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floating thumb ?

Discussion in 'Technique [BG]' started by stuartford, Aug 30, 2002.


  1. whats the floating thumb thing ya all talking about?my thumb sits on the string above what im playing.
    stu
     
  2. eli

    eli Mad showoff 7-stringer and Wish lover Supporting Member

    Dec 12, 1999
    NW suburban Chicago
    Then I think you're already doing it.

    "Floating" refers to changing places as you play, as opposed to "anchored" in which many bassists play fingerstyle by locking their thumb in one spot (such as a pickup) and leaving it there regardless of which string they're playing.
     
  3. RyKnoz

    RyKnoz

    Dec 22, 2001
    NYC
    I thought that was the moving anchor, the floating thumb is when the thumb isn't anchored anywhere right?
     
  4. hayngman

    hayngman

    Aug 20, 2002
    Wise County, TX
    I'm not sure, but I thought it was with your thumb touching nothing, like you said. If it's what eli says, then I'm gonna pat myself on the back, 'cause I do that too.:cool:
     
  5. Fishbrain

    Fishbrain

    Dec 8, 2000
    England, Liverpool
    Endorsing Artist: Warwick Bass and Amp
    http://www.warwickbass.com

    warwick's site has a lessons section and i think that it has a bit on that, but dont shoot me if i'm wrong :cool:
     
  6. eli

    eli Mad showoff 7-stringer and Wish lover Supporting Member

    Dec 12, 1999
    NW suburban Chicago
    I have also used the technique of laying my thumb across all of the strings below where I'm playing and simply sliding my whole hand (and the thumb with it) across the strings as I play different strings -- not really "hooking" the thumb to anything. This is more of a muting technique for when I play on the high strings of my 7's, but I suppose it also qualifies as "floating thumb". (If you look really closely at my avatar you can see I was actually doing this at the moment the photo was snapped.) It's less natural for me because I'm so used to anchoring, though, so I don't do it unless I'm hearing low strings ringing. I definitely do not need to do it at all on 4-strings, because I can usually find a way to mute wahtever's ringing without my right-hand thumb.

    I am generally more an "anchor" guy, my usual spot being the neck pickup, though I sometimes anchor on the side of the fingerboard at the 20th fret or so to pluck on the fingerboard for my fake URB sound on fretless.
     
  7. just_a_poser

    just_a_poser

    Apr 20, 2002
    Yeah, I just keep my thumb on my E string, unless I'm playing it (duh), or if I'm on my 6, on my B or E. Just because I sometime accidently hit one of them and I'll be playing something and then this low note comes out and sounds really bad. Other wise I just find some other way to mute a string.
     
  8. Howard K

    Howard K

    Feb 14, 2002
    UK
    what eli described is what i thought floating thumb was. it prevents unwanted noise rom the lower strings when you're playing the higher ones.
     
  9. wulf

    wulf

    Apr 11, 2002
    Oxford, UK
    I'll second that.

    I find it a very useful technique. Not only does it help mute the lower strings (combined with the relaxed fingers of the fretting hand muting the higher strings) but it also mean's that the space between my thumb and fingers stays fairly consistent. I find that more beneficial when skipping strings than relying on a fixed anchor point (my main bass is a six string with 18mm bridge spacing - a big gap if I'm anchored on the B and playing something on the high C).

    Having said that, I don't lock into one right-hand style and stay there all night, so depending on the line I might being doing any number of different things with thumb and fingers on the plucking/slapping/strumming hand.:cool:

    Wulf
     
  10. Howard K

    Howard K

    Feb 14, 2002
    UK
    I don't personally use it much, but I'm aware of it (from Steve L), I think it's ultimatley a really useful technique, but you do have to play with a pretty light touch.
     
  11. wulf

    wulf

    Apr 11, 2002
    Oxford, UK
    IMHO, light touch is a good thing and something worth aiming for. I imagine that it might be difficult to play hard without having a solid anchor point, but I'm playing bass to make music, not to give me a fearsome grip.

    With both left and right hands, I prefer my hands to perform like dancers, not strongmen (strong and graceful rather than strong and beefy) :D

    Wulf
     
  12. Howard K

    Howard K

    Feb 14, 2002
    UK
    re: lighter tough, yes entirely i agree. i play in loud rock bands mostly and find i prefer to dig in pretty hard when playing loud, force of habit i guess. dont get me wrong i dont play like geoff capes... would.. if he played bass... err..?

    in my more pop-ie band i use a much lighter and more consisent touch. i prefer to play that way, but rock often forces me to play harder.

    oh and a tight grip has it's uses ;)
     
  13. wen i first started playing (4 string) i anchored my thumb on the pickup, and thats it. When i moved to 5's i was forced to change my thumb position to above the string i'm playing so that i can mute properly, now wen i go back to playing my fretless 4, i use the same technique and it sounds so much better then when i anchored on the pickup, much less unwanted noise!

    *Si*
     
  14. wulf

    wulf

    Apr 11, 2002
    Oxford, UK
    Like Si, I now use the 'floating thumb' on any bass I play. I guess that if I kept on loosing track of what string I was playing I might consider anchoring the thumb but feel that I've now moved to the stage where I have sufficient awareness of where my right hand is in relation to the strings mean that I don't need to bother with the anchor point that was useful when I first started learning (many moons ago...)

    Wulf
     
  15. Are there any players that exclusively use the "floating thumb" technique?

    I've tried it, but I find that I need the planted thumb to pull the string back towards. It just gives me more control and power. I suppose it's just a matter of habit and what I'm most comfortable with.
     
  16. embellisher

    embellisher Holy Ghost filled Bass Player Staff Member Supporting Member

    Yes. Once it became second nature, I found myself playing that way 100% of the time.
     
  17. Brad Johnson

    Brad Johnson Commercial User

    Mar 8, 2000
    Gaithersburg, Md
    Boom Bass Cabinets, DR strings
    I don't see why. I can play hard with my thumb planted on a pickup, bridge, fretboard or string. I normally play with a light touch but I don't think I'm limited to that when I float.

    Just for grins I just tried it. I can play Stanley Clarke-style hard regardless of where my thumb is.
     
  18. Brad Johnson

    Brad Johnson Commercial User

    Mar 8, 2000
    Gaithersburg, Md
    Boom Bass Cabinets, DR strings
    I don't.

    It's my main technique but I might anchor my thumb or arm elsewhere too. I don't give it any conscious thought at this point, I just play and use whatever seems to work best at the moment. In my case it became completely second nature.

    Varying anchor points, muting technique, plucking angle and force can open up an entire new world tonally. Experiment.
     
  19. Qishi45

    Qishi45

    Aug 29, 2002
    It depends on the song. On some riffs its better to float but on others its better to stay anchored. I say just go with what feels the most comfortable for the part you're playing.
     
  20. I try to use floating thumb when i can but i don't know/understand what to do in an octave line.

    For example if playing the root on the E and the octave on the D what do you when you play the octave but then have to go back to the root?