Playing BBb Bass with back problems.

Discussion in 'The Rehearsal Room' started by ABERDEEN LOON, Jun 18, 2008.



    I am looking for some advice and information from all you bass players out there ane anyone else that can help. I had an operation on my back a month ago after an accident a couple of years ago. To cut a long story short, I compressed my spine and ended up having a large part of a disc in the lumber region of my back removed.

    I do have the luxury of being able to play other smaller instrument in the mean time, but there is not getting round the fact that I am a bass player and not a trombonist any more! :frown:

    I have used a bass stand which helps when the bass is up, but I still have to lift it up there and down again which involves a twist of the spine: the kind of movement that I am to avoid. Is there any system out there which could hold the bass completely so that I do not have to lift the bass constantly?


  2. Hells Bones

    Hells Bones Active Member

    Do you need to constantly put the bass on the floor and lift it back again?

    How are you at lifting the bass when standing?
  3. on_castors

    on_castors Member

    I have given up, and gone back to playing E Flat bass several times over the past 12 years, depending on my fitness at the time, and the degree of support available at any one time; and even ventured onto the ranks of cornet and baritone players which was the best physical solution but not the answer at all, I am essentially a BASS player, and that's what I want to do!

    If you find the answer, (and I have NOT) I think there will be a glut of Bass players available, because it is the physical deterioration that stops most bass players from going on into advanced old age) BBflat Bass is very much a fit young man's instrument, but even E flat can catch you out - a too-casual pick-up or overdoing it when moving it into a venue, and bang: you are out of order again!

    One thing I have learned - bands always offer to be supportive, but don't fall for it - if you can manage yourself, keep on playing, if not, the day WILL come when you HAVE to do the lugging about yourself, and it's funny how the offers of assistance are not there when you REALLY need it :-(
  4. Tubadale

    Tubadale Member

    Hi Andrew, I don't think there is an answer to this problem, I have narrowing of the joints in my spine, causing real problems being a BBb player. I do use a bass stand that helps, I also get a great deal of help from our bands percussion section who take my tuba to gigs and set up my stand on both the concert & contest stage. My wife has also had to become a roadie helping me transport my tuba around.
    I am learning bass trom with a view to when things get worse I can take this up instead.
    I have seen some of the orchestral tuba stands, they seem to support the full instrument, but i'm not sure if you take off the stand to play. Look here
    I think the main problem is tuba players are just that, once you have played a tuba nothing else will do.
    Hope this is of some help

    Last edited: Jun 18, 2008
  5. Hells Bones

    Hells Bones Active Member

    I agree there.

    When I was with the youth band years ago, there was a BBb bass player whose bass was literally bigger than him. He struggled to carry his bass on marches and things so I, being a couple of years older than him, used to swap with him. He'd carry my trombone and I'd carry his Bass.

    Is there anyone you could arrange this with for gigs?

    What I was going to say about playing the BBb is, if you have no trouble lifting it when standing, could you lift it onto the bass stand and then just hold it to keep from falling whilst sitting down?


    The problem with this is that it can be quite hard to flick through the folder for the next piece that the conductor decides to pick on impulse while still holding onto the bass. People are willing to help. Infact, at the last scottish championship, a horn player carried my bass while I carried her horn. I can also play EEb bass, but when it comes to the contests, I end up on BBb as no-one else can play it or is willing to try. It is sod's law that it is my best instrument.
  7. brassneck

    brassneck Active Member

    Have you tried a harness to re-distribute the load? (... you may find one cheaper elsewhere)


    Fortunately we don't march, so not much point. What I would like to do is lift it onto a stand and leave it there till the end of a rehearsal. I could try to get the conductor to tell me what he is going to take out for the night, but some rehearsals, I do not think he knows himself! I could just get me a mig music stand that can hold all the music in the folder and leave it all there!:-?
  9. brassneck

    brassneck Active Member

  10. Aussie Tuba

    Aussie Tuba Member

    I had a similar opp at L5 - S1 having part of the disc cut away and also the lamina.
    I had to stop playing my EEb for almost a year. I now only play in a seated possition and definatly no more marching for me.
    I played a euphonium for a while but nothing could beat playing my tuba again.
    EEb is big , I don't know how you'd cope with BBb, as you say picking it up can lead to a number of Probs. Talk to rehab people, ( I am assuming you will be having some kind of Rehab to get back to as close as possible normal life )
    You may need help getting on stage with a BBb once in possition I tend to keep my Tuba upright with my hand keeping it in place only lifting from floor to lap ( Straight up with no twisting )
    Hope this helps
  11. DocFox

    DocFox Retired

    My back was ripped up in a auto accident lets see, 7 years ago. Like you I feel the details are not important, tomorrow is what is important.

    What has your doctor said? Have you seen one? Anyway, my back doc did two things: First he had prescription written for me to get a custom fit back brace. That really helps. Second, he has steriod injections done to my back every 3 t 6 months. Between the two, I could return to Eb or Bb bass if necessary. But you would be surprised how much a symphony bore (.547") or bass trombone (.562") Is a stressor.

    I good stand that keeps you from moving too much, and perhaps a visit to a physician.

    Or buy a generic back support to go with a strap.

    Since my last stay at the hospital, my lungs may be shot through no problem cause by me. At 50, learning the percussion rudiments is tough. But may come to that.

    All the best. I hope you find a satisfactory solution. As a former MD, good bass players are worth a lot. I wish you nothing but the best.

