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Anyone Use Their Thumb to Pluck

Discussion in 'Technique [BG]' started by Xandrell, Jun 18, 2017.

  1. Xandrell


    Aug 23, 2014
    After seeing Jeff Beck and other lead guitarists use their thumb without a pick, I don't feel like such an outcast. I actually prefer a pick on lead guitar but I can't seem to get my fingers to sound nearly as good as my thumb. I can actually play all of our songs this way except for a few which I use a pick. Queen's Stone Cold Crazy and The Other Side by Evanescence come to mind. I just hope I haven't dug myself into a hole because using my fingers just doesn't cut it in sound or smoothness. It's like when starting on drums, I was taught traditional grip and soon found it inferior, but after years of rudiments, I can still play some of them better with the traditional grip but playing songs on the drum set is better with match grip. The thinking was, I would learn songs with my thumb and then fingers. I guess my finger nails extend further towards the tips than most, I don't know but even cutting them short as possible still doesn't prevent the crappy sound. I do find myself playing too hard with my fingers. I make an effort to play softer with the meat of the fingers but no matter how I play, it doesn't compare to the smoothness and sound of the thumb.
    Last edited: Jun 18, 2017
    Badwater and Oddly like this.
  2. Killed_by_Death

    Killed_by_Death Snaggletooth

    Jan 2, 2015
    heart of darkness
    I have not, but I should start. I know a few bass players who do & when I see it I always think to myself that I should develop that, but then I just go back to using two fingers like always.
    RichardW and Josh Kneisel like this.
  3. Jeff Bonny

    Jeff Bonny

    Nov 20, 2000
    Vancouver, BC
    There's a back and forth between thumb and index finger Joey Spampinato does and gets a cool slightly muted sound. Not the way most bass players play but there's not a damned thing wrong with it if it sounds good
    TyBo and Pet Sounds like this.
  4. ak56

    ak56 Supporting Member

    Apr 2, 2015
    Carnation, Wa
    Thumb plucker here, and I've been doing it that way for many years.

    Keep telling myself I'm going to learn to finger pick one of these days.

    I know there are at least a few other thumb pluckers around here.
    Badwater and Pbassmanca like this.
  5. Rev J

    Rev J

    Jun 14, 2012
    Berkeley, Ca.
    Just as an effect. Sometimes with palm muting a'la Anthony Jackson.

    Rev J
  6. I came over from rhythm guitar and the pick came with me, however, I quickly lost the pick and now use my thumb for everything I do.

    I like the sound and feel the thumb gives me and I have no plans to do anything else. I do have a plectrum and thumb pick on the top of my amp, but, so far have not needed them.
  7. Hey it works for Sting! I personally do not but it took years to develop my finger style and I continue to work on it daily.

    The only drawback I can see is with quick 1/8 or 1/16 notes...

    Whatever works for you, but I feel like a solid finger style can cover most genres.
  8. MosGuy

    MosGuy Keep it low and thumping..

    Dec 26, 2007
    Ontario, Canada
    Due to having mild cerebral palsy I use thumb only out of necessity. Even if I had full use of my right hand, slap isn't my cup o' tea, so can't say I'd miss finger style much. Interestingly I picked up a 70s squire vm jazz, where a previous owner put a rest in the g string position making it a tug bar. I have come to appreciate the thumb only sound over the years, it's good to be unique/different from the norm. As Jamerson proved; using one finger/thumb can groove just as well as using all four fingers :cool:
    Jhengsman and Son of Wobble like this.
  9. jeffreylee


    Jan 6, 2013
    I use thumb, fingers or pick depending on the song. They all sound different. Leo Fender installed the tug bar on the original Precisions because he expected players to use their thumb!
    Joedog, bassfran, Oddly and 1 other person like this.
  10. About 60 percent of the time I'd guess.
  11. lz4005


    Oct 22, 2013
    Any competent player should be able to choose between thumb or pick or fingers on a song-by-song basis to make the whole mix sound good. Not change the way the song sounds to suit their limited technique.
  12. ronaldpdbrandt

    ronaldpdbrandt Supporting Member

    Mar 3, 2011
    Suffolk County, NY
    I started out plucking with my thumb-index-middle. That's still my go-to playing style, but I'll occasionally play just index-middle for some parts of some songs, if it makes more sense to play it that way. I've started incorporating a pick into my playing lately, and I'm getting used to it now. It's helpful to have as many tools in your toolbox as possible!
    CameronJohnson likes this.
  13. two fingers

    two fingers Opinionated blowhard. But not mad about it. Gold Supporting Member

    Feb 7, 2005
    Eastern NC USA
    I actually agree with this. On my P basses, I run round sound strings and almost always dime the tone knob. I change completely the tone of my bass with varying attack techniques. Everything from fingers, thumb (down and up stroke), pick, plucking everywhere from over the board to near the bridge, tap, slap, whatever it takes to get the sound that particular band/song/mix is asking for.
  14. Goatrope

    Goatrope Gold Supporting Member

    Nov 18, 2011
    Sarasota Florida
    Occasionally I'll do a Thumb, index, middle finger rolling pattern. Mainly just a traditional finger style player.
  15. Back in the day (way back in the day) when I started out I went from thumb to pick to thumb to fingers, and have pretty much stayed with fingers since then. I need to re-develop the other two for, as others have pointed out, sonic variation.
  16. beatnut


    Sep 27, 2016
    Western Mass
    The most important thing is to make it groove. Play it with your elbow if that achieves the goal. Having said that, I find using my thumb is easier for palm muting and heavy quarter notes. I use a kind of banjo/lute style with thumb and forefinger for some African music because that's how I saw most Congolese players do it.
    Pbassmanca likes this.
  17. salcott

    salcott Supporting Member

    Aug 22, 2007
    NYC, Inwood.
    I use my thumb when i want that sound.
    Slough Feg Bass likes this.
  18. bwoodman

    bwoodman Supporting Member

    Thumb pluck - yes - for palm muting lines or double stops / otherwise, mostly two finger plucking / sometimes adding in the ring finger for triplet patterns...
    Badwater likes this.
  19. G-Dog


    Feb 12, 2016
    Most of the time I only use my thumb for strumming the occasional accent chord. But I'm not totally averse to the thumb pluck, if the situation seems to call for it. And, of course, there are some songs (not just disco) that need that finger-thumb interaction.

    Thumbs, both right and left, are, like fingers, built-in tools, if you will. And, in matters of art, like music, there are no unbreakable laws about "the right tool for the right job", unless you seek to authentically replicate, not just cover, a certain work of art. It's about expression. Use whatever works for you.

    Just my humble opinion. Didn't mean to get all preachy.
    CameronJohnson likes this.
  20. Yes at times, if that is the tone I am going for.