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is this a bad habit???

Discussion in 'Technique [BG]' started by jbennardo, Aug 11, 2005.

  1. I anchor my thumb on one of my pickups. This works ok for me when I'm on E-A-D, but if I need to stretch down to G, I get sloppy. I guess planting my thumb gives me leverage as I have a pretty heavy attack. I've tried to float my hand above the strings but I can't do it.

    Is there a standard right hand position?
  2. endorka


    Oct 15, 2004
    Glasgow, Scotland
    Try this:

    When plucking the E string, keep your thumb on the pickup;
    When plucking the A string, keep your thumb on the pickup;
    When plucking the D string, rest your thumb on the E string;
    When plucking the G string, rest your thumb on the A string.

    This has several advantages;
    - Nothing is "floating", there are precise positions for everything.
    - Unplayed open strings are muted, preventing them from ringing out.
    - You get a more even angle of attack from the plucking fingers on all strings.
    - It can easily be extended for use on 5 and 6 string basses.

  3. I'll give that a shot. I probably do that sometimes without thinking, but when I hear myself getting sloppy I'll look down and see my hand stretching radically.

    I'll work on it!
  4. AGCurry


    Jun 29, 2005
    Kansas City
    It's not a bad habit unless it keeps you from playing well.

    I don't quite understand why it would cause sloppy playing on the G string.

    My main position is thumb on the chrome pickup cover on my Precision or Jazz basses, but I'll move my hand around quite a bit for variety, as needed.

    I guess the best advice I can give is to learn your instrument so well that you know where the strings are, and how to touch them, regardless of where your hand is.
  5. Sometimes I can pull it off no problem. Sometimes older strings or fatigue contributes to that too.

    Either way, I'm going to keep an eye on it.
  6. endorka


    Oct 15, 2004
    Glasgow, Scotland
    Yup, that's another one of the beauties of this technique, it is logical and intuitive. To incorporate it into your playing I would recommend playing lines with lots of string crossings (e.g. scales over all strings) very slowly with a metronome, making sure you are doing the correct thing with your right hand. Gradually speed up the metronome and before you know it this will have become part of your standard technique.

  7. endorka


    Oct 15, 2004
    Glasgow, Scotland
    The sloppiness on the G string comes because your fingers are plucking the strings further away than the other strings, meaning a difference in angle of attack, with consequent difference in tone and loss of control. It will also leave the E and A strings free to vibrate, which is not a good thing. These should be muted whenever possible IMHO.

  8. Yeah, that's really what happens some times. I'll notice I'm not getting the attack I should or, even more frequently, I'll hear noise from the other strings.

  9. WillBuckingham


    Mar 30, 2005
    Well, wouldn't it make sense to change which string your thumb is on depending on which string you need to dampen because of sympathetic virations? I realize you also have between one and three other fingers to do this with depending on your playing style, but I use my thumb to mute the E and A strings a lot.
  10. fourstringdrums

    fourstringdrums Decidedly Indecisive Supporting Member

    Oct 20, 2002
    If I'm playing on the E, I either anchor my thumb on the pickup (or body depending where my hand is), or I'll even hover it over the E and rest it there once in a while for extra muting. For A-G I always have my thumb resting on the string above it.
  11. endorka


    Oct 15, 2004
    Glasgow, Scotland
    My rationale for resting the thumb on the string *two* strings above the one you are plucking is that the string above the one you are plucking will be automatically muted by the follow through of the plucking finger(s). Therefore it does not require direct muting.

  12. fourstringdrums

    fourstringdrums Decidedly Indecisive Supporting Member

    Oct 20, 2002
    That makes sense too. I just do it the way I described because it's more comfortable. Not having to stretch farther than I have to.
  13. DGbass70


    Jun 1, 2005
    Rochester N.Y.
    i agree......i would also recommend to ck your strap that is not too low. :bassist:
  14. Andy3825


    Jul 31, 2005
    Meriden, CT
    I keep my thumb planted on the pickup for E and rest it on the E for A, D, and G.
  15. OysterBoy


    Sep 19, 2004
    Ontario, Canada
    I actually just have my thumb always between the pickup, and E. It will often rest on the pickup, but (perhaps because my pickup is smooth) I'm able to slide my thumb down to E for needed leverage (which is all I ever seem to need to do. Occasionally I'll rest on E and A, but only if I'm playing something with a very high register). Just find what works for you.
  16. Like some folks have said, I rest my thumb on the pickup for playing on E, and on E for playing on D and G. What my thumb does while playing on A, however, kinda depends on how long I intend on being there. :) If I know I'll be bouncing back down to E after a note or two, I'll stay up on the p/up. If I know I'm gonna stay on A for a while, or go upwards, my thumb moves down onto the E string.

    Now, I don't consciously think about this... it just kinda happens. :) It's just become habit that if it's not "worth" it for my thumb to make the trip, it won't.

    One think I could NEVER do, and darn it if I haven't tried, is move my thumb down to rest on the A for playing on the D and G. If I'm on the G and I need to mute the A, my pinky finger takes care of it (I play with three fingers on the right, and it doesn't move sympathetically with my ring finger, for some strange reason, so it works out rather well).
  17. I switch off on where I anchor my thumb depending on what I am playing and what bass I am using. Mainly, I'll either have my thumb anchored on the neck pickup or the actual neck near the 24th fret.

    I have a similar problem with the G string when anchoring on the pickup, but overall I am slowly getting rid of it by moving my thumb down to rest on the E string for playing on the G.

    When I want to get a smoother sound and play with a lighter attack, I will anchor my thumb on the top of neck near 24th fret, and from there I usually have no problem with balancing my attack with all of the strings.