Floating Thumb Technique

Discussion in 'Technique [BG]' started by alexssandro, Jul 21, 2000.

  1. <BLOCKQUOTE><font size="1" face="Verdana, Arial">quote:</font><HR>Originally posted by pkr2:
    I would suggest putting it on temporarily with double stick tape. If you don't like it, it's easy to remove plus you can try different positions. Also it eliminates having to drill holes. Find the exact place, try it for a day or two, and if you like it mount it permanently.

    The best way to deal with the planted thumb is just don't do that. If your thumb is planted it only slows you down. Your right thumb is also better left in a floating position for damping purposes. It feels awkward at first but if you'll start practicing the floating thumb thing, I promise you'll never go back to planting your thumb again.


    This is a quote of a reply received in response to a question I had about installing a thumb rest.

    Anyway, what does everyone think of the effectiveness of the floating thumb. How many players actually play that way? I know Jaco and Victor rest their thumb on the pickup, but then again their bass facilitates this. I just got a Musicman so I can't rest my thumb if I'm plucking closer to the neck.

    Also, is the thumb "floating" only when you play the E-string, or does it remain floating while you play all the strings? How about muting?

    [This message has been edited by alexssandro (edited July 21, 2000).]
  2. Licketysplit


    Mar 15, 2000
    I don't use the "floating thumb" a lot both my basses have dual humbucking pickups, so I can't help you too much with that. But, you could try using the bass of the neck as a thumbrest, it gives you a really meaty tone if you like that...
  3. JLeeFJ


    Apr 5, 2000
    I prefer to anchor my thumb on a string. When playing my lowest string, I rest on the pickup, the body, the thumbrest if I have one, or just let it float. I don't think about it. Just let your thumb go where it wants. I don't worry about where to put my thumb, I concentrate on playing. As long as you don't rest on the string being plucked, you should be OK.

    Band free and lovin' it!
  4. john turner

    john turner You don't want to do that. Trust me. Staff Member Administrator

    Mar 14, 2000
    atlanta ga
    i also don't plant my thumb. with the basses that i play, 7 and 8 strings, if i were to plant my thumb somewhere it would make it more difficult for me to move from string to string. furthermore, i use my thumb, along with my index, middle and ring fingers. so i just rest my thumb on a string below the one that i am plucking with my fingers. sometimes i sorta plant it there, but most of the time it is resting softly, so that it is available should i wish to pluck with it.

    you wanna see a frustrated guitarist? let a guitarist try to do something useful on one of my basses. _THAT'S_ a frustrated guitarist.
    SherpaKahn likes this.
  5. Check out Mark Eagans basses. (hope I spelled his name correctly) He Is a thumb planter and has a thumb rest from the neck to the bridge. I Like the floating thumb method because it makes most technics available all the time. If you can find Marks video he explains his reason for planting his thumb.

  6. My thumb "floats" a lot.....I tend to not think about it too much, and just go with what comfort (and the song) demands. I use my thumb to pick my E string a lot....a hangover of the "claw" method of playing guitar, I guess.

    If I'm playing 16ths, I tend to plant my thumb on the string just below the string I'm plucking.


  7. Bruce Lindfield

    Bruce Lindfield Unprofessional TalkBass Contributor Gold Supporting Member

    I think that you will find different answers depending on whether people have played multi-string basses or not. On a 4 with a fairly narrow neck, then you can quite easily "get away" with planting your thumb and reaching everything with no problems.

    But when you play a 5, 6 or more, you quickly find that you need your thumb for muting or actually playing the lower strings a lot of the time. My thumb mutes the B and E when not playing them, by resting on top of them and I use it quite a lot to play notes on these strings, as part of fast arpeggios or for that fuller, rounder sound. I also use my thumb for things like chords and artificial harmonics.

    When I'm playing the E string, my thumb is definitely muting the B and it still floats when I play the B with my fingers. I think it would feel very restrictive to plant my thumb in one place and would restrict my technique tremendously. But I suppose it depends what you want to do and how ambitious you are, in terms of playing.

    I wouldn't want anything to restrict my development, personally and can see no advantage to planting the thumb - and nothing that anyone has said on this forum has persuaded me that it could in any way help my playing to do so.

