Does the thumb over the neck fretting style offer any advantages?

Discussion in 'Technique [BG]' started by Cut the middle, Jun 18, 2020.

  1. Cut the middle

    Cut the middle

    Apr 17, 2020
    The guys I've seen on YouTube using that method tend not to use their pinky and I wonder if that's the reason.
  2. Nashrakh


    Aug 16, 2008
    Hamburg, Germany
    You can use your left hand thumb for muting, but that will only factor in if you have sloppy right hand technique.
  3. 2saddleslab

    2saddleslab Supporting Member

    May 30, 2003
    Having larger than typical hands I still have the 4 fret reach with my little finger while hanging the thumb.
  4. Cut the middle

    Cut the middle

    Apr 17, 2020
    I'm speaking of fretting notes, mostly on the E string with the thumb.
    I've seen blues guitar players use this method to for bar chords.
  5. Vinny_G


    Dec 1, 2011
    Yes, that's usually the reason, and I don't see any particular benefit in using this method.
    Nashrakh likes this.
  6. luciens


    Feb 9, 2020
    The main benefit is endurance and resistance to injury, primarily. Strange but true - one of the reasons you see the "baseball bat grip" so much on a lot of pros who gig a lot is generally for that. Geddy Lee, Jack Bruce, Billy Sheehan, the list goes on, guys who hammer and hammer all day and all night and you see it very commonly.

    Holding the bent wrist for hours and hours, especially on a Fender style bass which tends to have neck-dive, will very quickly become painful and if you don't stop, temporarily crippling. Don't ask me why I know that.

    But the wrist is straighter with the thumb-around thing and is much less prone to injury.

    The only other advantage is being able to use the thumb for fretting notes. Louis Johnson and Jimi Hendrix made extensive use of the thumb for that.

    In saying all that, I've tried that technique and it was severely limiting for me. I did like how I could play simple tunes basically forever without ever getting tired, though.

    But it's definitely not a technique to turn your nose up at. I'd say give it a try and see if it fits...

  7. Malcolm35

    Malcolm35 Supporting Member

    Short fingers may be one of the advantages. My index does not span all 4 strings. I've worked around this and do not use the thumb flop over, but I do see how it could be used as a way to bar, especially with a 6 string rhythm guitar.
  8. Cut the middle

    Cut the middle

    Apr 17, 2020
    Below is a video of the technique i'm having trouble explaining or maybe understanding answers. Watch about the first 35 seconds and you'll see the intermittent use of the technique in question. Thanks!

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  9. Cut the middle

    Cut the middle

    Apr 17, 2020
    Here's another:
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  10. Vinny_G


    Dec 1, 2011
    These players have exceptionally long fingers and don't use their pinky, so they probably use their thumb to mute the E string. For a normal person, the use of the pinky is necessary until at least the 9th fret with this kind of playing, so the thumb is inevitably placed behind the neck. Watch how Marcus Miller puts his thumb back behind the neck as soon as he uses his little finger:

  11. IamGroot

    IamGroot Inactive

    Jan 18, 2018

    If you have huge hands, it maybe worth checking out.
    But, Stanley, Marcus, and Vic can play virtuoso with their thumb behind the neck as well as over the neck. Be careful you dont get trapped in a technique that will limit your playing.
  12. JW56789

    JW56789 Guest

    Feb 18, 2017
    I'd suggest that for most, IF you get used to doing it, it may get problematic if you later want to go to a multi-string bass with their wider fingerboards. Personally, it puts my hand in a position I really don't like.
  13. I’ve been playing over 5 decades. I use a thumb over top occasionally and have for many years. I don’t play a lot of slap but still use it sometimes while chording. I agree with the above in that you shouldn’t get locked into doing things only one way. Experiment and see what works. While studying a classical piece many years ago, my upright instructor told me, The fingering your using isn’t the proper classical technique, BUT, if learn the proper way too and then find what you are doing works better for you, it’s ok to go with that.
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  14. Agree completely. I started to use baseball grip only after some 20 years of playing, when I found out that my wrist starts to hurt on long gigs because I'm simply getting older. To me, using thumb limits my technique - I can't use pinky much when I use thumb - but most of the parts I play are simple enough that I can use the more comfortable baseball bat grip.

    If you're beginner, try to develop your technique with regard to physical ease. You'll find it rewarding, if not crucial, in not so near (yet regrettably not so far either) future.
  15. NortyFiner

    NortyFiner Drunken Sailor Gold Supporting Member

    Mar 23, 2008
    Portsmouth VA USA
    Whenever talking about Stanley's style, it's important to remember that he physically does not play like most musicians. He is 6-3 with hands that match his height, and his bass guitars are deliberately small instruments -- short scales, narrow necks.
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  16. lfmn16

    lfmn16 Inactive

    Sep 21, 2011
    charles town, wv
    They do it because they never learned proper technique. Put your thumb over the neck and see how many frets you can span. Then put your thumb behind the neck and see how many frets you can span. I'm not saying that there is NEVER a reason, but mostly it just because people don't bother to learn how to play correctly.
  17. bolophonic


    Dec 10, 2009
    Durham, NC
    The first thing that always strikes me about Stanley Clarke’s style is the exaggerated bend in his right wrist. Not the guy I would recommend looking to for ergonomic advice.

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  18. InhumanResource

    InhumanResource Supporting Member

    Dec 28, 2012
    Bucks County, PA
    If it works for you, go for it. I myself don't see the need as it is perfectly achievable to get around accurately and quickly (when necessary) with typical 1 finger per fret, thumb in the center of the neck arrangement. Problems with the wrist angle can be avoided by not hanging the bass down low enough to cover your nuts.

    Personally I find the thumb over the top thing kind of clumsy feeling but if you like it, go for it.
    Cut the middle likes this.
  19. lfmn16

    lfmn16 Inactive

    Sep 21, 2011
    charles town, wv
    IMHO these guys are brilliant players in spite of their technique, not because of it.
  20. Zooberwerx

    Zooberwerx Gold Supporting Member

    Dec 21, 2002
    Virginia Beach, VA
    Matter of personal choice but I choose not to as it may result in increased strain, fatigue, and injury. Here's a fun exercise: take your left hand off the keyboard and hold it up, fingers pointing look at your thumb. That's a natural playing position. Same holds true for the right hand: allow it to drop, fingers pointing towards the floor...look at your thumb. This is why floating-thumb works so well.

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