Floating thumb causing overtones

Discussion in 'Technique [BG]' started by topaxi, Sep 29, 2018.

  1. topaxi


    Sep 29, 2018
    Hey all,

    Been struggling with this issue since incorporating the floating thumb into my technique. Pretty much wherever im playing with my plucking hand, the back of the thumb is resting on the lower strings to mute it, and causing overtones to ring out. This is even more annoying to me than if the open strings were ringing as the higher notes cut through more. I havent found anyone online with talking about this issue, and my bass teacher doesnt use this technique. Has anyone here encountered this and has any advice?
  2. Yep. Press harder against the string with the thumb to mute, or Move your thumb slightly left/right (away from the harmonic nodes) to mute/cancel the upper harmonics.
    Jewce, topaxi, onda'bass and 5 others like this.
  3. fearceol


    Nov 14, 2006
    How long has it been since you started using the technique ? A new technique can take a while (anything from two to six weeks IMO....possibly even more) to master.

    Groove Doctor's suggestion is a good one.
    Sonicfrog, topaxi and Groove Doctor like this.
  4. topaxi


    Sep 29, 2018
    I've been experimenting with those. The amount of pressure I need to put on the string to stop the overtones really feels like too much, and makes moving my right hand efficiently impossible. Moving left or right just hit's different overtones, especially when im on the bridge pickup.

    I've been doing it maybe two months or so?
  5. Nashrakh


    Aug 16, 2008
    Hamburg, Germany
    I'm with Groove Doctor on this. I have experienced similar issues with the floating thumb technique, and you'll have to find a spot where the harmonics aren't strong or inaudible. For me, that's either between the pickups (in a jazz bass config) or right up against the neck.

    The bridge pickup soloed is notorious for this, in my experience. It's tricky, but not impossible.

    More pressure would work too, but if you have a really light touch (as do I), that might throw a wrench in your right hand technique. I'm trying to move from free strokes to rest strokes and even that is enough to trip me up because it's so different.
  6. Mili


    Nov 14, 2015
    I'm usito move left or right but it cuase big tone change and also that region is full of nodes so i couldn't solve it completely but very good players are using this technique and their sound are ok so I didn't care about it anymore and my recordings are clean. If you have obvious problem in recording situation maybe your tone setting(Eq+strings) is too bright.
    Last edited: Sep 29, 2018
    saabfender likes this.
  7. saabfender

    saabfender Inactive

    Jan 10, 2018
    Eureka! You don't mute with the back of the thumb, you use the pad of the thumb to mute. There's not enough contact area on the back; it's all bony back there, without enough meat to dampen the strings but rather set off overtones my having a singular point of contact.

    It should be like you are snapping your fingers.
    operagost, Nashrakh, Seanto and 5 others like this.
  8. Mushroo


    Apr 2, 2007
    Lots of good advice above, plus additionally: Don't be afraid to get your left hand in on the muting action. If you touch the string in two different places (left hand finger and right hand thumb) it will significantly cut down on unwanted overtones.
    hintz, /\/\3phist0, MCF and 3 others like this.
  9. JKos

    JKos Supporting Member

    Oct 26, 2010
    Torrance, CA
    Bingo. And, as saabfender indicated, use the meaty part of your thumb.

    - John
    Mili likes this.
  10. I use this "technique" (quotes because I didn't even know it was a thing until I joined this forum; it's just how I gravitated toward playing). I only put my thumb on the E when I'm playing, and move it off when I'm playing that E string. My thumb doesn't really rest there either, it's pushing on the string and bends it when I really dig in. As for muting the other strings (I just had to look and see how I do it), apparently I mute them with whatever finger isn't busy plucking a note; my middle, ring or pinky seem to do the job without thought.

    EDIT: Or as noted above, my left hand now that I think about it. Whichever is the path of least resistance I guess.
    Jeff Elkins and cataract like this.
  11. Actually, strike that bit about muting with my other fingers. I think the top 3 strings must be mostly left hand now that I've tried again (man, it's rally hard to play normally when you're thinking about it).
  12. TyBo


    Dec 12, 2014
    I've never actually examined what I do with the floating thumb before - thanks for bringing it up. What I find is that I mute mostly with the heel of my picking hand and with the fleshy base of my thumb on that hand. That, and a bit with my fretting fingers. It's entirely subconscious, I hadn't realized exactly what I was doing there. So, there's another option.
    red_rhino likes this.
  13. I’ve messed around with floating thumb and always found I still have to mute with both hands.
    I’m not a huge floating thumb guy tho, in all honesty.
  14. topaxi


    Sep 29, 2018
    I tried the between pickups area, but that actually seems like where I normally play, and on the bridge pickup especially the nodes still ring out :(

    I'm not sure if it get's picked up in a recording, or even in a band situation, but playing alone I can definitely hear it. And I figure if I can hear it then my technique needs work :(

    Here's a pic of where my thumb rests when I'm playing. It's more the side of the thumb. I feel like if I use below the middle knuckle I'd have to contort my hand uncomfortably, but I'll work on it if you reckon that's the way to go.

    Yeah I definitely mute the strings above the one being played with my left hand, but the lower ones gotta be done with the right hand :(
  15. topaxi


    Sep 29, 2018
    Thanks for the replies everyone! I really appreciate you all taking the time to reply and help me out :)

  16. saabfender

    saabfender Inactive

    Jan 10, 2018
    The way you're doing it in the picture is wrong.
  17. topaxi


    Sep 29, 2018
    Okay. Any advice on how to do it right?
  18. saabfender

    saabfender Inactive

    Jan 10, 2018
    Try this.

    Thumb - 1.jpg
  19. Attached Files:

    saabfender likes this.
  20. topaxi


    Sep 29, 2018
    That's what I was initially doing, but that only works for the E string, or E/A strings if you wedge it between them. The D string is free to ring, which I why I swapped to what I do now.
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