If standing for hours with a neck-heavy bass is causing you back pain, here are some solutions.
Photo 1 — photo courtesy of slingerstraps.com
In my previous column, we explored how and why playing bass can create back pain, especially if the instrument is heavy and unbalanced (“The Gravity of Back Pain”). We saw how easy it is to determine an axe’s center of gravity and riffed on a few strategies for dealing with an unwieldy instrument. Let’s continue investigating this subject and look for more ways to avoid or reduce back pain beyond buying a wide “comfort” strap. Some of these systems are intended to help reduce back pain, while others are designed to get your instrument into a desired playing position.
When fighting neck heaviness, it’s obvious that moving the upper strap button is the way to go. The simplest idea is to attach the strap at the headstock, as many acoustic guitarists do. The instrument will no longer be neck heavy, but there’s a price. For starters, the significantly modified hanging position places your plucking hand further away from your body. Also, having your bass dangling in front of you can leave you feeling very unconnected with your instrument. This loss of connection is mainly due to the strap’s increased length. And if you let go of the bass, there’s a slight tendency for it to flip over—not good.
But other alternatives exist. For example, there are several systems that add one or more vertical straps to the classic two-point version. While some (not all) of these are successful in balancing the weight on both shoulders, they always change the way the instrument hangs, forcing you to adapt to a new playing position. That’s why some manufacturers incorporate additional horizontal chest straps to hold the instrument in place. Unlike the headstock-attached acoustic guitar variant, these straps are very short, and this creates a stronger sense of connection to the instrument.
Yet there are drawbacks to the multi-strap systems: They’re harder to adjust and put on, and they make it tough to shift your playing position. And when you remove your instrument, you’ll look like a mountaineer who has strayed off course! Even if these multi-strap systems cure the problem of neck-heaviness for most players, the rotational forces we discussed in the previous column remain, and a stressed and sensitive back may not like that at all.
Instead of trying to secure a two-point system, consider a one-point connection that doesn’t use any of the traditional strap buttons, but adds a new one right at the center of gravity—or better yet, even a bit toward the neck to create a slightly upward playing position.
Not everyone wants to screw a new mounting plate with a strap button to the back of a prized bass, so several manufacturers offer non-destructive ways to attach a single-point system. Some of these variations use a sucker head or double-tape Velcro to connect the bass to the strap. You’ll need to decide for yourself whether such an approach will work to securely hold a heavy bass for the duration of a long (and possibly energetic) gig. Perhaps like me, you’d prefer to trust a solid, wood-mounted screw with this job.
Deliberately mounted, a single-point system should yield a perfect hanging position, although your plucking hand will be slightly off-center from your body, and you won’t feel quite as connected to the bass as with a two-point system. The single-point system is back mounted, which creates a tendency for the bass to flip over, but you can easily counteract this by attaching the button higher and closer to the body’s edge.
Photo 2 — photo courtesy of slingerstraps.com
While we’re at it, it’s worth mentioning the Boomerang strap system from the creative mind of Ned Steinberger. This back-mounted system has a one-point connection, a pivoting friction hub, and two adjustable arms that attach to a classic strap. The idea here is less about fighting back pain, but rather about letting you freely rotate the instrument to several playing positions.
So what about back pain? One obvious way to successfully reduce it is to not rest any weight at all on the shoulders. A cousin of our bass, the Chapman Stick, is held by resting the instrument’s complete weight on a hook that slips behind your belt. A small neck strap keeps the instrument in balance. Two-handed tapping usually requires a more vertical fretboard position, and Emmett Chapman’s system brilliantly accommodates this technique. This type of attachment doesn’t serve some bass styles—slapping, for example—but it radically relocates weight off the shoulders.
In these days of tight jeans, not everyone uses a belt, and some players also prefer to keep the functionality of their trousers strictly separate from their 12-pound bass. Which brings us to special waist belts (Photo 1) that are designed to hold the instrument in position while resting all its weight on your hips. A potential drawback: This approach requires adding another strap button, typically located on the lower horn, as shown in Photo 2.
Of course, this solution will only work if your bass has a long enough lower horn to fight neck-heaviness. But if it does, and you’re plagued by severe back pain, adding one more strap button should be a no-brainer. A waist belt offers one of the few ways to free your shoulders from the instrument’s weight.
Kick off the holiday season by shopping for the guitar player in your life at Guitar Center! Now through December 24th 2022, save on exclusive instruments, accessories, apparel, and more with hundreds of items at their lowest prices of the year.
We’ve compiled this year’s best deals in the 2022 Holiday Gift Guide presented by Guitar Center.
DiMarzio, Inc. announces the Relentless P (DP299), the Relentless J Bridge (DP301), Relentless J Neck (DP300), and the Relentless J Pair (DP302) for 4 string basses.
DiMarzio, Inc. announces the release of the Relentless P (DP299), the Relentless J Bridge (DP301), Relentless J Neck (DP300), and the Relentless J Pair (DP302) for 4 string basses. The new Relentless P and Relentless J series pickups feature the Relentless cover designed in collaboration with Billy Sheehan.
