Help! I can't see the strings!

A couple people have mentioned it in the course and Josh has said to simply adjust strap to appropriate height. I typically play the course sitting down with legs at 90 degrees and with strap on. My right leg tends to kick the bottom of the bass out a bit making it easy to see the strings. When I stand, (strap keeps the bass at same height) there is nothing to kick the bottom of the bass out and I can no longer see the strings. If I crane my neck over it help a bit but is uncomfortable and awkward. Any thoughts?


@bobzak I’m glad you asked that, because it’s been a challenge for me as well. I play mostly standing up and have developed some upper back pain from craning my neck to look at the fretboard. Sometimes I wish I was pregnant so my stomach would push out the bass and give me a better view. I’m sure a nice round beer belly would work too. Seriously though, I’d like to see the answer to this question.
I know this doesn’t answer your question or help you in any way, but what I’ve been doing lately is training myself to know my way around the fretboard without looking at it. It’s not easy, and it’s going to take time, but I think I can do it. If I can type 60-70 WPM without looking at the keyboard, I should be able to develop this skill also.


Well, I can say from a bit of experience that the beer belly really doesn’t help :slight_smile: I’m going to try and put my right foot on a short stool. Raises the thigh and kicks the Bass out a bit.



well I don’t have a beer belly and I’m pretty sure I’m not pregnant :joy: but the real question I have is : why would you need to see the strings ? on every bass (I think ?) there are dots on the fretboard’s side, those things are here to show the frets when you’re standing


I think what he is saying (Correct me if I’m wrong) is that he’s trying to see which string he’s on and if his finger is in the right position etc. I was doing the same thing, which is why I stated previously that I’m working on gaining the confidence of knowing where my fingers are, on what fret, and which string, without having to gaze at the fretboard. I think the more one plays the instrument and gains knowledge and confidence, the more one becomes liberated from having to visually find their way around the fretboard.
Just the humble opinion of a total bass newby.


yeah @PamPurrs you must be right. as I have some habbit of stringed instruments I must probably underestimate the challenge of knowing on which string your fingers are. sorry.


Pampurrs has it right. I’m sure as I gain experience this won’t be as much an issue.


I think I misunderstood, I was also thinking about seeing the fret markers on the fretboard itself. well yeah, sorry again, my answer was pretty irrelevant.


No thoughts on how to tilt the body so you can see the strings because…

It does the tick for me :wink:

However, I found that I was getting a sore neck & shoulder from constantly looking down at the neck. I started making a very conscious effort to ‘feel’ where I was on the neck - easier than it sounds when you’re still on notes close together or patterns such as scales. Now I have to make an effort to keep the bass flat to my body to stop tempting myself to look. I find the dots on the top edge of the neck help get the approximate position of a few notes and feel the rest out. You can look to begin with on a new line, but I’d say you want to be breaking that habit as early as possible. Interestingly, it’s not something that I’ve heard any teacher talk about.

As with all things to do with learning an instrument (or anything new, really) it takes a little time to get through these little bumps in the road.


@bobzak and everyone else, honestly this is one of the trickiest postural things to help with without being actually in the room with a student. If this helps at all:

  • First of all, I don’t look at the neck super often, like @PamPurrs is working on
  • BUT, when I do need to see all the strings for more “ambitious” playing (i.e. the kind hardly anyone ever needs to do on a gig), I do turn my head to the left and then tilt it down approx 1-2 inches. That seems to be plenty of movement for me, and my bass is sitting pretty flat (front plane of body perpendicular to the floor), as I do not drink beer. :beers:

Does that feel difficult, or like a very slight forward tilt isn’t making your neck visible?

@Gio, any thoughts on this issue? Have you had students struggle with it, and what did they usually need to tweak to fix it?


No new help here.
The only thing I would add to this is what I call “Blast Shield Training” with my students.
Recall, if you will, Star Wars Episode IV. On board the Millenium Falcon. Luke is beginning his training with Obi Wan. Han scoffs.
HAN: Hokey religions and ancient weapons are no match for a good blaster at your side, kid.

LUKE: You don’t believe in the Force, do you?

HAN: Kid, I’ve flown from one side of this galaxy to the other. I’ve seen a lot of strange stuff, but I’ve never seen anything to make me believe there’s one all-powerful force controlling everything. There’s no mystical energy field that controls my destiny.

(Ben smiles quietly.)

HAN: It’s all a lot of simple tricks and nonsense.

BEN: I suggest you try it again, Luke.

(Ben places a large helmet on Luke’s head which covers his eyes.)

