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floating thumb techniqe

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

  1. southpaw723


    Oct 20, 2013
    Didn't know this was a thing but I guess I'm a thumb floater
  2. mikejungle


    May 5, 2008
    Does anyone have advice for an anchor-er, on how to switch to thumb?

    I was a 4 string player, and it wasn't very hard to mute strings, but I'm trying to play more gospel, and got a 5 string.
    I can do the movements, but the notes don't have the attack that I'm looking for, and also I make mistakes more.

    I'm guessing the mistakes will eventually go away with practice, but the attack/soundfeel seems harder for me to achieve.

    I tried the movable anchor method, but so far, it hasn't worked very well for string skipping on fast passages. Should I just stick to the anchor method and increase speed?

    When I see Justin Raines play, it almost looks like he doesn't move his thumb from that bottom string; how is he muting?
    wishface likes this.
  3. Lobster11

    Lobster11 Supporting Member Supporting Member

    Apr 22, 2006
    Williamsburg, VA
    I switched from being an anchor-er to a thumb-floater on a 4 -- not so much for the muting but for ergonomics generally: It allows me to play with a much more relaxed hand and a straighter, relaxed wrist. And one of the first things I noticed was that the FT forced me to pluck more gently and "let the amp do the work," as they say. I find that with a firmly anchored thumb, the leverage you get makes it difficult to play gently: You wind up digging in all the time. So I think of this as a feature rather than a bug: When you really need an anchor to dig in for a certain tone, do it; when you don't, use the FT and pluck more gently.

    As for getting that digging-in tone without plucking so hard, try turning up the gain on your amp (and then adjusting the volume as necessary).
  4. mikejungle


    May 5, 2008
    ok, i feel like i've made a little progress. floating thumb has become somewhat comfortable, and i can make runs ok, but i'm struggling with octaves and more. I still biff up pretty hard on the timing.

    before i get too far with this, i'll solicit opinions again:
    floating thumb or thumb anchor with pinky and ring mutes?
    What was more natural for you and is proficiency with either technique equal or are there some advantages to one over the other?

    I've just started trying out the pinky and ring mutes, and it feels so awkward, but guys like Patitucci use it to some (understatement) degree of success.
  5. kreider204


    Nov 29, 2008
    I was doing movable anchor, but after looking at this thread, I'm giving floating thumb a try. As someone with on-and-off RSI issues (sometimes very serious), I'm really digging the better wrist position I'm getting with it. It's still taking some getting used to, especially since I tend to lapse back into anchor when I'm not thinking about it (old habits and all), but I'm definitely going to stick with it.
    Lobster11 likes this.
  6. Ironbar

    Ironbar Inactive

    Aug 24, 2013
    Tigard, Oregon
    When I began playing, I just gravitated to this style immediately and never looked back. My daughter plays anchor thumb style. Go figure.
    Bob Lee (QSC) likes this.
  7. After reading a few pages and getting dizzy , I realized that left hand muting is needed as well. I do not think about it but when I tried to break it down, it felt really clumsy and I ended up with ringing strings. This was on a full 19mm spacing 6 string. Hard to explain but I remember that I got it intuitively and just happened one day. I do not have large hands.

    Yes - I use floating thumb and did not know it was called that.
  8. Do anybody feel uncomfortable with the thumb rubbing all the time against the strings (like me)?
  9. Bassndrums73


    Mar 13, 2018
    It’s all in what you’re used to and how you started out. When I started playing I researched the different techniques and decided to start with floating thumb from the beginning. I just didn’t care for having my thumb anchored on a pickup all the time. That didn’t feel right to me. I knew I wanted to play 5 string also from the beginning and most 5 string players were saying you needed the different technique to mute properly so that’s the main reason I started that way. It just feels more comfortable to me.
  10. John j

    John j

    Dec 20, 2018
    I will have to try this.
    I usually just plant my thumb on the b string. I was told this was necessary or I'd have a constant noise from it.​
    Lobster11 likes this.
  11. saabfender

    saabfender Inactive

    Jan 10, 2018
    Well, they're not wrong. A lot of 5-string play is about keeping all that unused metal quiet when not in use.
    LBS-bass, Bobro and John j like this.
  12. As a former classical guitarist I believe this is my technique. I also use my thumb to sound strings as well.
    Bobro likes this.
  13. Chris Doherty

