My thumb floats. Should my forearm float too?

Discussion in 'Technique [BG]' started by Funkateer, Sep 18, 2003.

  1. Funkateer


    Jul 5, 2002
    Los Gatos, CA
    Will there ever be an end to floating thumb questions? The right forearm is seldom mentioned in the TB postings I have read, as well as sites like adam nitti's.

    I come from a classical guitar background, so I naturally started floating my thumb when I started playing the bass. On the guitar, the correct forearm position is driven by balance: the contact point between right forearm and guitar is such that the right hand is suspended in an optimal position for each of the fingers ( p-i-m-a is the nomenclature) to address the strings, and simultaneousloy distributes the weight of the arm evenly so that the position can be maintained without any muscular effort.

    Is resting the forearm on the body of the bass also good technique? Otherwise, how do you stablize the right hand? Compared to classical guitar which is always played seated, the amount of bass player body movement the technique has to accommodate is much greater.

    The pics on Gary Willis site suggest that he rests his forarm; and in addition to his thumb, he floats his ring finger for additional stability (and muting).
  2. christoph h.

    christoph h.

    Mar 26, 2001
    hmm, i wouldn't say that there is a "right or wrong" with resting your forearm on the instrument's body, but it depends on factors like relaxation, blood flow, influence on dexterity, etc.

    adam nitti once mentioned that (at least during fingerstyle) he wouldn't rest his arm on the bass because it prohibited the blood from flowing into his arm sufficiently.

    but as you say, other excellent players like gary willis do it without any problems.
  3. Wrong Robot

    Wrong Robot Guest

    Apr 8, 2002

    I never have this problem with my Fodera, but with my ABG I get it all the time, and it's uncomfortable.

    I think either way is totally cool though.

    when I'm sitting I tend to rest my forearm on the bass, and anchor my thumb, but when I'm standing, I vary.

    I think whichever is comfortable and enables you to do what you want to do, go for it.
  4. Ditto. Just don't rest your arm so that it creates an unnatural angle in your wrist. I cringe everytime I see those bass players with the 90 degree wrist angle over the body of the bass :eek:
  5. waxlabltabler


    Aug 24, 2002
    This is stupid but I have to ask. Do you mean perpendicular or paralell to the bass (their wrist)?
  6. Funkateer


    Jul 5, 2002
    Los Gatos, CA
    I'm starting to come to the conclusion that not only is RH position very personal - depending on hand size/geometry, style of music, etc. - but that even for one person, there is no one RH position that 'works for everything'. My current quest for the perfect hand position started when I had problems incorporating octaves smoothly, and also playing on the E string with good tone (no anchor).

    I noticed while practicing yesterday, that the technical requirements of each groove tends to drive you toward different RH positions. Am I on target here? Or should I continue the quest for the 'correct' RH position?
  7. canopener


    Sep 15, 2003
    Isle of Lucy
    Sitting or standing, I anchor my thumb at the end of the neck, I can mute the E string if I hit it accidentally. I also like the tone plucking at that spot, rather than closer to the bridge.
  8. let me revitalize this thread.

    This is what I have figured out over my (very short period of beginner) playing:
    1. if the thumb floats, its comfortable for the forearm to not float.
    2. if the thumb anchors on pickup always, its not comfortable for the forearm to float.

    I am currently playing style 2, and my plucking fingers are pointing directly towards the floor, my biceps are almost parallel to the floor. Not resting my forearm on the body give me more flexiblity when I am playing the higher (pitch) strings, since my forearm can move more swiftly.

    But I realized there's one problem with not resting the forearm, the neck seems to be quite unstable when I fret it with my left hand, it sort of creates a pivot around my stomach area (contact of bass and body), and when I fret it, the neck will kind of rotates. If I push hard with my left thumb, it will go forwards a bit, if I press hard with left fingers, the neck will go backwards. This kills my consistency, especially when I am jumping positions on the fretboard... :meh:
  9. Rana and I took lessons from Gary Willis and his ring finger is part of a fairly complex but interesting to use three-finger playing technique, so it's not only used for muting. It rips right along with the rest of the fingers...

    Rana varied somewhat between your #1 and #2 but generally anchored the thumb and plucked with the index, middle and ring fingers. She had incredible technique - her hands hardly moved once anchored. You'd have to look hard to see how much she was actually playing. The advantage to this was very little fatigue and a very consistent sound.

    Now me? I've been told my technique looks like two spiders jumping all over the bass... half the time nothing is anchored. Basically, my technique sucks.

    I don't have the problem of the neck getting pushed forwards and basckwards, though. I was just checking it out and noticed that if my thumb on the freting hand is in a 'proper' position (pretty much in line with the index or middle finger depending on where on the neck I'm playing) the neck can't shift around on me. However, if I use a 'loose' style on the fretting hand it will move around a little bit... YMMV.

    John Ross
  10. Matthew Bryson

    Matthew Bryson Guest

    Jul 30, 2001
    I rest my forearm lightly on the body of the bass. I'd been playing fingerstyle for a year when I took my first lesson. My teacher said at the first lesson that my right hand technique was good and that we didn't have any problems to address. The only time he ever mentioned my right hand technique was one time when I was crossing strings and I raised my elbow a bit and my arm came off of the bass. He said "don't lift your arm and ruin that great right hand" which I took to mean that I should always rest the arm, which I almost always had and now always will. If it makes a difference, I anchor my thumb on the neck p/up.
  11. I often mess with my forearm a lot myself. I find if I want to change strings quickly and play a fast line, I need to raise my forearm up and sort of jut it out in front of my body in order to maintain proper wrist angle. I don't need to do it that often, but I find if I keep my elbow back behind my body, it makes it a lot harder.

    A lot of this depends on the strap height, too.
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