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Floating thumb.

Discussion in 'Technique [BG]' started by Jazz Ad, Nov 8, 2003.


  1. Jazz Ad

    Jazz Ad Mi la ré sol Gold Supporting Member Supporting Member

    I've been trying this technique for a few weeks now.
    I haven't noticed any change in my playing, good or bad.
    Now, I have my thumb stupidly hanging in the air doing nothing. There is no use for it. It feels and looks dumb.

    It feels very uncomfortable too, and it gets annoying to mute strings with my pinky.
    I also have the feeling that string skipping is way easier and more accurate with a thumb solidly anchored on the pickup.

    I'm back to normality, thumb solidly anchored, 3 finger plucking and pinky muting.
    What's your experience with it ?
     
  2. brake

    brake

    Jun 23, 2003
    Nova Scotia, Canada
    I can do either one and I play prettymuch the same.. I can see how it'd work well for someone playing a 6+ string though
     
  3. CS Bass

    CS Bass

    Feb 18, 2003
    When I think of floating thumb, I don't take it literally. I move it along with my other fingers. It mutes the lower strings while I play.
     
  4. unharmed

    unharmed Iron Fishes

    May 19, 2003
    London, England
    The way I understood it, 'floating thumb' doesn't mean literally floating in the air not doing anything but rather it follows your plucking fingers up and down the strings. Always muting the string above where you are plucking.

    Check this out.
     
  5. nonsqtr

    nonsqtr The emperor has no clothes!

    Aug 29, 2003
    Burbank CA USA
    Floating thumb???

    Sounds like something you might see at a Pink Floyd concert.
     
  6. JMX

    JMX Vorsprung durch Technik

    Sep 4, 2000
    Cologne, Germany
    Rather at a John Patitucci concert, he's one of the prominent players who does it.

    The thumb more or less rests on a string/pickup like with traditional technique (where you rest the thumb on the pickup/lowest string and pivot to reach the upper strings), but you move it up and down according to the string you play, the thumb is on the string below the one you actually pluck, the rest/side of the thumb mutes the (other) lower strings.
     
  7. Howard K

    Howard K

    Feb 14, 2002
    UK
    Yeah, I've been forcing myself to use this technique for a while now.

    True it doesnt come it much use for a four string really, but it does encourage you to play through the strings and therefore give a differnt sound. It's not really possible playing the two lowest strings either I find, but for the D upwards it comes in handy.

    And as CS said, the thumb should rest lightly on the strings not being played, to mute them, not just float in the air.

    Not sure if otls the corect teminology or not, but I've been thinknig f it as 'floating theumb' vs "anchored thumb" - when the thumb is ested on a pickup or the string below the one being played.
     
  8. Jazz Ad

    Jazz Ad Mi la ré sol Gold Supporting Member Supporting Member

    So where are you supposed to put your thumb when playing the E/B string on a 4/5 string bass with this technique ?
     
  9. Bruce Lindfield

    Bruce Lindfield Unprofessional TalkBass Contributor Gold Supporting Member

    I use a variant of this technique and have my thumb resting across all the lower strings - not just one. I then tend to use my thumb to actually pluck the B or E strings - so I will use thumb, first and second fingers for plucking and then mute the lower strings with my thumb when they aren't being played.
     
  10. wulf

    wulf

    Apr 11, 2002
    Oxford, UK
    I don't spend enough time on the B string for that to become an issue. However, part of the technique is about playing lightly and not needing to have your thumb anchored anywhere to achieve a consistent tone - the whole hand dances and interacts with the strings to make the music come out...

    Rather than lock into any one position, I try to put my hand where it needs to be for the passage I'm playing.

    Wulf
     
  11. Howard K

    Howard K

    Feb 14, 2002
    UK
    H E L P M E !!!


    M Y T H U M B.. I T'S.. I T'S... F L O A T I N G ! ! !

    :eek:
     
  12. JMX

    JMX Vorsprung durch Technik

    Sep 4, 2000
    Cologne, Germany
    Down here...they float! :p
     
  13. I think it's a cool technique, I was taught it from when I very first started, so its kinda ingrained in me now. I only play 4 strings but I still think it has use on a 4, it means you have a more consistent attack as well as muting lower strings. :)
     
  14. thrash_jazz

    thrash_jazz

    Jan 11, 2002
    Ottawa, Ontario, Canada
    Artist: JAF Basses, Circle K Strings
    I use both. Depends on what kind of line it is.

    If I'm playing softer lines or fingerpicking style stuff, I anchor on the pickups. For faster and/or syncopated lines, I find that floating thumb makes it easier to get a good attack.

    Also, if your hands are the same size as mine, reaching the high strings on a 6 is practically impossible unless you use floating thumb.
     
  15. Brad Johnson

    Brad Johnson Commercial User

    Mar 8, 2000
    Gaithersburg, Md
    Boom Bass Cabinets, DR strings
    Sounds like you have the wrong idea. Floating just means your thumb is not permanently anchored to one spot. Typically, some people anchor on pickups, some on thumbrests. With the floating technique you anchor wherever it is less of a stretch. For instance if you're playing on the G string you might anchor your thumb on the E or the A string. If you move to the D string and have anchored on the E there's probably no reason to move it, other than muting.

    It's not about "never" anchoring on a pickup or thumbrest. If you're playing on a low B or E (or E on a 4) by all means use it (pickup or thumbrest) if it works.

    This technique allows people with smaller hands to play with more facility, even on wider necks. It works the same for people with average or larger hands too. Without it, playing something like a 9 string would pretty much be impossible. Thumb position on the back of the neck is also critical.
     
  16. I do that, too, and my pinky and ring fingers also help muting, since I rarely use them for plucking.

    Sometimes, one contact point isn't enough to accurately mute a .130" B-string, there's always the risk of producing a sympathetic harmonic.
     
  17. embellisher

    embellisher Holy Ghost filled Bass Player Staff Member Supporting Member

    Exactly. That is the way I use it. If playing on the B string, I rest it on whatever is handy. Pickup, body of the bass, etc. As I move to the higher strings, the thumb moves over to the B, E, A, etc.
     
  18. unharmed

    unharmed Iron Fishes

    May 19, 2003
    London, England
    Cool. I'm glad I got that right. :p I find that the main advantage of doing it this way (apart from the convenient muting of unused strings) is that your hand/finger position is pretty much exactly the same no matter what string you're playing on, making it easier to get consistent attack/tone/etc across all the strings.
     
  19. Somebassguy

    Somebassguy

    Nov 5, 2003
    Everett Wa
    Roscoe Beck uses the floating thumb technique. He claims it gives your picking/fingering hand more freedom and flexibility. I've tried it but I prefer to rest my thumb on the top string.
     
  20. Brad Johnson

    Brad Johnson Commercial User

    Mar 8, 2000
    Gaithersburg, Md
    Boom Bass Cabinets, DR strings
    It can take some time to get acclimated to it.