    Chris Doherty

    Jan 31, 2018
    Just my 2c:

    I switch between the moveable anchor and floating thumb continously. In general, when i play the E string, my thumb is on the pickup, when i play the A string it's on the E string, and when i play the D string it's on the A string, BUT when i play the G string, if i move my anchor (which is at a bit of an angle) to the D, i lose contact between the side of my thumb and the E string. So when i'm playing the G string, I flatten my thumb against all the above strings and lose the anchor. I'll usually then stay floating my thumb around until i feel the need to dig in again, and back comes the anchor.

    I recently got a 5 string, so have been spending a lot more time floating my thumb, but i still seem to be following the above without any issues (just an extra string i cant anchor).
  14. Fun With Dirt

    Fun With Dirt

    Mar 25, 2017
    North GA
    I was just starting to transition from the moveable anchor to the floating thumb when I started keeping a pick between my thumb and forefinger. Then I got into training my middle and ring fingers to play like my forefinger and middle finger do. But with my thumb occupied with a pick, now I let the side of my thumb or the base of my thumb (down at the palm's heel) act as a floating mute when playing fingerstyle.
  15. Spent 35 years playing with my thumb anchored on top of either pickups or neck. Originally I played DB before touching BG. Some years ago I heard about ppl talking about the floating thumb. I tried and hated it. I tried again and again. I honestly wish someone told me about it earlier. Changed everything for me. No comparison. Hand never gets tired. Less effort. Love it.
  16. btmpancake

    btmpancake Gold Supporting Member

    Aug 5, 2015
    Apollo beach, Florida
    You wanna have some fun? If all you played for years were jazz and precision basses where you could anchor your thumb on the pups and then you decided you want a Stingray type bass where the pup is much closer to the bridge on the 4H types. Hello?
    Lobster11 likes this.
  17. Corto14


    Feb 6, 2019
    As a beginner and self-taught "wanna be" bassist, I'm very focused on my technique and my goal would be having the cleanest sound possible.
    Right now I'm using a mix of floating thumb and anchor technique, so I rest my thumb on the pickup when I engage the E string, the I move to when I play the A and D string leaning the thumb on E and A respectively.
    My concern is when I play the G string; I don't know why I'm not able to move my thumb on the D string, but it remain anchored in the A string. I'm using the rest stroke technique, so maybe the D string is muted when my index or middle finger "come back" (I don't know how to describe properly, hope you understand), but I'm not sure 'cause my ears are not trained enough to listen fuzz.
    Any suggestion?
  18. Lobster11

    Lobster11 Supporting Member Supporting Member

    Apr 22, 2006
    Williamsburg, VA
    First, it's great that you're focusing carefully on your technique as a beginner. It's much better in the long run to do this now, rather than developing bad habits that might cause you problems later on.

    It sounds like the technique you are using isn't "floating thumb," but a slightly different technique called "moveable anchor." Check out this video, which explains it and addresses the specific issue you asked about. Some people prefer to anchor the thumb one string away from the being plucked, whereas others prefer to anchor two strings away from the one being plucked. As you've discovered, anchoring two strings away from the plucked string works fine when you are using rest strokes because the in-between string is muted by the plucking finger coming to rest on it.

    Chris Fitzgerald likes this.
  19. xjohnkdoex


    Jun 27, 2019
    i just started to pick up bass (from guitar) and i'm glad i stumbled onto this thread. i've been trying the anchor technique (i.e. resting thumb on the string above the one that's being plucked) but i feel like it's a bit tougher to maintain that form if you're playing fast licks. not sure if that's just inexperience since i'm learning, but i think the floating thumb seems like a better muting technique. gonna have to try it and see which one feels better or more natural.
    Lobster11 likes this.
  20. dr doofie

    dr doofie

    Jul 6, 2017
    This is exactly what I do as well... if it isn’t officially named or categorized even better
    It works, that’s all I know...
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