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Does anyone else play thumb-over?

Discussion in 'Technique [BG]' started by vvvmmm, Jul 10, 2019.

  1. vvvmmm


    Dec 6, 2016
    On the fretting hand, I mean, of course.

    I do about 98% of the time, I reckon because I started out on guitar ...

    I do not have large hands, what I am told makes it even stranger, but I find it's how I learned/taught me, and it's baked-in.

    Anyone else do this?

    Anyone used to and change, and if so, why?

    I mean, I play a good few hours a week, sometimes a day, for a few years now, and I've had no physical problems yet ...
    BurnOut likes this.
  2. From a bass standpoint, I find so many pitfalls with this technique.
    1. The fretting hand shouldn’t be supporting the neck. The neck should be at the proper elevation due to a combination of instrument balance, shoulder strap placement, and plucking arm weight on the body. The goal of playing is to minimize muscle tension, not to accommodate it.
    2. It makes for poor fret contact from the fingers. Without the postlike support of the thumb behind the neck, the fingers are pressing into the palm area instead. The effect of this is a flattened finger. The ideal fretting position is like a letter C between the thumb and fretting finger. With thumb-over, you are more mashing than fretting.
    3. Makes for sloppy position changes, because you are, in effect, sliding the palm along the back surface of the neck. It should be a quick release-reposition-fret movement.
    4. It necessitates a position change between lower and higher neckwork.
    Larchi, Stormchaser, Artman and 20 others like this.
  3. Mushroo

    Mushroo Supporting Member

    Apr 2, 2007
    Massachusetts, USA
    You mean like Darryl Jones is doing in the photo below? It's the standard rock bass technique; no worries. :)

    giacomobass, PWRL, sears and 11 others like this.
  4. Epitaph04

    Epitaph04 Always overcompensating Supporting Member

    Jul 5, 2010
    I find nothing wrong with it if youre sitting on some quarter or eighth notes...but as soon as you do anything more than that...thumb behind neck is the only way for me. I too have smaller hands but whether it’s a 4 string or a 7 string, i need to have the thumb behind the neck for anything remotely dexterous with my left hand.
    Artman, gebass6, fishstick666 and 5 others like this.
  5. gln1955

    gln1955 Supporting Member

    Aug 25, 2014
    Ohio, USA
    With these kind of questions I always go back to if you can play what you want to play, you're good to go. If you can't play what you want to play, then it's time to try something different. As for physical problems down the road, I'd be mostly concerned about how much your wrist is bent.
    konfyouzd, MVE, Machiavelli and 15 others like this.
  6. vvvmmm


    Dec 6, 2016
    My gurrlfriend says that, too! :roflmao:
    packhowitzer likes this.
  7. Spot on.

    OP: have you tried thumb behind the neck and pointing towards headstock (either 45° angle or horizontal)? It’s a nice technique in-between thumb over and thumb behind/pointed vertically. Wrist is much straighter, but thumb is more agile.

    You can very quickly pivot thumb to vertical for technical runs, then pivot it back again. It’s my preferred hold now on a chunky-neck 4 string P bass while dancing around on stage/playing simple lines.
    Last edited: Jul 10, 2019
    Samatza, aprod, FRoss6788 and 3 others like this.
  8. vvvmmm


    Dec 6, 2016
    Of course! And I do that ...

    ... 2% of the time or so.

    I reckon that's on me - it's just the kinda playing habit I'd really hafta work on to break, and I know it's "wrong", but if it's good enuff for D-Jones and it's workin' for me so far ...

    BTW, I'm fast enuff to get the occasional complaint from lead guitar ...

    So, no one else does this?
  9. Kro

    Kro Supporting Member

    May 7, 2003
    New Jersey
    Yup, certain things I play I do, certain things I don't.

    There are definitely some parts that require the thumb to be on the back of the neck, and sometimes I use the thumb to mute the 5th or 4th string.

    As a technique I think it's fine, as long as you can be flexible to move away from it when you need to.
  10. vvvmmm


    Dec 6, 2016
    And exactly there's that 2%! :D
  11. Mushroo

    Mushroo Supporting Member

    Apr 2, 2007
    Massachusetts, USA
    You have LOTS of friends in the "thumb over the neck" club! ;) It is a standard classic rock technique used by Cliff Burton, Paul McCartney, John Entwistle, Geddy Lee, Roger Waters, Chris Squire, etc.

    As several people have pointed out above, the best players do not limit themselves to only one technique. They have lots of tools in their toolboxes, and can switch back and forth between different techniques, depending on the requirements of the song. I mentioned a great example of this earlier: if you go down the YouTube rabbit hole of Darryl Jones videos, you'll see he's capable of playing MUCH more than Rolling Stones songs! :)
    Last edited: Jul 11, 2019
  12. I do that too, but I don't know what the peecentage is:D
    But not too often, and I think (not really sure though, cause I do it unconsciously) I only do that when I play on 7th fret and higher, and especially on 1st and 2d string.
  13. Jon McBass

    Jon McBass Supporting Member

    Nov 20, 2017
    South Carolina
    Yes, I use the “thumb over” on my narrower necks. It’s a carry-over habit from the guitar, which I started on. I have long digits and it was easier playing certain notes on the guitar’s low E string that way, e.g., instead of barring with the index finger.

    I usually play 5-string bass and don’t use the fretting thumb, but I use it on 4-strings. Like tonight at rehearsal, playing the fretless Jazz I noticed myself doing it a lot.

    Is it frowned upon?
  14. Occasionally, but I'd never do it if one of YOU guys were watching...
    Mastermold, PWRL, zon6c-f and 4 others like this.
  15. If you can make it work, hey, great!

    Thumb on back of the neck was how I was taught, and it does allow for much more nimble fingering (and who doesn't like nimble fingering). :smug:

    The thumb wrap around seems to work good when you need to get creative for stuff like string muting for chords.
    Bboopbennie likes this.
  16. Bboopbennie


    Jun 16, 2019
    Yep I use the thumb for cords that are difficult. Behind the neck for the rest.
  17. -Asdfgh-


    Apr 13, 2010
    There's not limiting yourself, and then there's using a technique which is limiting...
  18. the slug

    the slug man, why the long face Gold Supporting Member

    May 21, 2014
    only if I'm playing in cargo shorts and sandals
  19. Pulverizor


    Jun 14, 2018
    New Zealand
    You must! I couldn't even fret the G string like that, let alone do a run. :wideyed:
  20. fearceol


    Nov 14, 2006
    "Thumb over" can be limiting in certain situations, but it is not going to cause potential injury problems at a later stage, like say the..."thumb behind the ring finger.." might. If it is safe, and it works for you, I don't see a problem.
    FRoss6788 and Lobster11 like this.

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