Observations on Endpin Height

I want to share some very recent experiences I’ve had with experimenting with a significant change in my endpin height. I”m going to keep experimenting along these lines, and I wanted to keep my students in the loop.

As background, I’ve stayed with a fairly high endpin for a long time now, and really evolved my technique out of it. There are many benefits to the high endpin. These include (1) access to the upper register for the left hand, (2) access to the region near the bridge for the bow arm, (3) avoidance of hunching over to go to the instrument, enabling the player to bring the instrument to herself.

I had a somewhat earth shattering experience recently when I tried, for whatever reason, playing much lower. What I feel, without question, is that I have way more power in the right hand this way. I basically feel so powerful now, playing really effortlessly with the right hand, both very fast passage work where I don’t even need the third finger, and especially in my groove playing. But, as you’d imagine, playing with the bow is more like a weekend holiday and I feel a little limited there, though I can get over because of all my experience. . So, the experiment will be how to get that to feel comfortable in this new environment with all my tricks. By the way, I’m left handed so my power side has always been my left side, but playing various instruments, all right handed tends to make me pretty equal. I play drums right handed for example.

I strongly advise everyone to experiment with two to three different modes of operation- (1) Sitting, especially for arco, so you learn to feel the way the left and right hands interact with the bass without concern for its balance. (2.) Standing with a high endpin, where I think it will be easier to balance the instrument so that it falls forward in the lower register, freeing the left thumb. (3) Standing with a low endpin, which will feel the most natural for connecting the whole arm to pulling the string.

That said, there’s no doubt that one can play powerfully with either the high endpin or sitting, but the natural way to feel the righthand for pizzicato is with the low endpin. It may be, and this is for long discussion, that high endpin is just more natural for arco, and low for jazz pizz, but everything with an instrument of this size has to involve compromise.

That’s it for now, but let me know your thought, questions and comments. I must say, I felt a bit like King Kong picking up buses and trains last night. Or, in another word, I felt more like a “real jazz bass player,” haha! Wishing you all great luck and continued discovery!

Before and after. 1. with John Moulder 2. with Jim Pryor, piano, Frank Kurtz, drums