    Last edited: Jun 19, 2008
  12. on_castors

    on_castors Member

    Oddly enough, on E flat, for me it is not the playing part of lifting I find the greatest problem, as the chair itself is a useful "brace" for leaning into as you lift, but the putting it into cases, getting on and off stage, into the car etc!
    As you say, BBflat is always where Bass players are in greatest demand, but take advice from me that I haven't always taken notice of myself - stick with what you can manage, or want. NOT with what is most in need, as it is NOT appreciated in the long term, it is in fact taken for granted that those players who are most flexible and mobile on instruments will get a significant amount of contempt, and the expectation is made that you will play where put, and everyone is so put out when you come to turn them down! Sympathy is a very thin veneer and wears thinnner with time.

    I have often been able to bring along my own "assistant," but can't rely on it every time for every job, however on one occasion, other people handling a pristine instrument ended in it being wrecked :-(

    I did look at sitting braces myself at one time, thinking it might also be an answer to carrying it, whilst still being able to walk with two crutches, as I prefer to do, however it never seemed to be quite right, puts the weight out in front, rather than helping to centre it. I tend to have to lug it one handed, and walk with a stick or just one crutch instead, besides as now I am playing only more casually, I am using a battered old Imperial, & damage is less of a worry, although they are HEAVIER than newer instruments!

    What I have found as a great benefit is a couple of gadgets in the car - 1. a firm foam wedge to improve seating position, (it throws you forward) especially when you don't know what sort of old plastic chair that might be the only other option, and 2. a chunky folding chair, when the other choice is a lot worse - a tatty old wooden folding chair that was probably new on the promenade at Blackpool before the 1st World War! At my size and with a hefty lump of brass sitting on my knee, for one, the possibility of collapse is TOO real, and I also aim for as much comfort as I can get, as I am in pain all the time anyway. I have found a piece of non-slip rubberised material on my leg/chair, (used like you would use a towel) is also useful to stop inadvertent slipping, especially when you only have one hand on the instrument; and would suggest that might be useful even with a BBflat, as anything to help stabilise the top-heavy kit is going to be of benefit.
  13. grandad

    grandad Member

    Play tenor horn! :wink::wink:


    The better half plays tenor horn and really objects then I play it. So there is not chance of that happenning.

    Just back from a rehearsal playing tenor trombone. Man it was bad: my lip went after about 15 mins: quite depressing as I originally learned tenor trombone and played it for about 12 years before deciding it would be a good idea to take up the bass. :oops:
  15. on_castors

    on_castors Member

    I went further up than that - over a 4 year stint, ending up on Rep, then finally back downwards to Baritone! Apart from the onset of Carpel Tunnel Syndrome in my left wrist, seemingly brought on by holding/triggering a Cornet (that's all you do on 2nd & 3rd, play lower E & D flats which need a shed-load of trigger!), it was great to carry about, in a shoulder held gig bag, but surprisingly not so good to my back when playing - stick a mute in a cornet, holding it one-handed while jiggling about changing pages, and it is surprisingly heavy and forward pulling, and not as easy on a damaged back as you would think! A problem I never found when playing Baritone!

    Logistics apart, It just doesn't hit the spot, if nothing else, the satisfaction is not there!: 3rd & 2nd Cornet Parts are generally soul-destroyingly dementing (that does not mean necessarily easy!) - Rep parts were not, but that was all about daily "gymnastics" to keep my lip exercised enough to play through a whole concert - the stamina thing never came easy, and Baritone..... well, no wonder the Baritone is seen as the Viola of the Brass Band! Just think of it like playing through an extra thick stuffy 15Tog Duvet while a fog horn (Bass Trom) blasts away behind you so you can't hear a note you blow anyway :-(

  16. Playabit

    Playabit Member

    I played Eb, loved it too, went to BB played that for a while no problem. Took a break from banding came back and I could not settle on either Eb or BB, back trouble. So i am now on Solo Baritone and enjoying the challenge, would still love to play Eb but i have to accept i cant, at least i am still banding...:clap:
  17. on_castors

    on_castors Member

    With having Carpel Tunnel Syndrome, the great advantage of Baritone for me was the ability to "perch" it on my left hand using the stays and braces on the inside of the wraps of the instrument (I am a BIG bloke, so it looks about the size of a small kazoo next to me!), and not have to grip it, unlike a Cornet, or hunch around it like a small person does.

    Playing Bass that it isn't a problem, as I can play the 4th valve with whatever finger on my left hand is working best on the day, and the movement alone (without the need to grip hard) doesn't seem to set the pain off, although I can't actually feel much feedback from the valve itself through the numb digit!

    Just been thinking, what we REALLY need is on of those Steadicam gadgets they use in film & tv, adapted to hold the intrument out, and convey the weight straight down through the body!

  18. yoooff

    yoooff Member

    Give it up and play a proper instrument - like Euphonium!!!
  19. on_castors

    on_castors Member

    So, just to be sure I got it right - the idea is: Give up playing the heaviest most awkward instruments in a band, so you can play the NEXT heaviest instrument, the one that needs lots of holding, and the one that you can't rest on the chair/leg to reduce the weight?

    I must admit, I hadn't thought of that one before.
  20. steve butler

    steve butler Active Member

    Yes at least with an EEb bass you can put it on castors.

    Euphonium! proper instrument? blah blah blah.... poor mans tuba
    Hang on a minute.. I'm a poor man!
    Not that poor :wink:

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