Left hand thumb posture - what is correct?

Discussion in 'Technique [BG]' started by Rockin Mike, Nov 11, 2012.

  1. Rockin Mike

    Rockin Mike

    May 27, 2011
    What is the correct posture for the left hand thumb?

    I am double-jointed in the thumb, it bends backward to make a perfect "L" shape. No pain when I do that but I can feel it stretch the tendons at the base of my palm.

    Being self-taught, I always used that backbent thumb as an anchor so my middle thumb bone was perpendicular to the neck. As such I could put plenty of pressure on it and still be very loose in the fingers for very fast fretwork. Seemed like an unfair but welcome advantage. Worked fine until I got old, now I want to get away from that to relieve pressure on those tendons.

    Should the left thumb be used as an anchor or pivot at all?

    Is it best to wrap it over the top of the neck? This seems to limit agility on the lighter strings where I need it most.

    Is it best to lay the thumb down parallel to the neck always pointing at the headstock? This seems to mean using more bicep to change hand positions which is slower than just pivoting on the thumb.

    My best guess at this point is that it should be pointing toward the headstock, tip barely touching the neck just as a guide, and the whole thumb kept straight. I've made a brace with duct tape and popsicle sticks to train it to stay straight.

    Anyone with real expertise on this issue, I would greatly appreciate letting me know whether I'm on the right track or what you would recommend.

  2. fearceol


    Nov 14, 2006
    Here are two clips you should check out. The first one is about general L/H technique in which he also talks about the thumb position.

  3. Rockin Mike

    Rockin Mike

    May 27, 2011
    Yeah what he's describing in the first video at around 3:30 is what I've been doing, except even more so because of the backbent thumb.
  4. Kmonk


    Oct 18, 2012
    South Shore, Massachusetts
    Endorsing Artist: Fender, Spector, Ampeg, Curt Mangan Strings
    For me, it depends on the song. Sometimes, I wrap my thumb around and other times my thumb is on the back of the neck. I believe we should play however we feel most comfortable.
  5. Do whatever is most comfortable, but typically, your fingers have less range of motion when the thumb is wrapped around the top of the neck.
  6. SBsoundguy


    Sep 2, 2011
    Los Angeles
    My thumb is usually opposite of all of my other fingers on the back of the neck. I never wrap it over the top.
  7. Mr. Sound

    Mr. Sound Supporting Member

    Nov 3, 2009
    At no point does my thumb ever leave my hand.
  8. SBsoundguy


    Sep 2, 2011
    Los Angeles
    This man knows how it's done!
  9. Jeff Bonny

    Jeff Bonny

    Nov 20, 2000
    Vancouver, BC
    There is no one correct place to hold your thumb. My default position is slightly above center of the neck pivoting between pointing almost straight up and about 45 deg. Depending on what I'm doing though (like playing chords or trying to cop a sloppy rock feel) it can move well above that to the point it's overhanging. The main thing I strive for is the least amount of stress and maximum mobility in any given situation.
  10. Fergie Fulton

    Fergie Fulton Gold Supporting Member

    Nov 22, 2008
    Retrovibe Artist rota
    Hi Mike, first thing I have issue with is the brace.
    The use of a brace to " train " it straight is never a good idea where the human body is concerned.
    You have a double-joint, that is a physical flaw, not something that can be " trained out " anymore so than it could be " trained in ".

    Double-joints present a wide array of challenges and problems, it is called Hyper-mobility and can affect any movable joints and the associated bones and muscle structures that service them.

    For you the thumb has the ability to over extend.
    This first off means that the muscle groups have to work beyond their intended range. Your thumb can move in an all round direction so it can oppose any of the fingers, this action can be see as four men, each with a rope tied to the top of a flag pole and the way they can move it about in direction and angle.

    So for you this means your muscles has to work harder to control the thumb because it has this extended range.
    Splinting the thumb means you are artificially holding it there, the muscles are not involved in holding it in position, they are having to cope with it being held in that position.
    That is never a good thing when done for the wrong reasons, and my issue is " not enough information " about type of hyper-mobility you have or any of the problems it has presented to you in your life.

    You are correct that it will present problems when older, all joints do, but your thumb has has an abnormal problem, so its wear and tear issues will be different than normal ones.

    The thumb should move in relation to the wrist angle, the more parallel the bass angle of the neck the more important this is.
    The straighter the wrist the more the thumb will come over the top of the neck, the more acute the angle, the more the thumb will drop down behind the neck.
    The thumb has no relation to the fretting action other than it is there. It cannot access the strings because of the guitars design, so the thumb " hangs around" getting in the way. The first action any player does is to hold the neck, so now the thumb is involved. But rest it against the neck and do not initiate the grip, and the fingers will move with ease. So in that action the thumb has no real use in fretting, so its position is of no concern when playing. Just let the thumb be relaxed or neutral and let it go where it wants to un-restrained.
    If the fingers do require some support, which they do from time to time, let the thumb go to where it naturally can give the best support. Again this needs to be un-restrained.

    The best thing you can do is see an osteopath or equivelantly trained medical profesional and get proper examination and diagnosis of your condition. Tell them of any problems and take a bass with you to show them how you use your hands.
    This information will help them understand what you want from your hands and give them an in-sight into your hand use.
    Good luck with it all, but get it checked out by qualified medical personal.
  11. tjh

    tjh Supporting Member

    Mar 22, 2006
    .. a lot is also determined by how high or low you wear your bass ... I am on the higher side, with about a 45 degree neck angle ... very natural for thumb to be mid neck opposite fingers with slight bend back at tip .. wrist inclination straight ... the lower the bass goes, the more the thumb needs to come towards the top to keep the wrist relaxed ....
  12. Russell L

    Russell L

    Mar 5, 2011
    Cayce, SC
    ^^That there.
  13. CocoBass19


    Nov 8, 2012
    ah this was helpful! yay!