Bass players wearing gloves was never a thing until recently — about a decade ago. If you are someone who watches bass guitar videos, you’ve probably noticed the trend of bass players wearing gloves to play. But why do bass players wear gloves? After a few hours of research, I found seven reasons why. And I’m happy to share them with you.
Here are the reasons why bass players wear gloves
- To protect fingers from blisters
- To keep fingers from sweating
- To keep bass strings from wearing out fast
- To dampen the bass strings
- To keep hands warm in the cold
- For a smoother play
- For medical reasons
If you thought there is only one reason why then you thought wrong. One bass player’s reason may be different from the other. However, at the end of the day, as long as they enjoy playing bass with gloves on, that’s all that matters.
Let’s take a closer look at these reasons. Perhaps you’ll find a reason you can relate to and possibly get you wearing gloves as you play.
1. To protect fingers from blisters
Every bass or guitar player out there has experienced finger blisters. It’s completely normal to have blisters on your fingertips, especially when you are a beginner bass player. It can be quite painful at first, and believe it or not, finger blisters have discouraged many newbies from learning the bass.
For most people, these blisters will eventually heal after a few days or in a week. After the blisters heal, you’ll have much tougher skin develop on your fingertips. This tougher skin is known as calluses. After calluses develop, you’ll be able to play bass without any pains.
This is not the case for everyone. Some people continue to have finger blisters even after their previous blisters heal. There will be no calluses after the blisters heal. For these people, wearing gloves is the only way to prevent them from having blisters in the future.
So if you are someone who constantly develops fingertip blisters when you play bass, you should definitely consider wearing gloves as you play.
2. To keep fingers from sweating
Another reason why some bass players wear gloves when playing is to keep their hands from sweating.
It’s no news that some people naturally have sweaty hands. And for those without sweaty hands, after playing for long hours, especially on a live gig, their hands begin to sweat. And honestly, it can be quite uncomfortable playing the bass with sweaty hands. Your play will instantly be sloppy unless you’ve spent some time practicing with sweaty fingers and hands.
One way bass players deal with this is to use a sweat rag, usually hanged at belt level. And then they wipe the sweat off their hands’ in-between songs during a live performance. Some people also use talcum powder, which helps absorb the sweat off their hands.
And then others choose to wear gloves. Not that the gloves will prevent your hands from sweating. But they will absorb all of the sweat from your hands as you play. This helps you have a better grip on your bass guitar’s fretboard and keeps your fingers dry to help you play more easily.
3. To keep bass strings from wearing out
This ties into the previous reason about sweaty hands. In essence, not many bass players wear gloves for this reason. But to the renowned Cameroonian bass player, Etienne Mbappé, he wears gloves to prevent his bass strings from wearing out.
In 2010, No Treble, an online magazine for bass players, interviewed the jazz-fusion artist and phenomenal bass player, Etienne Mbappé. And during the interview, a question of why he wears gloves was asked. And here was his exact answer:
I wear black silk gloves because they keep my strings bright, and I really like the bigger and smoother sound they provide.Source
Initially, I was a bit confused. That’s because it wasn’t clear to me how a black silk glove will keep his bass strings bright. That was until I found another interview of Etienne Mbappe. This time, he was interviewed by Alan Bryson, a musician, and journalist for All About Jazz.
Once again, the question of why Etienne wears gloves to play bass popped up. And this time, here is what he said:
“…I prefer playing with gloves and I also notice it keeps my strings bright. If I’m the only one playing my bass, then I only change my strings every four months or so, because they are always bright and sound lively. Without gloves you get sweat on your strings and that makes them sound dull…“Source
And voila! Just the answer I was looking for. Apparently, wearing gloves will save you the stress of having to change your bass strings often.
Besides Etienne Mbappe, I didn’t find any other bass player who wears gloves for this reason. So I guess you’ll have to try it out to see for yourself to see if sweat is wearing out your bass strings faster.
4. To dampen the bass strings
Bass muting techniques have been around for ages. There are several ways to mute bass strings, and every technique gives you a unique bass tone.
The standard way for dampening bass strings is by using your palms, otherwise known as palm mute. This, in my opinion, is the best way to mute your bass strings because you’re in control of how you want it to sound. However, there are situations where you simply can’t use your palm to dampen your bass strings. For instance, when you are using the bass tapping technique.
Some bass players put a thin foam underneath the strings. This technique will completely dampen the bass strings because it will instantly stop the strings from vibrating right after you pluck them. Another excellent way to dampen your bass strings is by using Fretwraps. You can get varying results with Fretwraps, depending on how you place them on your bass guitar fret.
And then there are gloves. Bass players who want to mute their bass with the gloves will usually wear the gloves not too tight. The gloves must be loose on the fingertips to reduce the bass string’s vibration.
