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hand position 101: The thumb >>> HELP!

Discussion in 'Technique [BG]' started by jtauban, Oct 31, 2003.

  1. jtauban


    Oct 28, 2003
    Hello i'm new to this forum, find it useful and friendly already!

    I've been playing drums, then guitar, keyboard for a bit more than a decade now, but finally I decided to take a big step forward and learn BASS. We used to switch instruments sometimes with my band fellows to keep things fresh and come up with a new perspective, and I was always thinking that bass was the ultimate experience !

    Well here I am, i practiced on a borrowed bass for 4 months, and yesterday, I bought my first bass. I can play with a pick (thanks to the guitar}, and it gives a nice interesting sound, but i prefer fingerstyle.

    Now I have a stupid question (?) I usually play with two fingers, and the thumb resting on the top of a pick-up.

    My thumb doesn't move, and I (very) sligthly bring my forarm forward to reach the bottom strings.

    I read somewhere that the thumb should follow the other fingers ( i. e. rest on the D string when I play the G string) I tried that but it feels slow and uncomfortable.

    Is my way of playing wrong ? Will I be more exposed to injuries in the long run? Should I change it even though I feel comfortable with it? Is there anybody who plays the way I do?

    Well, any advice will be welcome.
  2. theautarch


    Mar 18, 2003
    When I first started playing I played the same way you did. I started taking lessons and my teacher had me change to the floating thumb.

    I guess it all depends on how you feel. I've seen many people use different styles. How do I feel? I feel I am more free without the thumb anchor. It took me a while to get used to it. I felt lost and dumb fingered again. But, now, I wouldn't go back.

    However, I don't rest my thumb on the D string. I only go as far as the A. When you play on the G, after you pluck, let your fingers fall on the D. That will keep it muted. Let your thumb take care of muting the A and E strings. So basically your thumb is one string away from the one you are playing and your plucking fingers will mute the string above(directionaly). When playing on the D, rest it on the E, when playing the A(or E), let your thumb float free.

    Hope this helps......
  3. ClarkW


    Aug 1, 2003
    Provo, UT. USA
    "I read somewhere that the thumb should follow the other fingers ( i. e. rest on the D string when I play the G string) I tried that but it feels slow and uncomfortable"

    As do many things in life, especially when it comes to learning new techniques.

    I'm working on my 3-finger fingerstyle. It definitely feels slow and uncomfortable. But every time I think about giving up, I remember how two years ago, playing 2-finger fingerstyle felt slow and uncomfortable when I was switching from a pick, and how utterly effortless it became in just a few weeks.

    Floating thumb is a good technique to learn, and while there are a lot of people who anchor the thumb, I think the general opinion is that floating gives you more flexibility, cleans things up with muting, and keeps your hand in a consistent position, which is important.

    Grin and bear it, I say. It will probably take you 20 hours of practice time while paying attention to it, and then another 20 hours or so of play and practice time before you realize "Wow, it's effortless now!"
  4. jtauban


    Oct 28, 2003
    thanks a lot guys for taking the time to bring me some bass wisdom...
    I tried the free floating technique, and thumb resting on A string to play both D and G strings, I am sure I'll soon feel better with this new position.

    I guess you're right it is easier to mute other strings this way. It also seems more precise.

    Anyway, I'm really in an experimenting phase for position and playing, I slap a little, and try techniques derived from guitar. I'd love to play with a combination of approaches, so I'll see what comes out of all of that.

    thanks again
  5. I usualy just let thumb kind of float out to the side. Kind of like your making a finger person. Quote the School of Rock "Walk it!"
  6. tim99

    tim99 Supporting Member

    Jan 28, 2003
    Yes. I am glad I learned how to do this. Stop thinking that you will use it all the time. Learn it to use when you can and when it is an advantage.

    You should learn and work on moving your fingering hand thumb so that it rests on the pickup, then the bottom string, then the next string down, etc. so that your two fingers are striking the very next string down from the string that your thumb is resting on. You should work on muting the stray vibrations of the string above the one your are playing with your thumb, and muting the strings below with the remainder of your fretting hand.

    Then as you get faster, you will get too fast to do this and everything I just said goes to crap, but then the slow part of the song comes up and you go back to a very solid foundation for playing very clear notes without extra string vibration noise creeping in.

    But, I would not recommend that you anchor your thumb on the pickup and then play 4 strings away. O My Goodness.

    When I am playing fast, I drag my thumb along to mute the strings. Even though it does not "rest" on the string, it is in that position, and my fingering angle is fairly constant.

    Practice it enough so that you can do it well enough so that you know if you like it or not, or you know where to use it or not. Then use it or forget it and move on. Right now you do not know yet. But I think if you get it going, there will be times you will be glad you have it to use.

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