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is double thumbing really worth it?

Discussion in 'Technique [BG]' started by Carter, Oct 3, 2004.

  1. hi i just signed up to the talkbass forums, looks pretty cool here!

    anyway, I'm pretty good at good old traditional slap playing. However, whenever i watch my victor wooten live at bass day 98 video and see him laying down those grooves (especially the prince - lets work part he plays in the additional interview!) using double thumbing, i usually am really motivated to further my double thumbing technique.

    but then i sort of give up and go back to my regular slapping style, so right about now im kind of at intermediate level with the whole double thumbing thing but far better at normal slap playing. I usually incorperate both styles into a groove i lay down or something, which can sometimes be quite cool but i often wish i was better at double thumbing, but im not sure that its worth all the effort - lazy i know!

    so the question is, is double thumbing worth it in the long run? is it worth the effort and painful thumb callouses?

    id appreciate any advice thanks in advance!!!
  2. Benjamin Strange

    Benjamin Strange Commercial User

    Dec 25, 2002
    New Orleans, LA
    Owner / Tech: Strange Guitarworks
    It depends on whether you want people to listen to you or not! :D

    I say learning any new technique is a good thing in the long run - just another tool in the bag o' tricks. Try not to over use it once you've got it down.
  3. Adam Barkley

    Adam Barkley Mayday!

    Aug 26, 2003
    Jackson, MS
    You really have to decide that for yourself. Point being that not only is the technique fairly advanced, the hardest part is not sounding exactly like Victor. That second part is far harder than actually learning the technique.

    For me, that technique is too "over the top" for most of my ideas. If I use it at all, it is for a short burst in a normal slap line, sort of like a punctuation to bring closure to a sentence. It can add to a killer line, but it can kill a boring line and make it tedious.

    Your mileage may vary though,
    Adam Barkley
  4. Don't_Fret

    Don't_Fret Justin Schornstein

    Dec 10, 2003
    It's really up to you. For me, I'm on my second blister in a week of really seriously sitting down and working the double thumbing exercises I made for myself. It's worth it to me to have that technique, and the holes in my thumb show it.
  5. Oysterman


    Mar 30, 2000
    IMO it's a waste of time. Time that could be spent practicing something you will have good use for in playing music, not just in showing off. But if you feel you know all you need to know already...
  6. CJK84


    Jan 22, 2004
    Maria Stein, OH
    I can't double-thumb (but wish that I could!).

    I feel that some advanced techniques like this are similar to a slam dunk in basketball.

    It can be really cool, but probably isn't necessary.

    Just like there are great basketball players who seldom dunk the ball (or perhaps are even unable to), there are great bassists who don't double-thumb.

    Still, a cool technique that, if used judiciously and musically, could add flare to a performance.
  7. Joe P

    Joe P

    Jul 15, 2004
    Milwaukee, WI
    Take it for what it's worth, here - I've only been seriously persuing more diverse and masterful technique for less than two years now.

    I am personally thrilled with what I see in possibilities with the Wooten double-thumb technique! I started out with pick, and when I switched to fingers, I'd off-and-on wonder if it's worth it; I rather had sort of a style - like a feel for swing and groove - with the pick. After a sort-of reasonable amount of time with two-finger playing (maybe 3/4-year) - and I mean pretty-much forcing myself to play ONLY finger-style - I STILL felt that I was a worse bass player. Then I saw the Wooten video that you mentioned - that is changing my bass-playing life!.

    I can see the case where a bassist who never played with a pick - I mean started with fingers - would find this double-thumbing frustrating, but for someone who started with pick, it's like coming home (well, like coming home with an injured thumb, anyway)!

    I mean there's this certain "dum dumma-dubity-duby duma-duma dodit!" hipotty-bopity feel that is just effortles with a pick, but I find really feels like 'work' with two-finger. Now that victor informed me that one can use their thumb AS a pick (well, duh), it was like an epiphany. Not only can I get the hoppity-bop, but I've got that index finger crossed under, all ready for instant triplets!

    And another important discovery (ANOTHER 'duh', really) was that you don't HAVE to make it sound like "bowmp-BANK! bowmp-BANK!" - you can just control the picking/plucking more like a classical guitarist, and get smooth, conventional tones (yet be instantly ready for explosive tones also).

    Now I have a big'ol knobby callous on my thumb, so no more pain. I'm still plenty awkward with this style, but I'm sure now that it's way-worth the effort. I know that I'm going to 'make something of myself' now - at least on a 'home town level' ...gee - maybe I'll be famous across the whole tri-county area!

