Can't see the fretboard when standing? (plz halp)

Hey gang!

I pride myself on having helpful answers to just about any beginner bass question, but there’s one issue that honestly still stumps me…

Time and again, I hear about this issue from B2B students, and while I’ve given lots of advice, I’m not sure I’ve gotten to the root of it.

The issue?

“I tried playing standing up, and now I can’t see the fretboard like I can when I’m sitting.”

Try as I might, I’ve never been able to replicate this issue myself - it just seems so easy to just look down and see all the notes.

So please help me teach better! Did you have this issue when standing and playing? What solved it for you? Anything you tried that DIDN’T work, including something I may have suggested to you?

Hmm, guess this has to do with angle. When you are sitting it is possible to get a bad angle on the neck that makes you see the fretboard. I am guessing now, but can that be it?


Same. It’s not at all a problem for me.




Absolutely. I can see the fretboard when i sit, but not when I stand. I think I hunch over a bit when sitting, and angle the bass a bit different. But it’s not a problem as I don’t need to see it.

I’ve shortened the strap to ease my arm stress, and I don’t see it anymore.


I can see this as a bit of a problem in the beginning, as I myself, am guilty of sitting and focusing a lot on my fretting technique, learning and memorizing the notes on the fret board and trying to finger as close to the frets as possible to get that clean crisp sound. You know walking and chewing bubble gum at the same time. That was me. I guess the transition between the sitting and standing would probably take a bit of time and practice to gain the confidence. Baby steps got me to where I am now comfortable standing and playing.


I’d guess something similar. As a beginner, you can be more inclined to look at the fretboard itself. You want to see the notes you are going to play, right? It’s really tempting when sitting to sorta tilt the fretboard back so you can see it, and then seeing it becomes a bit of a crutch that you no longer have when standing.

When standing, all I see are the side dots and I have to rely on proprioception to play on the appropriate string. Here are some things to consider, some of which might actually be useful.

  1. Incorporate stand-up while practicing early on.
  2. Make sure that the bass is in a position when standing that when you sit, it’s in exactly the same position - so all you should see are the side dots.
  3. If sitting, sit tall and maintain posture as though you were standing. If you sit in a chair that’s lower to the ground, you have a tendency to sink in to it. With knees above the hips, it’s even more tempting to tilt that fretboard back.
  4. Buy a bass that only has side dots and no markers on the fretboard. :wink: Seriously, I was a little worried about this at first and then realized it was a non-issue, and actually a good thing as I wouldn’t be tempted to look.
  5. Play some kind of exercise to drill in the location of the strings under the fingers. As tedious as playing four contiguous frets across all four strings can be, that kind of repetition can help drill in the proprioception required to just instinctively know where the strings are, and a glance at the side dot lets you know where you are.
  6. Do drills where you close your eyes, or even play in the dark so you can’t cheat. Dial the difficulty back, but emphasize finding the right strings without looking.

I know I used to look at the fretboard. I’ve done all of the above, and somewhere along the way I stopped. Can’t pinpoint one single thing that was the most helpful, though.


I can’t see all of my fretboard when I stand either. Frets 1-4 on my D & G strings are pretty obscured when I’m standing, but it’s not really a problem because the fret markers are all I need to see to be able to play.

When I’m seated I tend to stick my neck out just a bit and that allows me to look down the entire fretboard.

I notice while I’m standing with my bass I lean back ever so slightly and that forces my hips out and against the body of the bass and it slightly cants the neck for better visibility.


One of my most often-repeated corrections for my beginner students is - bring your eyes to the fretboard, not your fretboard to your eyes.
Lots of them will slouch a bit, and angle the bass so that they can slouch and have the fretboard angled up at their eyes.
Then it’s a correction to sit up, and if you need to see them frets, move your eyes down - maybe head forward if you really need to peer over.

I have two terrible cases of this happening right now in lessons.


I think it’s only a problem because of what people get used to. If you get used to playing seated, you can become accustomed to looking at the front of the fretboard but when you’re standing, you can’t see it easily. People just have to get used to looking at the side markers.

It’s the usual “I don’t want to do it because it’s awkward” thing. :slight_smile:

I know this because I do it :laughing: because the bass just naturally rests at a bit of an angle when you’re seated and you hold it without a strap. One solution is to make sure you play with a strap when you’re seated so you can have the bass in the same position whether you’re seated or standing. I used to play with a strap, now i can’t be bothered most of the time.


