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left thumb placement

Discussion in 'Technique [BG]' started by arbarnhart, Dec 2, 2006.


  1. arbarnhart

    arbarnhart

    Nov 16, 2006
    Raleigh, NC
    Working on a number of different blues lines, one of my favorites is giving me some trouble. It's this one:

    bass_shuffle_1.

    I am having a heck of a time consistently fretting cleanly with the pinky. But I don't have that problem with this one:

    bass_shuffle_2.

    The difference is that I am sliding my thumb up the neck as I play up in the second form. I have the reach and strength in the pinky to do the finger per fret, but I think I am keeping the thumb in the wrong spot. In the above examples, where the index finger is on the 4th fret, is there a particular spot you would keep the thumb at? If so, under what fret? If I have it past the 5th fret it is awkward to fret the 4th with the index, but when I fret with the pinky on the 7th, I really need my thumb under the 6th fret.

    Obviously I need to work on one of the two and get past it, but which one? Get used to fretting the index finger with the thumb further forward?
     
  2. There really isnt anything wrong with sliding your thumb up a bit, IMO.
     
  3. I have a question/observation to add onto this. In all the instruction books I have looked at they say to put your thumb in the middle of the back of he neck, but when I see players like flea, sometimes they hold the neck all the way around, with their thumb touching the side of the fret board. So...whats the right technique?
     
  4. arbarnhart

    arbarnhart

    Nov 16, 2006
    Raleigh, NC
    It seems there sure are a bunch of us in NC. :)

    Look close at the last 3 notes in that first line. The quick little hitch back up to the 4th fret doesn't allow time for sliding. I am fine with a little sliding to do the second form, but for a lot of songs the first form sounds much better (at least it does when fretted cleanly).
     
  5. Play the 7th fret notes on the next string up at the 2nd fret. See if that helps some.

    It does seem lately like there are more NCers. When I first joined, I was the only NCer I was aware of.
     
  6. trasser

    trasser

    Dec 13, 2005
    Playing that, I don't think you should move your thumb. IMO you should only move it, when you have to stretch over more than 4 frets. Consider this bluesline as an excersice, eventually you'll be able to play it.
    To Disc - sometimes it is easier to play the way you've seen Flea do it from time to time, but mostly it is easier to play with your thumb on the back of the neck when you get used to it. I would't want to start using that "technique", because eventually you might end up doing it too much (maybe even all the time) and it is quite limiting. I do it sometimes - but very rarely, as I said, only a few licks are easier to play that way.
     
  7. arbarnhart

    arbarnhart

    Nov 16, 2006
    Raleigh, NC
    I agree, but what I am asking is where it is I should not move it from. Where would you plant your thumb to give enough leverage on the pinky, but not cause discomfort playing when using the index finger?

    If I move to the next string, then I would be playing 2-5 instead of 4-7 so it would actually be a slightly longer stretch. It would take the stretch out of the quick hitch so I could get away with sliding the thumb though. But it doesn't seem to have the same sound.
     
  8. The best thing to do would be to just keep working at it on the 7th fret so that you build up strength in your pinkie and improve how wide you can stretch your fingers. Mind you this isnt going to happen right away. After about 6 years of playing, Ive added another half inch of spread b/w the tips of index and pinkie finger.

    If youve kinda just started out, like within the first few months of playing, your left hand still isnt gonna be nearly as strong as it will be. Just keep working at it, and it will come.
     
  9. arbarnhart

    arbarnhart

    Nov 16, 2006
    Raleigh, NC
    I appreciate the responses, but my question is still unanswered. Assuming you would keep the thumb in one spot while the fingers were positioned at frets 4-7, where would you position the thumb?
     
  10. floopy

    floopy

    Mar 18, 2006
    Conventional wisdom is that your thumb should be about opposite your middle finger, in this case parallel to the 5th fret.

    However, there are so many variables at play (your physique, hand size, the height your bass is at, the angle of bass to the body, the angle of the bass is tilted up at, how straight your wrist is . . .) that a picture is worth way more than a thousand words. Even better would be a little webcam clip of you playing the passage.

    Bass is kind of a 'whole body' instrument, so just looking at one element in isolation doesn't always help.
     
  11. arbarnhart

    arbarnhart

    Nov 16, 2006
    Raleigh, NC
    Thanks much, Floopster! You got the mental gears turning and I tried a few different things. I did bring the thumb a little more forward, but bringing the neck up so my wrist is straighter makes it easier to fret with the pinky and that made the most difference (well, that and playing it over and over and over while trying different things).

    And yes, I am new to bass but have played other instruments for decades (not incredibly well, but I have a good handspan from paino). Sometimes that makes it more frustrating on a new instrument; you just expect to adapt and be up to speed in no time. Instead you find yourself enrolled in Humility 101...
     
  12. trasser

    trasser

    Dec 13, 2005
    +1 on keeping the thumb opposite the middle finger, sorry I failed to understand your question in the first place.
    Sounds like a good thing you are doing with your wrist. I always try to keep my left hand fingers parallel to the fretlines, though its difficult, especially on the low end.
     
  13. arbarnhart

    arbarnhart

    Nov 16, 2006
    Raleigh, NC
    Looking at my first post, I wasn't entirely accurate about where my thumb was to begin with. I said it was at the 5th, but it was closer to the 4th (but a finger on top at that point would be fretting a string at the 5th, which is what made me think/type 5th). A picture or clip probably would have helped clear it up quicker.
     
  14. There is no steadfast rule about thumb placement, but I recommend having your thumb on the back of neck, and have it line up with your 2nd finger, or maybe somewhat between your 2nd and 3rd finger(when you have one finger per fret). Also, try touching your fingers and thumb together naturally - then try to translate that tension-free "feeling" to LH while playing . Remember to NEVER press your thumb(it should feel more like the neck is pressing your thumb a little), and if you feel pain, STOP for a few minutes. Technique is only this - the most efficient, pain free way of playing.
     
  15. You can also pivot your thumb so that it is parallel to the neck to get extra reach.

    This is probably not classically "correct" but neither are many things which are useful and effective. You be the judge for your playing.
     
  16. MichaelScott

    MichaelScott

    Jul 27, 2004
    Moorpark CA
    I made a video for you here.

    Try to keep your thumb behind your middle finger. It isn't much of a stretch on when you are starting the pattern on the 5th frett- my bass is 35" scale.
     
  17. arbarnhart

    arbarnhart

    Nov 16, 2006
    Raleigh, NC
    Wow - thanks! That was helpful. I noticed you are right at the frets without even the slightest gap behind them. I was maybe 1/8-1/4" back of the frets and moving up tighter seems to help, especially with the pinky.
     

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