    I can see why people might do this, but I can't see any advantages, that it would give me over using the floating thumb, which has very many advantages "technique-wise" - like flexibility, speed, etc. Whereas "planting", to me, just restricts your movement.
  8. Brad Johnson

    Brad Johnson Commercial User

    Mar 8, 2000
    Gaithersburg, Md
    Boom Bass Cabinets, DR strings
    I agree, Bruce. The point about more-than-4 string experience is usually overlooked.
  9. <BLOCKQUOTE><font size="1" face="Verdana, Arial">quote:</font><HR>Originally posted by Bruce Lindfield:
    When I'm playing the E string, my thumb is definitely muting the B and it still floats when I play the B with my fingers. I think it would feel very restrictive to plant my thumb in one place and would restrict my technique tremendously. But I suppose it depends what you want to do and how ambitious you are, in terms of playing.<HR></BLOCKQUOTE>

    See, that's the complete opposite of my situation. I plant my thumb on the neck pickup and mute with my palm, and I play a 5. The key is to keep the wrist moving; since I have big palms and fairly long fingers I don't have a problem with reaching. On one of JT's seven-strings, I might, but if I were going to play a bass like that I'd just get an 8-string Warr/Austin Douglas Guitar (never a Stick Bass, Emmett Chapman's a dickhead and I won't support his product) and go tapstyle. I'm not Jaco speedwise, but that's more to do with a lack of practice and experience. Plus, my neck pickup's close enough to the end of the fingerboard that I can quickly un-plant for slapped passages.

    JT, have you ever tried a Stick Bass or Warr Guitar? I would imagine that it'd be easier just to two-handed tap after a certain point.
  10. Bruce Lindfield

    Bruce Lindfield Unprofessional TalkBass Contributor Gold Supporting Member

    I am concerned about this - to me the essence of good technique is to have a relaxed wrist as much as possibel or you are going to have problems like Carpal Tunnel or RSI. If I was constantly flexing ny wrist and stretching to reach things as described,then I would be very worried.
  11. Nah, it's never been a problem. Plus, it's not like my wrist is flailing around; there are small movements, but nothing too much. I'm sure it might start to get sore after 4 hours of playing, but by then my left arm would be ready to fall off. I break every 45 minutes to stretch and relax my left hand. I think taking frequent breaks is the best tactic for good muscular health.
  12. Bruce Lindfield

    Bruce Lindfield Unprofessional TalkBass Contributor Gold Supporting Member

    I still can't see any advantage to "planting" the thumb and would just consider it a hinderance or limiting in most cases. What does it actually give you, that a floating thumb doesn't? For example, I find it very useful to play artificial harmonics using my thumb and wouldn't be able to do this if it was planted.
  13. In the case of artificial harmonics, I will lift up my thumb if they're on the B, E, or A strings. However, I rarely do them on any string but the G, so I can just extend my index finger and pluck with my ring finger. All the while, I'm muting the B and E with my palm.
  14. valoo


    Sep 27, 2004
    GENERALLY speaking, I've learned that its a good idea to train yourself to float your thumb so that it lightly rests TWO strings down from the string you're playing. That way it forms a comfortable picking position and silences two strings at he same time. The string under the one you are playing is muted by your fingers as they follow through with picking and the the string below that one is muted by your thumb. This will create a cleaner playing sound, especially when recording. Just like you don't usually anchor your hand for playing guitar, over time it will become a more free feeling postion for easier playing. This is just what I learned from my sensai :p Of course its somewhat a preference thing.
  15. Richard Lindsey

    Richard Lindsey

    Mar 25, 2000
    Metro NYC
    You resurrected a *5-year-old* thread?

    Wow, I think that's a record. :D
  16. I play a really strict floating thumb technique. I rest my thumbon the string above the string I´m playing, I find that I otherwise play very sloppy.

    I think it is a great technique for muting cause I almost never have to think about how I mute, It just comes naturally.

    One small problem that I have encounterd is that I sometimes break away from strictly alternating fiingering with my right hand when movin to another string. But I am hard at work trying to get rid of that habit.
  17. ras1983


    Dec 28, 2004
    Sydney, Australia
    1st. What type of plant grows when you guys plant your thumbs? :spit:

    As a complete fool, my understanding is that technically all basses are multi string. i'd imagine that resting your thumb on a single string bass wouldn't be very useful... ;)

    BTW: i'd concentrate more on fretting smoothly than wether my thumb is floating or planted.
  18. Suckbird

    Suckbird Banned

    May 4, 2004
    I always have my thumb floating because it makes dampening so easy, i never really understood the left hand dampening thing, like if i play a scales then i will mute the string i just played on with my index finger or?

    also, i think it looks better to use a floating thumb :=