Volume 14, January 2022
Musculoskeletal symptoms of double bassists: a literature synthesis

by Frances Levenderis and Bridget Rennie-Salonen

1. Introduction

The challenging physicality of double bass playing is summed up by Jeff Bradetich who describes how 'playing the double bass is an athletic event, perhaps the most gymnastic of all musical instruments' (Bradetich, 2009, p. 1). Although this sentiment is shared by many double bass players and authors, there are limited accessible resources on the musculoskeletal aspects of double bass playing. During a research study on effective practising techniques for double bassists, the first author found that the performance-related health of double bassists was an understudied topic (Levenderis, 2018). Subsequently, a literature review was conducted to map the research on MSS in lower strings (both cello and double bass). The findings revealed very few studies focusing on the MSS of double bassists specifically (Levenderis, 2020).

This article will summarise and synthesise the results of the literature reviews conducted for these two research projects. The literature which was reviewed comprised both double bass pedagogical material and peer-reviewed scholarly research. This paper will include content from double bass-specific research and method books that address double bassists' performance health; information on the representation of the double bass in musicians' health literature and the prevalence of double bassists' MSS; and discussion on the extent to which double bass players' specific musculoskeletal requirements have been addressed. The article aims to consolidate the available research data to enable the development of health promotion and injury prevention strategies for double bassists, and to stimulate further instrument-specific research on the double bass.