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floating thumb techniqe

Discussion in 'Technique [BG]' started by Torvus, Feb 18, 2006.

  1. Torvus


    Feb 18, 2006
    what is floating thumb techniqe & how can i do it?
  2. Floating Thumb is where you place your thumb on your plucking hand on the string below the one your playing. Or on the pickups if you're playing your lowest string. It helps to keep the lower strings you aren't playing quiet and helps you get a more consistent chug when you're playing fast.

    Personally I can't get to grips with any other finger technique other than Floating Thumb.
  3. Torvus


    Feb 18, 2006
    thanx so i must put thumb on the string below the sring on with am plucking ? and got any pictures?
  4. Mr_McBride


    Oct 9, 2003
    Acworth, Ga
    I am a former Adam Nitti student and I use this technique. Let me know if you have any questions about and I'll try to assist.

    genericbass likes this.
  5. Torvus


    Feb 18, 2006
  6. MickeyMickey


    Dec 17, 2005
  7. Mr_McBride


    Oct 9, 2003
    Acworth, Ga
    Hmm, perhaps you are correct. I thought the two were one in the same. The technique described on Warwick's site is very different than the movable anchor that Adam teaches. The movable anchor is really a non-anchor technique. Your plucking hand really just floats above the strings using the thumb to mute as needed. There is no pressure applied to the thumb.

    This technique helped me learn to play with a lighter touch, also.

    Hope this helps,
    iain westland likes this.
  8. MusicmanBassist


    Feb 23, 2006
    I've ve been taught that the proper technique should mean that you do not use the pickup as an anchor point with your thumb when plucking the E and should just have it floating when playing A, D, and G you can use the string above an an anchor point. Also, pluck with your index and middle fingers alternatively at 90 degrees to the strings close to the bridge. It's hard to begin with but this makes such a difference.

    What do you think?
  9. Joe Garage

    Joe Garage

    Mar 13, 2005
    Which one of these techniques did Jaco use?
    To me it looks like his anchoring his thumb on top of his E string and not the pickup, even when he playing the E-String.
  10. MusicmanBassist


    Feb 23, 2006
    How does that work cos you would be muting it.
    Eminor3rd and gebass6 like this.
  11. Trevorus


    Oct 18, 2002
    Urbana, IL
    What I do is just put my thumb where it needs to be. It is usually always touching a string, or the pickup if I am playing on the E or B (depending on the bass). I don't like having a fixed anchor. It just doesn't work for me
    DocGeorge likes this.
  12. Fuzzbass

    Fuzzbass P5 with overdrive Gold Supporting Member

    My 2 cents: when I played four string I anchored my thumb on the pickups. When I switched to five, I realized that my thumb was now floating. Sometimes it's a moveable anchor: I'll rest it on the string below the one I'm playing. But that's mostly when I'm playing lines that don't move much. When I play fancier riffs, I realized that my thumb floats... it hangs straight down, and mutes the lower strings when I'm playing riffs up high. The more strings on the bass, the more important this would seem to be!

    Again, I didn't consciously adopt these techniques, they just happened out of need. I believe I'm a better player now that I don't anchor my thumb on the pickup.
    Conkal, SherpaKahn and SteveCS like this.
  13. Joe Garage

    Joe Garage

    Mar 13, 2005
    Maybe he is muting it a bit? There is no way I could play Teen Town tight with my thumb anchored on the pick up. I just don’t get a comfortable or a smooth grip that way.
  14. Nico3535


    Mar 8, 2006
    I'm with fuzz bass it just naturally happened as i moved on to more strings.
  15. spindizzy


    Apr 12, 2004
    Let get some things straight here concerning the "floating thumb". First it is as it defines itself. a "no anchor" approach to right hand (left for lefties) technique. Optimum use would be to not depend on your thumb at all for anything other than muting and stroking (plucking, thumbing, striking or any other way you use it to make noise).

    Although I am not an instructor of Tod Johnson caliber I can tell you that I seldom (probably now never) use my thumb to provide an anchor for myself in fingerstyle. The thumb has been completely integrated into my playing and serves as my fourth finger when playing finger style (my pinky is just too short to have gained that stature).

    The "movable anchor" as described previously in this thread should remained named as is for to describe the proper method for "floating thumb" as "movable anchor" defeats much of the purpose for leaving your thumb unfettered by a need to support your fingers while playing.

    Hope no one gets ticked about my being a purist here but even the language gets confusing when you mix floating with anchoring, unless you are talking about boats.
  16. sethlow3

    sethlow3 Supporting Member

    Jun 19, 2003
    Nashville, Tennessee
    I still don't get the difference. I suppose for language sake what Adam Nitti does is moveable anchor right? Would that mean that the flating technique doesn't mute at all? If so, I don't see the point of it being any better. You'd still get sympathetic string noise and not as much punch in your tone.

    Jaco muted with his ring and pinky of the right hand as explained in his instructional DVD.
  17. spindizzy


    Apr 12, 2004
    No it doesn't mean there is no muting going on, in fact it allows for you to pick and choose how you mute and when. I was really only trying to draw a destinction between anchoring and floating. When I play floating thumb my right thumb isn't anchoring anything anywhere and is often positioned either to use (as another plucking digit) or at rest (as an optional muting device). I tend to mute with what is available depending on what and how I am playing. I will even use one of my not-in-use left fingers to reach over and mute another string if my right hand is in use and not in a position to acurately mute a specific string. Now I will admit that I have not taken nor seen the instructor most closely related to the anchored thumb technique that is described in this thread. I am drawing on the postings themselves about how this works and using the literal deffinition of anchoring to mean something. If you don't believe that this is an accurate description don't worry about it. It is more important that you target what you want out of a technique, rooted in a real problem or outcome that you wish to have when you are playing. Once you start to solve specific problems when using a specific technique your playing will find its own high water mark and you will begin the process of making the technique your own. It should never be the other way around where the technique makes you a clone of someone else. Personal expression is still the name of this game.
  18. spindizzy


    Apr 12, 2004
    Ok. Just so I am not considered a complete dork I visited both the pages that deal with anchored thumb posted previously. It reinforced my opinion that we are talking about to different approaches possibly aimed at the same outcome. Both would free the thumb for availability to do something else (mute, flip off a noisy fan, nose cleaning) and both seem to encourage a bit more motion ecconomy. I like the float better as it is more ready to use the thumb as another plucking finger and leaves more surface available to mute either specific strings or multiple strings. Since I play a seven the greater flexibility in both mute and plucking are my desired outcome. We could be dangerously close to mincing words here though and since I started the "over analytical" part of the "language" opinion I will stop here.
  19. GregHolmes


    Mar 3, 2006
    Niagara, Ontario
    Dealer of: BassLab, Eminence, Acoustic Image, MIDIjet
    Spindizzy, I like your distinction between "floating" and "moveable anchor", and the Warwick page illustrates them nicely.

    I started "floating" on my Gibson Les Paul Signature 4-string (the precursor to the Jack Cassady). The "Fender-style" bent wrist just wouldn't work, since the sharp edges of the bass cut into my forearm. So I had to straighten my wrist (which has long-term benefits anyway) and use the "ball" of my thumb (near the wrist) as a light anchor. Then, the floating method was reinforced when I got my Cort clone Steinberger 4-string bass. There was not much body to rest the forearm on!

    Classical guitar training also helped me. Now I find that the floating method makes transitions from slap to tap to fingerstyle very smooth.
    rtav likes this.