  8. I think it depends entirely on what style you like or want to play - it doesn't really work in Nu-Metal! I use the up and down thumb strokes for funk - which is actually a thumb version of Rocco Prestia's funk style - as it's hard to playng smooth 16th notes consitently with your thumb. Why not use your fingers instead? Well you can - but sometimes a bit more attack is required. It's also less tiring than bouncing your thumb all the time, but even that gets easier with a lot of practice.

    As a rule I find it really hard to use anything more than this in a groove - making really busy grooves is something you should do sparingly anyway. The main reason I like the Wooten thumb style is because it's a good way to play over chords and arpeggios while adding a degree of syncopation - I try and pick like Matt Garrison and Gary Willis as well, but two fingers are usually enough for most bass lines. I see the Wooten stuff as a hobby aside from the bread and butter stuff of playing in the pocket and being up on the harmony of any given song or tune.
  9. by the way when i said im pretty good at slap i didnt mean id mastered it!

    thanks for the help though anyway I'll keep all of your comments in mind and try to apply them to my style of playing and frame of mind
  10. KenToby


    Aug 15, 2002
    It took me a good year and a half until I could honestly say that I could double thump. I now incorporate it into most all of my funk.
    Is it worth the work? Well I see it as simply another tool in the tool box; The more tools in the box (like reading, being able to walk, play Latin, Funk, etc.), the more diverse and in demand you might become, plus people really like it; It something new to the listening public and to be asked about it between set makes me kind of proud of all the hard work.

    Good Luck,

  11. dodgy_ian


    Apr 9, 2001
    Newcastle, UK
    yeah, i'm just starting double-thumbing but if you want to be in demand you really need to be ableto do everything, at least a little bit.

    plus it sets you aside as a bass player as it is still a pretty new technique...

  12. Double-thumbing is definitely worth it. I was in you situation once, and I'm glad I took the time to learn that technique. It opens a vast musical vocabulary for you!
  13. Christopher


    Apr 28, 2000
    New York, NY
    It shouldn't be painful or require a lot of effort - the whole purpose of the technique is to spare you the pain and effort associated with less "efficient" traditional technique. For that reason, it's worth it.
  14. Joe P

    Joe P

    Jul 15, 2004
    Milwaukee, WI
    No way, Man.

    It's famously difficult to learn, and it SLAYS your thumb at first.

    I'm goin' for it anyway!

  15. Whafrodamus


    Oct 29, 2003
    Andover, MA
    My thumb is still in minto condition. :p
  16. Joe P

    Joe P

    Jul 15, 2004
    Milwaukee, WI
    Mine's practically deformed with this knobby callous (I guess I'll never be an 'Ivory Girl' now), but no more pain.

    ..From d.-thumbing, that is - now I'm working on callouses for fretboard hammering. OUCH!

  17. Since I started DT-ing more than traditional bouncy-bouncy slapping, my thumb is actually <b>less</b> calloused than before - which is weird - but I do use very light strings, which IMO are actually a bit better for getting this technique fluid anyway. Any new technique requires some adjustment in your muscles and sometimes your poor little fingers, but if you do it enough you should adapt pretty quickly.
  18. Davehenning


    Aug 9, 2001
    Los Angeles
    My favorite double-thumper was Muzz Skillings. Muzz was completely ridiculous with his thumb, yet never lost the groove.

    All techniques have their place to serve music and IMO, it is a nice one to have in the tool box.
  19. It's strange you mention Muzz, I loved his playing in LC, awesome chops but crazy grooves too - I think he was actually the first guy I ever saw use his thumb like a 'pick' - he spoke about it an interview in Bass Player and I started trying that technique out soon afterwards. I didn't realise when I first heard Wooten that the two styles were so similar - Vic brought in all the counterpoint hammer ons which really opened up the thing beyond just up and down strokes with thumb.

    Where is Muzz now? He rocked.
  20. Davehenning


    Aug 9, 2001
    Los Angeles
    Muzz was something else...... I had already been familiar with Muzz when Vic came along. Years ago, when Vic showed me his thumb thing, I immediately though of Muzz. Different, but I think coming from the same basic school of thought.

    Muzz, when I last heard, had a band called "Medicine Stick." He was singing and playing guitar. I'll have to ask around. Always loved the way he played.......