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Anchoring your thumb

Discussion in 'Technique [BG]' started by Vox Populi, Jan 20, 2005.

  1. Vox Populi

    Vox Populi Reggae Loving Honkey

    Jan 27, 2004
    Poulsbo, WA
    How important is it to anchor your thumb on a pickup or something while you're playing fingerstyle? I sometimes have a little trouble when doing this, but the instructional book I have says thet your thumb should be firmly anchored on the pickup.
  2. Personally I only do it when playing on the low E string on a 4 string, or a the low b on a 5/6 string bass, otherwise i'm resting my thumb against one of strings about the string i'm playing. One other tip, and I don't know if this will cause you any problems, but it works for me, I usually just actually put a little pressure against the body using my thumb as an anchor instead of putting my thumb on a pickup, that way i'm not stuck on a particular pickup, and I can actually move nearer the bridge if I want a little more treble on the fly or nearer the neck for a little more meat. Just my $0.02
  3. tkarter


    Jan 1, 2003
    How important? Not at all. If you do OK. If you don't OK. It is done both ways with a couple more or so added by all kinds of us

    My take and opinion is, you are after your sound and what you want as a bass player.

    What you are looking for is the sound in your head,and want from your bass . There are many roads to travel before you get there. It is very probable it will change many times as you achieve your style and sound. I assure you it will.

    Your techique will change many times as you gain experience. Asking here is fine, but it will never be the true you. None of us can answer for anyone's opinion other than our own. This is only what I am offering you at this time.

    If a question like that could be asked and answered correctly. The forum would only have 3 topics. IMHO

    If you think you have the best sounding bass, then do nothing more than change amps, All will change and you may or may not have or lose your sound. If all is good there then change cabs. If one thing worked for all of us Leo Fender would have never built the Jazz bass. The P would be the only bass. However there is only one orignal p bass. That is the very first one Leo made.
    Every singel one made after it even if by Leo is but a copy. There can be only one original.


    Understand you are the player. That and music should be played. Play music no matter what bass you have or amp. Be true to your ear and you might just be the first real prodigy among us here.


  4. troll


    Aug 31, 2000
    Chicago area
    I have odd habits with this, and it changes with most every bass or song I'm playing it seems. Depending on which string, which position, etc.

    Sometimes its on the neck pickup (mostly), sometimes on the the B or E string if I'm playing higher strings. And I used to have a weird habit on my original 4 string (p body shape) of wrapping my thumb around the top of the body when on E and A. I catch myself doing it somtimes when I'm just noodling on the lower string of any of my basses though.

    Whatever works for ya though...

  5. Vox Populi

    Vox Populi Reggae Loving Honkey

    Jan 27, 2004
    Poulsbo, WA
    Yeah, I find it easy to play the E string with my thumb anchored, but not any of the others really. I just wanted to make sure this wasn't some kind of major technique error.

    And I also wrap my thumb around on my fretting hand sometimes. Usually if I'm slapping on the E and popping on one of the high strings.
  6. mbeall


    Jun 25, 2003
  7. dlloyd

    dlloyd zzzzzzzzzzzzzzz

    Apr 21, 2004
    Yep. This is the approach I use.
  8. Joe P

    Joe P

    Jul 15, 2004
    Milwaukee, WI
    NO! I think it's downright wrong to say that you should ALWAYS anchor your thumb.

    For me, big improvements started happening when I STOPPED doing that. Now for most things I 'thumb-trail' by keeping my thumb up on top of the strings, muting all the strings that are above the one I'm plucking. This makes for cleeeean playing, PLUS, once I started doing that, my three-fingered triplets started really coming-around. I don't always thumb-mute - for some parts it does work better to anchor the thumb.

    One big disadvatage of anchoring on the pickup is that it prevents you from getting all the variation in tone that's available by playing at different points along the string.

    Many players anchor their thumb, but I'd suggest that you just try thumb-trailing for a while (it takes a little while to get used to, so give it a fair chance!). It's making a big difference in my playing!

  9. I find anchoring my hand with my thumb is very helpful...But where I put my thumb depends on what kind of sound I want...I play mailny jazz,so I play close to the bridge for a clean sound,at the top of the neck for a big warm sound(mainly blues),and in between for rock.
    I find it easier if my hand is anchored because I can play faster,and control my attack better...but that is just me...
  10. buddahbass


    Dec 22, 2004
    Pittsburgh, PA
    this may seem a bit odd, but i anchor my hand using my ring finger. that way i still have my thumb to mute the other strings. it works for me, do whatever works for you!
  11. I learned it this way too and I am so glad I did.
  12. Cerb


    Sep 27, 2004
    When I first began playing I always anchored my thumb near the bridge pickup. Now I anchor it over the fingerboard at about the 21 fret (I have a 24 fret board) when playing the low E, and I anchor it on the strings at about the same spot when playing on the higher strings.

    Edit: I just picked up my bass and realized that I don't anchor it on the fb itself, but above it on the body. I'm still playing pretty much over the 21 fret, though.
  13. Joe P

    Joe P

    Jul 15, 2004
    Milwaukee, WI
    Yup - it's the way to go, and that article very well explains why .

  14. Iwnt2beMike


    Jan 23, 2005
    I also move my thumb around, except I also pluck with it, so at any given time I'm covering 2-3 string with my thumb and index/middle finger. Working on adding my ring finger but that one's rough to get working right.

    I believe Gary Willis plays like this, but he does it quite a bit better =)
  15. I don't have a thumb :(

    I'm just kidding, but I always anchor it. I'll have to check out this "thumb-trailing" stuff, especially since I just ordered my new 6 :)
  16. CJK84


    Jan 22, 2004
    Maria Stein, OH
    A word of caution for those trying to incorporate the moveable-anchor approach for the first time.

    At one time I anchored my thumb on the pickup exlusively.

    Then, because of my discovery of Adam Nitti's informative site, I began employing the moveable-anchor method.

    But I had a problem. Because I was plucking too hard, I applied too much pressure to the string that was anchoring my thumb (this hadn't been a problem on the immoveable pup) and I consequently struggled to make progress.

    My plucking hand felt like it wasn't stationary enough.

    I quickly figured out that my overexertion was the problem and I began to play with a lighter touch.

    Anyway, I have been able to successfully incorporate the moveable-anchor approach and it's been a big help in reducing extraneous noise.
  17. mwm70


    Oct 27, 2004

    Thanks for the link. I actually thought that I had developed a bad habit by using this method. Feels good to know that the style I developed inadvertently is correct.
  18. embellisher

    embellisher Holy Ghost filled Bass Player Supporting Member

    I also use floating thumb. My muting skills have improved tremendously since I started using this technique. And now that I have broken free of the pickup, I can also move my hand around to vary the timbre of the strings, as others have said.
  19. I rest my wrist on the on the body, usually. I only rest my thumb on a pickup if i'm after extra speed.
  20. fr0me0


    Dec 7, 2004
    Winnipeg Canada
    movable anchor owns, thanks for posting that. when io was first starting off i did that but problem was i wasn't getting the anchor outof the way fast enough when i was going up to the low strings (you know what i mean :p) anyways So i switched to anchoring on the pickup but i couldn't crank out the notes as fast on the high strings that way. So I was busting my ass trying to go faster but now I know why and just gotta work on getting the anchor moving :D