Another way to use gloves to dampen your bass strings is to wear oversized gloves. The extra cloth on the gloves will mute your bass strings with little to no effort on your end. So if you are looking for that muffled, dull-sounding staccato tone from your bass, wearing gloves is an excellent way to achieve that.
5. To keep hands warm in the cold
The primary reason why most people wear gloves is to keep their hands warm. Some bass players wear gloves for the same reason.
It can be quite difficult playing bass in cold temperatures. The dexterity of your fingers reduces when they are cold. You are not able to move your fingers as fast you normally could when they are frozen. That’s because blood circulation in your fingers reduces when they are cold.
For this reason, some bass players wear gloves to keep their hands warm, so they can play comfortably. So here is what I’d recommend.
If you live in one of the coldest states, like Minnesota, Alaska, North Dakota, and the like, and play live a lot, you should consider practicing your bass with gloves. You should definitely get used to playing with gloves because they will come in handy when the temperature is extremely cold and you still have to perform.
6. For a smoother play
Believe it or not, some bass players wear gloves because it actually makes it easier for them to play. Let me explain.
When you play bass for long hours, you begin to feel pains on your fingertips. It doesn’t matter if you have calluses on your fingertips or not; you’ll experience some kind of pain. If you haven’t experienced it, then you probably haven’t played bass continuously for hours.
I have a couple of bass player friends who play in a cover band. On a typical nighttime gig at a bar, they can play non-stop for six hours or more. And when you play for that long, you’ll definitely feel some pains on your fingertips. The pain is more profound if you do lots of slides and pop techniques while playing.
To make the bass strings much easier on their fingers, they wear gloves. It reduces the friction between their fingers and the strings, giving you pain-free bass playing. And it actually makes bass playing easier.
By wearing silk gloves, sliding on the fret is much smoother, and pops are easier to play as well.
7. For medical reasons
Some bass players wear gloves for their underlying medical conditions. This is not very common, but they do exist. Let me talk about three medical conditions that require you to wear gloves when playing the bass guitar.
If you are a bass player and you’re reading this, I’m sure you know of Scott Devine. For those who don’t know who he is, Scott is one of the biggest bass guitar tutors online. His YouTube channel, Scott Bass Lessons, has over 800,000 subscribers, with many bass tutorials made for the beginner, intermediate, and even advanced bass players. He also has an online bass lesson course with over 10,000 bass players enrolled. In essence, he is an authority when it comes to bass guitar.
In almost all of Scott’s videos, he’s wearing gloves anytime he’s playing bass. After ignoring comments about his gloves for years, he finally decided to tell his fans the reason why he gloves when playing.
According to Scott, he has a neurological movement disorder known as Focal Dystonia. This disorder causes his fingers to move involuntarily. However, when something touches the surface of his hands, it stops the movement of the fingers. So essentially, what the glove does is to trick the brain that something is actually touching his hands, and then the finger movements will stop immediately.
Here is the video of Scott explaining Focal Dystonia and why he wears gloves
Bass players who have nickel allergies have no option than to wear gloves to play. For those who haven’t heard of nickel allergy, it’s an allergic reaction that happens when you get into contact with any material containing nickel. If you are allergic to nickel, you’ll experience an itchy rash anytime you touch nickel-containing materials.
Most bass strings are made of nickel. Bass strings are usually made of a coil nickel or stainless steel, with a steel core. So for bass players with nickel allergy to play bass without any allergic reaction, they need to wear gloves so that they don’t touch the strings with their bare hands.
Having eczema on your hands or fingers as a bassist can be a pain. You’ll constantly be scratching off an itch as you play. And it’s even more painful when your itchy fingers develop into a sore.
Wearing gloves helps reduce the itchiness and keeps your hands dry. The best type of gloves for eczema are cotton gloves. And if you’re looking for recommendations, you should definitely check out Cara Moisturizing Cotton Gloves (on Amazon).
Recommend Gloves for Bass Players
The type of gloves you go for as a bass player will really depend on your situation. So let me explain.
For bass players with nickel allergies, sweaty hands, or simply want to protect their fingers from blisters, thin gloves made of silk or nylon material will be best for you. They are lightweight on your fingers, and in no time, you’ll be very comfortable playing with them.
A glove I’ll recommend is the Musician’s Practice Glove (on Amazon) for guitar and bass players. This is a super-flexible glove and also very thin. It is made of a nylon material, which helps protect your hands while you play bass. In fact, these are the same gloves Scott Devine uses, so you know you’re in for a treat.
If you want to keep your hands warm in the cold, you’ll need something much thicker than that — preferably made of cotton. You can pick up these winter gloves on Amazon for about 15 bucks.
Something you should know is these gloves are thick to keep your hands warm. You’ll have to practice with them for a while to get used to it. Alternatively, you can cut off the fingertips on the gloves so you can play comfortably with your fingers.