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Good bass player using only thumb?

Discussion in 'Technique [BG]' started by Carl, Dec 20, 2006.

  1. Carl


    Sep 10, 2006
    I am in process of converting from guitar to bass. I play finger style on guitar and play the bass with my thumb. Most of the stuff I play is folk and country, and so far I have been able to keep up. Is it possible to be a good bass player using only the thumb?
  2. Tony G

    Tony G

    Jan 20, 2006
    The bass is a very different instrument than guitar. Learn proper fingerstyle technique if you want to become versitile on the bass.
  3. Relic

    Relic Cow are you?

    Sep 12, 2006
    Robbinsville, NJ
    Yes, absolutely! Thumb style seems to be a dying style these days... It's cool to hear someone's into that. It was big back in the early days of electric basses.
    You're not going to be able to blaze through face-melting scales that way but what you will get is a warm, thick sound, which is a perfect match for Folk and Country.
    You can become a "good" bass player no matter what style you chose. You just need to learn proper fingering (both hands), + how to work your tone, style and finesse into a song.
    SJan3 and Jhengsman like this.
  4. gkbass13

    gkbass13 Supporting Member

    Mar 29, 2006
    New York
    bill wyman plays with his thumb almost exclusively ina rock and blues setting.... hes pretty solid as well. anthony jackson useshis thumba lot on 6 string, but not exclusively of course.
  5. AGCurry

    AGCurry Supporting Member

    Jun 29, 2005
    St. Louis
    There are exceptions to any rule of music, but generally speaking you'll be better off learning to use your other fingers. Your thumb may work fine for you in certain styles, but the time is likely to come when you'll be confronted with something you can't do with it.
  6. arbarnhart


    Nov 16, 2006
    Raleigh, NC
    Sting does OK. He doesn't always thumb, but does it a lot. I am adapting from fingers to thumb plus fingers as standard fingerstyle was giving me tendonitis (the commom sports elbow). I hold my arm differently and move it more when thumbing. Think of it as subdued slapping. :D That might be more socially acceptable. ;)
    MuffledBoomy likes this.
  7. People always told me not to use my thumb. I think do whatever feels right. Yes, fingerstyle is a good thing to know, just like using a pick; but thumbstyle is good too. I can tremlo thumb pick really fast, although it can make my thumb tired. I think the pad of your thumb just has a caertain sound you can't achieve(my opinion) with the fingers.
    pete rallis and MuffledBoomy like this.
  8. studentaccount1


    Nov 14, 2006
    more surface area I think.
  9. The guy from The Roots, from what I've seen, always uses his thumb when playing electric. He also plays upright. I might be confused, because the Roots have had a couple of bass players...
  10. SBassman


    Jun 8, 2003
    Northeast, US
    Lots of early electric bass players used thumb only.

    You can play lots of stuff with great tone and authority with thumb only.

    Having said that - you should really learn two finger technique, too.
    SJan3 likes this.
  11. The BurgerMeister

    The BurgerMeister musician.

    Apr 13, 2006
    Big Bear, CA
    +1 to this, but consider also Monk Montgomery, who played electric jazz bass almost exclusively with his thumb. he could play fast, too. when asked why he used his thumb (and always downstrokes), he said it sounded better and fatter to him.
    pete rallis likes this.
  12. studentaccount1


    Nov 14, 2006
    Wes Montgomery would have if he were a bass player.
    quickfix, MuffledBoomy and Eric ER like this.
  13. The BurgerMeister

    The BurgerMeister musician.

    Apr 13, 2006
    Big Bear, CA
    +1. monk montgomery was wes's brother. they had something about using the thumb, i guess. comes down to the sound.
    Eric ER likes this.
  14. johnpaulbass


    Nov 2, 2005
  15. JimmyM

    JimmyM Supporting Member

    Apr 11, 2005
    Apopka, FL
    Endorsing: Ampeg Amps, EMG Pickups
    Playing with your thumb is cool, but in this day and age, it makes no sense not to learn fingerstyle and only use your thumb. I love Wes and Monk Montgomery, but why limit yourself?
    LeeNunn likes this.
  16. Carl


    Sep 10, 2006
    Thanks for all of the information. I will try to learn finger technique, but it will probably take a while. In the mean time, I can get a lot of different sounds with my thumb, and the time is solid.

    Very interesting that Wes Montgomery used only his thumb. I would not have considered it possible. I can see that I have a long way to go.
  17. LeftSide


    Mar 6, 2005
    I believe larry graham did the same thing, and he explained thats why he plays with his thumb.
  18. Skel


    Jun 19, 2005
    Boulder, Colorado
    Yes. I'm a guitar player turned bassist and I can play with a pick and finger style (better with pick). The drummer in my band plays bass with his thumb and honestly, he smokes me.
  19. Christopher


    Apr 28, 2000
    New York, NY
    No one's mentioned Vic Wooten or Marcus Miller yet?

    I'd recommend learning to play more conventional fingerstyle before restricting yourself to your thumb. That said, Wooten and Miller prove that you can do a great deal with just the thumb.
    gebass6 and Eric ER like this.
  20. LARRY G!

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