As with the Relentless pickups, we removed all the hard edges from the standard P Bass and standard J Basspickups, and added an arch to the top of the pickups to bring the sensing coils and pole pieces closer to the strings. These improvements increase the dynamic range and make active circuitry unnecessary.
The Relentless P and Relentless J pickups incorporate Neodymium magnets and produce 70 percent more output than traditional passive pickups, and they’re dead quiet due to the incorporation of metal covers and foil-shielded cables. To dial in (or fine-tune) the individual string output, the Relentless P and Relentless J include eight adjustable pole pieces. These pickups also have a broad magnetic field so you can even bend notes without volume dropout.
DiMarzio’s extra shielding makes the Relentless P and Relentless J better for both recording and stage performances. We’ve mounted them onto robust .09375” thick circuit board base plates to eliminate the annoying protruding mounting screws — ultimately creating a more comfortable and consistent foundation to rest your fingers on.
The new Relentless P steps beyond the traditional P-Bass sound and can only be described as massive. It has more of everything: more volume, beefier lows, a growling midrange, and crispy highs with better individual string definition.
The Relentless J incorporates a new invention, (patent pending) parallelogram-shaped coils, offering an expanded mid-range punch, snappy highs, precise lows, and a new dimension to the sound of the Relentless series pickups.
Relentless P and Relentless J pickups will breathe new life into any bass, increase playability, and work well for any style of music from Motown to metal.
DiMarzio’s Relentless P, Relentless J Bridge, Relentless J Neck, and Relentless J pair are made in the U.S.A. and may now be ordered for immediate delivery.
Suggested List Price for the Relentless P is $169.00 (MAP $119.99).
Suggested List Price for the Relentless J Bridge and Relentless J neck is $155.00 (MAP $109.99).
Suggested List Price for the Relentless J Pair is $296.00 (MAP 209.99).
For more information, please visit our website at dimarzio.com.
Mystery Stocking is coming soon! Sign up for PG Perks below so you don't miss it.
Sign up for PG Perks on the form below to make sure you don't miss the launch announcement!
About Mystery Stocking
Each year, Premier Guitar likes to put out these mystery boxes as a part of bringing some fun to the holiday season. Remember, this is supposed to be a fun holiday treat! If the contents of this box will ruin your holiday, deplete the last of your bank account, or end your ability to see the good in humanity, it may not be for you.
- This year's Mystery Stocking will cost $44.95. ($39.95 + $5 Flat shipping)
- Each box will be guaranteed to contain $40 or more in value.
- US only. (Sorry World.)
- Make sure your shipping address is correct.
- Have your credit card ready to go before you refresh the page. Paypal is not available. Autofill may not fill in your information.
- There will be NO REFUNDS given.
- There has been a huge demand for these in the past. We really did sell out in less than 4 minutes last year. When they are gone, they are gone.
- One per household, one per person.
Q: What's in the Mystery Stocking?
A: It wouldn't be much of a surprise if we told you, now would it?
Q: Will I definitely get my money worth?
Q: Can I return it if I don't like it?
A: Nope. All sales final.
Q: What if I live outside the US?
A: Sorry, US only.
Q. How much is it?
A. $39.95 Plus $5 shipping
Q. When will it ship?
A. On or before December 10, 2022.
Q. What form of payment do you accept?
A. Credit cards only. Sorry, no Paypal for this.
Q. Can I ship to a different location than my billing address?
Q. I tried last year and didn't get one. Will I get one this year?
A. There is an overwhelming demand for Mystery Stocking. Be sure you have a fast internet connection and be ready when they go on sale. Last year we sold out in 3 min 33 seconds.
Q. I want to buy 5. How can I buy 5?
A. You can't. This year, we're limiting to one per household, so more people can get in on the fun!
Featuring the Adaptive Circuitry recently introduced on their Halcyon Green Overdrive, Origin Effects have brought us a pedal with a character all of its own and a new flavor of drive.
Origin Effects introduce the new M-EQ DRIVER mid booster & drive pedal. Based on a vintage Pultec studio EQ, this unique pedal offers a range of mid-focused tones, from a subtle mid boost to thick, resonant overdrive. Featuring the Adaptive Circuitry recently introduced on their Halcyon Green Overdrive, Origin Effects have brought us a pedal with a character all of its own and a new flavor of drive.
A choice of three mid-range frequencies ensures that you can boost just the right part of your guitar signal and, when pushed harder, can elicit a range of saturation from a classic “mid-hump” overdrive to fierce “cocked wah” distortion. Thanks to the Adaptive Circuitry, the high-end roll-off of the Cut control is reduced as the pedal cleans up. This allows for a smooth transition from warm overdrive to bright clean tones in response to playing dynamics or guitar volume knob changes.
Introducing... M-EQ DRIVER || Mid Booster & Drive
Built-in the UK to the highest standards, the M-EQ DRIVER continues the Origin Effects tradition of vintage, studio-inspired tones in modern guitar pedals. The Origin Effects M-EQ DRIVER is available now from Origin Effects dealers worldwide.
RRP: 259 GBP (Inc VAT) / 319 USD (Ex TAX)
For more information, please visit origineffects.com.