned” position (which isn’t even a thing) is the best way to be, sadly when people force themselves to do this consistently it may produce or exacerbate more problems than it helps (ref).
Of course, what also doesn’t help is that people’s opinions of what good and bad posture is, is very variable. There is no consensus on postural definitions in healthcare, so most of our ingrained beliefs on posture are based on questionable assumptions rather than supporting data.
The big determining factor for posture and pain is time, if you stay in the same position for long enough, regardless of how “good” or “bad” it is, then it will begin to hurt and you will want to move. Your body can be put in all sorts of funky positions whilst playing bass, and providing you change these positions frequently then even the weirdest of playing postures won’t increase your risk. In fact placing your body in many different positions from time to time for short periods may help to retain flexibility and allow the tissues to tolerate a greater variety of movement.
Some common relaxed bass playing seated postures are above, none are any better or worse than the others providing you are regularly changing seated/standing positions.
Will playing in a “proper” posture reduce my injury risk?
We don’t know. As of time of writing there have been no prospective intervention studies into any type of musicians to see if postural teaching and subsequent implementation actually reduces injury risk over time (ref). The problem with this being that even if a bassist was taught or shown something, it doesn’t mean they will implement it.
Some will argue that some musicians already in pain get better with postural training. Although this may be true, there is likely other factors with a greater role in their improvement e.g. reassurance and movement. Plus, just because something may help you get better does not mean it will prevent the issue reoccurring, for example taking painkillers won’t reduce the risk of you developing a painful injury.
In summary, practice and perform in a variety of different postures, changing them frequently, but don’t overanalyse how you are doing it.