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floating thumb techniqe

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

  1. wishface


    Jan 27, 2012
    It can be a very effective technique, though I'm certainly no expert.

    I do find two problems. I guess it's just practice:

    a) it's slightly slower moving from the pickup (when plucking the E string) to get your thumb up and over and not just anchoring on the A string.
    b) I find that anchoring allows me to leverage the plucking fingers, a bit like the way the thumb is built to grab things. That's not to say I'm grabbing or digging in when I pluck, but that as an anchor it allows me to havesomething to "pull against". When floating, that isn't the case. It feels slightly less stable.
    punchclock likes this.
  2. Lobster11

    Lobster11 Supporting Member Supporting Member

    Apr 22, 2006
    Williamsburg, VA
    Personally I consider this a feature rather than a bug. One of the things I like about the FT is that it makes it easier to for me to play with a light tough; I prefer to turn up the amp and let it do the work. When I anchor on a pickup I find that that extra leverage encourages me to dig in harder than is necessary, and switching to FT helped me break that habit.
    12BitSlab, Bob Lee (QSC) and Corto14 like this.
  3. The only time I anchor my thumb is when I'm playing a 5-string bass, using it as a 4 -string. I anchor my thumb on the B string. On a 4-string bass, my thumb is in the air, unless I decide to use it to pluck. I was never comfortable using a thumb rest. I primarily play with 3 fingers with the occasional thumb, and sometimes my pinky - but I'm weird I guess. LOL!
  4. wishface


    Jan 27, 2012
    thumb is in the air? That would seem physiologically...challenging! :O
  5. Just always came naturally to me. Never thought of it as odd, but maybe so. Cheers!
  6. wishface


    Jan 27, 2012
    If it works :D
  7. onda'bass

    onda'bass Supporting Member

    Sep 5, 2010
    Buffalo Ny
    This technique just takes practice..like anything. I have a RSI in the based of my anchor thumb, I guess to much pressure or something. So it made sense to me to investigate this to alleviate the pain in the thumb lol. Well fast forward a few weeks, big difference. No pain after playing, more consistent dynamics, speed is easier, muting was not an issue for me, but its even better now.
    Last edited: Oct 24, 2019
    Lobster11 and Corto14 like this.
  8. Mr Cheese

    Mr Cheese

    Nov 8, 2019
    New York, USA
    I find the floating thumb technique quite difficult. I much prefer the moving anchor technique. Just check out Scott's Bass Lesson's Right Hand Muting, on youtube.
  9. Lobster11

    Lobster11 Supporting Member Supporting Member

    Apr 22, 2006
    Williamsburg, VA
    That's cool. I personally find the moveable anchor more difficult and prefer the floating thumb. I think they're equally "valid," and both are better than simply anchoring on a pickup all the time.

    Actually, I think of the moveable-anchor and floating-thumb as variants of the same idea, and I think I actually use both in different situations. For example, if I'm going to be playing on one string for a period of time, I tend to "anchor" my thumb in one position, but when I'm doing a lot of string crossing I tend to "float." It's all good.
    Mr Cheese likes this.
  10. Mr Cheese

    Mr Cheese

    Nov 8, 2019
    New York, USA
    Yes, for some people one just works better than the other. At first I tried the floating thumb, but it seemed a bit awkward. Good point on the fast string crossing though, I may give it another shot.
    Lobster11 likes this.
  11. lat


    Dec 30, 2014
    Lower Basstonia
    Just have to float my thumb when going to the G string. Everything else gets muted either by my thumb on the E string or the plucking finger on the lower string after it's done its job on the upper string.
  12. daniel29088


    Oct 15, 2018
    In the song Spain by Chick Corea the bass starts with an open e and afterwards an open g. Right now when I try one string rings and It takes me a noticeable amount of time to mute with the floating thumb technique; it sounds like mud. How do I make it sound as seamless as my fretted notes sound?
  13. Mr Cheese

    Mr Cheese

    Nov 8, 2019
    New York, USA
    Try anchoring your thumb on the E string immediately after plucking(or picking) it. This is the "Moving Anchor" technique.
    daniel29088 likes this.
  14. Les Fret

    Les Fret

    Sep 9, 2009
    Just place your thumb on the E string the moment you play the open G. Or play the G on the D string.
    daniel29088 likes this.
  15. daniel29088


    Oct 15, 2018
    Sounds like I just need to practice more with this floating thumb thing. Is it normal to be slower?
    This is what I was doing, but after getting 5 strings it is getting harder to mute with that technique.
    Mr Cheese likes this.
  16. kaljultdgl


    Oct 21, 2019
    I used to anchor my thumb on the neck pickup propably because I could make my bass louder that way.

    I forced myself into the floating thumb technique and playing with a lighter touch. Turning up the volume helped :roflmao: Now my right hand doesn't get tired anymore :thumbsup:
    LahLeylah95, And I and Lobster11 like this.
  17. LahLeylah95


    May 14, 2019
    I agree! I've been doing the floating thumb thingy for some weeks now. It still feels a bit unnatural because I am used to anchoring my thumb. But I happen to found a couple of benefits too. Like you said it's easier on the right hand because of the lighter touch.

    I also happen to found that I can use my thumb to mute strings that I don't use and that it's much easier to go to and from the G string. It made my playing a bit more dynamic.

    Right now I am keeping my wrist as close to the bass as possible, that sort of makes up for the lack of stability I used to have when anchoring the thumb, I suppose.

    I can't get off the compressor though haha, I don't get a consistant loudness when playing with a floating thumb.. (yet?) But I have tiny hands and now that I've tried this floating thumb technique, I start to see my own flaws when trying to reach the G and even the D string when I am 'anchoring'
    kaljultdgl likes this.
  18. chilee


    Jan 25, 2008
    I just wanted to chime in on what floating thumb actually does to your bass over time. If you do in fact use the technique, you should attach a "thumb rail" in the area of the float. I'm constantly switching my right-hand position for different tonal variations and the thumbnail will start the new Grand Canyon on your bass body. I kind of like the beat-up look now.

    In any event, I think floating is almost essential for getting nuance into how you're attacking the strings. I've found that getting a more singing tone in the upper register requires playing over the neck pickup and even over it or adjacent to it.

    Attached Files:

  19. gebass6

    gebass6 We're not all trying to play the same music. Supporting Member

    That "thumb rail"would be the strings you're resting your thumb on.
    12BitSlab and citizenchris099 like this.
  20. Lobster11

    Lobster11 Supporting Member Supporting Member

    Apr 22, 2006
    Williamsburg, VA
    .... until you get to the lowest string.
    gebass6 likes this.
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