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floating thumb techniqe

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

  1. chilee


    Jan 25, 2008
    I have used the E-string sometimes as a rest, and if I do the thumb is always in contact with the body. I don't use this particular technique. I tend to whack the strings pretty hard.
  2. When I'm playing my lowest string the E my plucking hand thumb is poised just above the string to be ready to mute and move (along w/my entire plucking hand) to mute. Todd Johnson calls it the "moving mechanism" for this reason. My point is at no point does my thumb or any part of my plucking hand touch the bass body. Just the strings.
    friend33 and gebass6 like this.
  3. gebass6

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

    Then you either float unanchored or use the surface of the bass.
    citizenchris099 likes this.
  4. Respectfully what your describing is not proper floating thumb. Which isn't to say its "wrong" per say..just not what has been atributed as "floating thumb. Not that I'm some arbiter of what is correct or incorrect. I'm merely conveying the technique as I learned it from Todd Johnson.
    friend33, 12BitSlab and gebass6 like this.
  5. gebass6

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

    I didn't check to see if these vids are posted...but here they are.

    Last edited: Apr 17, 2020
    citizenchris099 likes this.
  6. BopCat


    Nov 3, 2019
    Hey everyone,

    I've been using the floating thumb technique for a while and I find it vastly superior to anchoring. The thumb glides up and down effortlessly on the strings, muting them and making the plucking action consistent regardless of the string that's being played.

    That said, one can't help but notice that the vast majority of the best bass players in the world anchor their thumb to the strings and pickups. This even led me to try to use the anchoring technique again, but my performance declined greatly when I did so.

    Anyway, I have two questions :

    - Why don't we see more renowned players using the floating thumb ? Is it just because anchoring is part of a long tradition and culture in bass playing or does it have real advantages that I'm not aware of ?

    - Do you have examples of high level bassists using the floating thumb ? Gospel bassist Alan "Snoop" Evans is a great one :

    citizenchris099 likes this.
  7. gebass6

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

    In the Gary Willis vid above he states that it's better to have the bass in a "classical guitarist"position.
    This is what I use.
    But even with this position it's still easy to drop the elbow.
    You really have to make an effort to keep the elbow up.
  8. TLDR warning.

    I too have noticed that the overwhelming majority of bassists I see are using some manner of anchoring technique. Why this is? It could be for the very reason you say you went back to it briefly after having implemented floating thumb...conformity. Its in our nature to want to fit in. I was trying out a bass at a big box guitar store (that was my first mistake) and had a guy tell me I should work on my technique. No joke. Now if I had been less experienced or a bit more naive. Lacking the will to know that the technique I have studied and implemented has tremendous advantages. I might have given up and done what he would have no doubt suggested (anchor). As it was I sort of chucked and said "i'm good" and proceeded to play some Peter Hook lines and moved on.
    Non Conformity for the sake of it is silly. We have to think for ourselves and look at what the group is doing and ask ourselves as objective as possible...is this the correct way? If so then join the crowd.
    In the case of (a rather decidedly specific subject no doubt) Bass Guitar plucking hand technique. Floating thumb just makes sense...objectively.

    I do not. I would say this informs my conformity theory above.
    Last edited: Apr 18, 2020
    Boogiepop, BopCat and gebass6 like this.
  9. BopCat


    Nov 3, 2019
    I think that conformism is indeed an important factor. Especially when you're starting out, one of the common (and best IMO) reflexes is to imitate the players that you admire. But conformism alone cannot explain the fact that 99% of players use anchoring, because many people -especially artists- are not interested in conformity (it's often quite the opposite actually, the tendency is to fight conformity to create something new and unique). Music and innovation go hand in hand, and you see many people experimenting with all sorts of new sounds and techniques... That makes the relative staticity of right hand technique all the more puzzling.
    honeydorick and Les Fret like this.
  10. Rflx


    Sep 19, 2020
    Steve Harris of Iron Maiden:

    Les Fret likes this.
  11. Les Fret

    Les Fret

    Sep 9, 2009
    Good question. I think because the technique is relatively new. Although the Gary Willis video must be 20 years old now already.
    Second reason is that it is mainly used for fusion type light playing. It’s easier to dig in with regular technique. A lot of player like that type of playing. Also it is based more on linear playing.

    Also in classical guitar playing they don’t use FT. Right hand bass technique resembles that technique pretty much.

    But I more players getting into it lately.
    Rflx and gebass6 like this.
  12. Les Fret

    Les Fret

    Sep 9, 2009
    Thanks. I studied classical guitar for a long time and use this posture when I play classical guitar. I like it. But it doesn’t feel comfortable to me with bass because of the thin body. There is an imbalance because of that and it feels like the bass body (and neck) is to close to me. It doesn’t feel as natural as on guitar even if I use a foot stool. Any tips on how to keep the bass more balanced in this position?
  13. gebass6

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

    Use a short strap.
    If you don't already.
  14. Les Fret

    Les Fret

    Sep 9, 2009
    Thanks for the picture. I always practice strapless though. I just check it again with and without strap.
    The problem isn't the body but it is the neck. When playing strapless and holding the upper horn against my body (like you do) I feel the neck is too close for my left hand, causing G string side of the neck is coming up so to speak. It also feels like my arm is too close to the body in the higher range of the bass. What is do therefore is placing the upper horn 10 cm or so away from my body. This feels better but it makes the position of the bass a bit more unstable because I only holding it with my underarm on the body.

    Also checked it with strap but that's the same. Hope this makes sense?

    Gary Willis is resting his bass on his right leg when seated and having the bass pointed upwards. That also feels weird for me.
    Gary Willis | ARTISTS | Ibanez guitars
    Last edited: Oct 31, 2020
    gebass6 likes this.
  15. gebass6

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

  16. Hi With me I play a short scale bronco bass with tapewound flatts.I have short fat fingers,carple tunnel in my left hand and a torn right shoulder.For me its about comfort.The neck is well ballanced and easy for me to traverse.I play sitting with the body between my legs.with a strap so i can move the body out to fit my arms comfort zone.I move from position to position.and slide up and down to where I need to be.Instead of having my left hand in some ungodly cramping position trying to stay there.I find this traveling,floating thumb method to be the best for me.Its very smooth and fun once you get the hang of it. It goes against most technique taught to new players but works well for me.Floating thumb and jumping positions.Not recomended but great for the handycapped.
    gebass6 likes this.
  17. chris_b


    Jun 2, 2007
    Floating thumb and anchored thumb are just ways of playing a bass. If you use either, that's fine.

    Floating thumb is a technique that isn't in more general use because it isn't significantly better or more effective than anchored thumb, which most players use because that's what most players see being used.
    honeydorick likes this.
  18. Primary

    Primary TB Assistant

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