Totally happened to me. I would practice a song sitting down and then stand up to play it and get lost.

I don’t practice sitting down anymore.


With all due respect, @JoshFossgreen, you’ve never had this issue because you were probably born with the fretboard memorized. I think your first words were probably spoken in music notation. :smiley:

I think there are two issues here: one is knowing the string spacing (so that you can know how far you have to move your finger from fretting a note on the E string to fretting a note on the A, D, or G strings), and how far you have to move to go from, for instance, the third fret (the first fretboard dot) to, say, the fifth fret (the second fretboard dot).

For the first issue, I think that the only cure is practice. Do string skipping exercises sitting down so you can feel how far you have to go, then do then standing up (so that you can’t see the fretboard and have to go by feel).

For the second issue, again, practice. However, a bass with fretboard dots on the edge of the neck as well as on the fretboard will GREATLY help here. Being able to look at the edge of the neck and know where the 3rd, 5th, 7th, 9th, and 12th frets are at is a boon that can almost cure the “I can’t see the fretboard” thing.

Ultimately, this is a “time and practice” issue. Also… it probably helps to pick one bass and stick with it. Don’t switch back and forth from bass to bass while you’re trying to get past the “I can’t see the freboard” thing, as differences in neck sizes and string spacings will make it harder.

YMMV, IANAL, IMHO, and all those other abbreviations.


Again, I don’t think there is a “one size fits all” - everyone is different and has different struggles.

When you are new to a stringed/fretted instrument, you need ALL the visual clues you can just get (and align them with the impressions from your hands and fingers, as well as your ears). That can be a long process for some.

I play mostly sitting and one reason is that you have more control over how much (or how little) you can tilt the fretboard towards you in order to see better. Where the bass rests on your thighs is the pivot point and you can easily adjust the angle of the fretboard around that pivot.

Not so when you are standing. Which is why this is often “scarier” for many beginners (myself included) as you have less chance to see the fretboard.

Let people get familiar with the fretboard while in a position that allows them to see what they are doing (and that might be a sitting position) and then encourage them to stand every now and then and see how the grown muscle memory and knowledge translates to this new position. Visual feedback is crucial during that stage of development as a bass player.

Obviously, it also depends on what you are playing. Straightahead (simple) rock tunes lend themselves better to learning to play in a new position, while intricate melodic, soloistic tunes are likely to induce a bit more stress :wink:

Also, while this is “work in progress”, it is probably advisable to stick to ONE bass (i.e., one scale length, fixed number of frets, and probably better with only four strings). Going often from a 33-34’’ 24 fret 4-string to a 35’’ 21 fret 5 string is likely not going to help when getting to grips with playing without looking (too much). And, of course, all this is vastly aggravated by trying to play a fretless :joy:

Finally, sporting at least a tiny bit of a belly does help in providing a “natural” tilt to the bass body (and hence the fretboard) when standing :stuck_out_tongue_closed_eyes:


Hehe, are you saying that all of us who don’t see the problem have a bass belly? So the solution then should be to build the right body for playing bass. Guess Josh could then be sponsored by breweries. :rofl: :rofl:


I tried hard not to make that generalization… :wink: All I’m saying is that a bit of a “protrusion” helps in getting a better angle!


My strap is longer and recommended and my bass is a little more rock and roll than same position sitting and standing, but I can tilt the fret board towards me by pushing my right leg forward when I’m standing. There’s definitely a little bit of a different fretting angle learning curve though so this is trading one problem for another. I’m not sure which is easier to deal with but it felt better for me.


actually it depends how high you setup your strap :sweat_smile: a belly can be an obstacle if you play low


Ah, yes, @terb and @Billn - I totally forgot about those players who have their basses very low - my bad :sweat_smile:
Then any belly might indeed be an obstacle :wink:


Mine isn’t that low, but the right strap button is probably about belt height for me.


I noticed very quickly that I can’t really see the fretboard when standing. Yes if I really lean over and look but that’s really uncomfortable. I guess you can see a little more if you do that left foot forward stance that tips the base up a bit and that you sometimes see from guitar/bass players (right foot for the lefties). Usually when playing some agony riff!!!

However as my fingers get more used to the position of the strings it’s not as necessary and is becoming steadily less so. The side markers help a lot and I’m sure the problem will disappear eventually.