BEN: This time, let go your conscious self and act on instinct.

LUKE: (laughing) With the blast shield down, I can’t even see. How am I supposed to fight?

BEN: Your eyes can deceive you. Don’t trust them.

Ok. So you had to read through some Star Wars to get there, but it needs the context!!

I make all my students go through their warmups and scale practice with Blast Shield training once they’re comfy with their eyes. It helps to reinforce one of my most passionate and important messages: play with your ears, not your eyes.

So… my contribution here (in addition to the Star Wars reference… (you’re welcome)) is to practice everything without looking, and have playing eyes-free be a goal.


Thank you Gio, that was quite enlightening. This is “sort of” what I’ve been trying to do lately. As part of my daily warm up routine, I play (attempt) scales all over the fret board without looking. I start by finding the Cs and Fs in various places and just go from there. It takes a lot of practice and I’m sure it will be a long time before I perfect it.
I have this voice in my head saying, *The Force will be with you. Always."
And then, just when I think it’s not working, I hear another, deeper voice saying, "I find your lack of faith disturbing.”


Oh man! There is so much GOLD in this thread. What a perfect example of why I look forward to checking in on the BassBuzz forums… Every… Single… Day.

Thank you all. This was the highlight of my day. :+1:


That sounds much cooler than what I said. Even cooler if you really commit, like this…

I’m glad to read the comments from Jedi Masters and Council Members @JoshFossgreen and @Gio, mainly because I thought I might’ve been suggesting something more advanced than the course covers. I just know that for physical comfort reasons at this stage I had to change. Coincidentally, today I have a tension headache (have done since late last night) so if I hadn’t got to the point that I could play without looking at the neck 50% of the time I doubt I’d have been playing at all today.


Thanks everyone for you comments and suggestions. I’m very new at this and just about half way thru the B2B course. Time to put that darned blast shield on me thinks.


@Gio - Some of the best advice I’ve heard, and a great example given to support that advise! I never thought about it like that before, but now that I think about it, my wife has taken many pic’s of me playing my guitars and bass’s, and in most all of them my eyes are always closed…

I’ve been told several times by people that I need to open my eyes and connect to the audience, but when I do, I tend to screw up - for me it’s like loosing my focus (groove). Not sure if anyone else has experienced this same thing, but the only way I’ve found that I can play in any sort of public atmosphere is to wear my 'Maui Jim’s" so that no one can see that my eyes are closed… :sunglasses:

Damn, maybe I got a little off subject here - sorry…


Super. Amazing. That’s not my commitment level… but my heart supports it 100%

@Lanny - I worked for a long time with a classically trained, graduate degree from the conservatory super pro violin player. Every gig he preferred to wear a low slung ball cap and sunglasses for exactly that reason. Whatever works!

I will say this though - the next level of the blast shield training is the Jedi Mind-Meld with your fellow musicians… and this is much more easy to accomplish with awkward eye contact. It can be hilarious how difficult it is to make eye contact with your fellow musicians whilst playing. I am trying to make it happen more, and make it more comfortable. It’s like all of sudden you’re naked, and your guitar buddy across the stage is too, and you’re both like “um, why are you looking at me? I’m naked.”
We, as musicians, have to get past the awkward eye contact phase and get into the “I can see your brain and follow your vibes” stage of the live playing. I think eye contact is a key indgredient to that.

And… all of that is to say - you can’t make eye contact with your band mates if you’re staring at the fret board or in Bass-Player-Land™ * with your eyes closed.

  • Bass-Player-Land is a beautiful place where the crowd is totally ignoring the lead singer and soloist and only vibing on the killer groove of the bass player. It’s the place where the drummer is playing tastefully and in the pocket, and the singer knows all their entrances - a place where guitar players are playing at the appropriate volume and all of the gear works all of the time, and bass players are revered as the most integral and important member of any ensemble. I understand why we all want to close our eyes and be there… I get it. Really, I do. (check out that shaggy dude on the right…)


I’ll have a pint of whatever @Gio is drinking. :rofl: Some of the most entertaining reading I’ve done on the internet this week. Thanks.


I want to visit Bass-Player-Land™!
I would litteraly make that next year’s vacation spot. Where do I sign up?


@Gio - Hmmmm. At 67 years old I think I’ll just stick to wearing my “Maui Jim’s”,… and… my clothes…:crazy_face: Besides, not sure I wanna have mental “in the buff” visions any of the people I jam with who are also retired Viet-Nam veterans… Hell, I already suffer from PTSD - why make it worse??..:laughing: