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floating thumb techniqe

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

  1. Muthertucker


    Sep 22, 2015
    Lowell, MA
    OK, I know this thread is getting out of hand in regards to length, but to switch it up for a sec, does anyone have a good strategy for using the floating thumb technique while playing on the G string? I think the way my strings are leveled it makes it weird: my D string is set slightly lower than my A string so when playing from the D string to the G string, I can never get my thumb to mute the D string. I've gotten way to comfortable leaving my thumb on the pickup or the E string and it's been a battle playing smoothly with this technique.

    I have a feeling that the result is just going to be to raise my D string, but I was looking to avoid this because I'm now comfortable with the string layout on my bass.
  2. Lobster11

    Lobster11 Supporting Member Supporting Member

    Apr 22, 2006
    Williamsburg, VA
    I don't float my thumb far enough to mute the D string anyway. Since I'm almost always using rest strokes, I figure that the D is muted by the follow-though from plucking the G string. One popular variant of the "moveable anchor" involves the thumb trailing the plucking finger by two strings rather than one -- i.e. it is anchored on the A string when plucking the G -- for the same reason.

    That said, I'd still try adjusting the string heights to make them more even. But if the D string isn't buzzing, my inclination would be to try lowering the other strings rather than raising the D.
    Muthertucker and David A. Davis like this.
  3. Obese Chess

    Obese Chess I'm Your New Dad

    Sep 4, 2005
    Portland, OR
    I apologize if this has been mentioned, but - for those of us who've been playing for a long time and now need to use this technique (I've recently jumped from playing 4-string basses in punk and rock bands to playing 5-string basses in prog bands) - are there any tips on how to get into these habits and break the old ones? I can't seem to NOT rest my thumb on the pickup and really dig into the strings, which makes it pretty hard to play some of these songs.
  4. Lobster11

    Lobster11 Supporting Member Supporting Member

    Apr 22, 2006
    Williamsburg, VA
    Well, the hard part is getting your thumb off the damn pickup once it's planted there, so the trick is to avoid planting it there in the first place. Something I did (and still do) is devote part of my practice time to playing scales, riffs, etc. using only the G and D strings. On a five-string, you could include the A string, too. That way I start with my thumb in the "floating" position right from the get-go, and it's easier to keep it there as long as I stay off the top strings. (A nice little bonus of this was that using only those bottom strings doubled as a way of learning that part of the fretboard better!)

    The good news is that if you can train your thumb to stay off the pickup, you'll immediately find it easier to play with a softer touch. The leverage you get from anchoring your thumb makes it all too tempting to "dig in," but with a floating thumb it feels more natural to pluck gently. At least, that's the way it works for me.
    Brad Johnson and Obese Chess like this.
  5. Thumb n Fingers

    Thumb n Fingers

    Dec 15, 2016
    For me, and like Lobster11 mentioned, development of this technique came out of necessity. I too was a pup anchorer until my ear developed to a point where all of the extra vibrating strings drove me half mad. It's been decades since I anchored, so I don't remember exactly how I got away from it. I'd suggest just making a conscious effort to try, slow down what you're practicing so you can pay more attention to it, and it'll just happen quicker than you expect. I'd also suggest just getting your picking hand away from your comfort zone around the pick up and going somewhere else. On a jazz bass, I play either between the pups (just seems like tonally a sweet spot on my bass) or between the end of the neck and the 1st pup.

    If it's the fact that you're digging in so much, try backing off on the aggression you're picking with and letting the onboard pre-amp or amp volume compensate. You can still be aggressive without pulling the rest of your hand downward.
  6. Thumb n Fingers

    Thumb n Fingers

    Dec 15, 2016
    Your string set up sounds similar to what I utilize also. I'm able to use my thumb on the D, but I understand where you're coming from. Depending on what I'm playing, where the movement in the bass line is heading as well, I sometimes pull my ring finger back as a mute on the D while muting the A with my thumb and plucking the G. Might try that and see if you can find a comfort zone doing that.