Need double thumb advice

Discussion in 'Technique [BG]' started by embellisher, Jan 21, 2001.

  1. embellisher

    embellisher Holy Ghost filled Bass Player Staff Member Supporting Member

    I have been working on this technique, but I have a question.

    I have very thick nails, but I am afraid that if I keep practicing that I am going to wear my thumbnail through, which would be very painful!:eek: I cringe just thinking of the possible pain!

    Can I really wear it through like I am worrying about?

    Is there any way to keep this from happening, or is there anything that I can put on it to make it tougher?
  2. Gard

    Gard Commercial User

    Mar 31, 2000
    Greensboro, NC, USA
    General Manager, Roscoe Guitars
    Jeff -

    I've been working on and using this technique for about 5-6 years now, and I've never had a problem like the one you're worried about. I'm not going to say it CAN'T happen, but I do consider it to be highly unlikely. I'm thinking if you wore through your thumbnail, you'd be really digging in a bit too hard on the upstroke of the DT technique. Hope that calms your fears.
  3. Lance Jaegan

    Lance Jaegan

    Dec 23, 2000
    You could stick superglue on it if you're really worried about that. It'd look a bit stupid though.
  4. maybe you can get some lee-press on nails, make sure you get a color that compliments your eyes :D

    maybe you need to change your hand position a little, when i do it, it doesn't hit my thumb nail. i do it right on the fret board so my thumb doesn't go so deep. i used to do it behind the fret board and then i would hit my thumb nail on the upstroke but since i have been doing it right on the fret board it doesn't happen any more. it also seems to give me more control.

    good luck
  5. Fishbrain


    Dec 8, 2000
    England, Liverpool
    Endorsing Artist: Warwick Bass and Amp
    wot is double thumbing?

    and I know that you can get a cream that my dad uses for finger style guitar playing. And its called nu nail and you only have to use it for a short time then it is just hard forever :D
  6. embellisher

    embellisher Holy Ghost filled Bass Player Staff Member Supporting Member

    gruffpuppy, I tried it that way but I do not get a sharp enough attack on the upstroke when I do it that way.

    You are probably right, I am digging in too hard, but I want to hear a pop on every note.

    Fishbrain, double thumbing(or double thumb slapping, as it is sometimes called) is like regular slap taken to another level.

    Instead of slapping towards the fingerboard, you slap with a downwards motion towards the floor, stop just past the string and slap again with an upwards motion.

    Probably the best double thumber is Victor Wooten, but guys like Dave LaRue and Les Claypool use this technique also.

    Do a search, there are several threads on the technique, but none of them address thumbnail wear.
  7. oh, i see so your going for almost a thump, pop thing.
    maybe just keep trying it and see if your nail grows faster than you can wear it down, or maybe FB's dad seeing that he plays finger style guitar has the right idea.

    heck i have been practiceing double thumb almost every day for 6 or more months and i still can't get blisters to stop forming, funny thing is they for under a 1/4 inch callus

    keep me up to date it sounds like a great variation on tone
  8. Gard

    Gard Commercial User

    Mar 31, 2000
    Greensboro, NC, USA
    General Manager, Roscoe Guitars
    OK, I was just practicing a little while ago, and was working on the DT technique. So I payed some attention to it to see what's up with it when I do it, see if I could give you some direction possibly.

    I grow my right thumbnail out a bit (about 1/8"), and have a tendency to use that portion of the thumbnail for the "backstroke" of my DT-ing. I keep a nail file around and keep the thumbnail a certain size and shape, and if I don't use it, the nail gets too long. So, I don't think that my way of doing this is causing any harm to my nail, since the nail manages to grow. As for where I strike the string, it's basically right at the end of the fingerboard, almost over my 24th fret.

    One thing that may be of concern/interest to you is that I actually use a fairly light attack when doing any slap. When I was studying with LaRue, he pounded it into my head that your slap tone doesn't come from how hard you hit the string, but from HOW you do it. Remember that it doesn't take too much force to get the string to start moving, try to use the lightest amount of force possible to get the tone you're looking for. You shouldn't have any trouble with your nail getting seriously damaged. All I ever get is some rough edges on the nail.

    Hope that was some help, Jeff.
  9. embellisher

    embellisher Holy Ghost filled Bass Player Staff Member Supporting Member

    Gard, thanks for the advice.

    I have been working a lot on dynamics the last few weeks, trying to get more tonal and volume control with my fingers, and I find that when double thumbing, I do not hit the strings as hard as I do when I do regular slap.

    I think that maybe, based on what you are saying, that I am digging in too far with my thumb on the upstroke. It is grabbing the string about 3.5 mm from the end of the nail.

    You can imagine my concern about wearing a hole in the nail that deep into the quick - OWWW!:eek:

    But I have very tough nails, and maybe I am worrying unnecessarily.

    How long do you have to practice this technique before it flows seamlessly, like Victor?:p

    Gruffpuppy, I tried using the side of my thumb next to the nail, but I have a cut there and it is way too tender right now. But that will be the next step, when I don't want the percussive attack, to use the meat on the side of the thumb.

    How long did it take you to get a callous? OOO! Blisters under the callous! I hate it when that happens! It hurts, and if it busts in the wrong spot, you can lose your callous too!
  10. bomichaels


    May 12, 2006
    I have met Victor Wooten and hung out with him for a week at the bass camp. I would encourage you to watch Victor's
    videos and notice how effortless it looks when he uses the technique. I think it is more about precision than force. I personally prefer to use the fret board for control. Plus, I would recommend playing double thumb scales with a metronome. Start slow so you habituate yourself accurately to developing the technique. Also, remember to have fun!!
  11. W-OO-10


    Oct 22, 2006
    when you're double thumbing are you supposed to hit the string with your thumb perpendicular to the string or more paralel and just hit it with your joint, help would be appreciated.

  12. Hey Embellisher - I wrote a really in-depth reply then when I hit 'Post' the site went down and it got lost...sorry - the short version goes:

    1. If you feel any pain when doing this technique - stop - you are doing something wrong. Keep your nails cut short and try to think of your thumb as a plectrum not a slapping implement - this way if you think of a good, controled, plectrum technique, you should essentially mimic this for a good DT technique.

    2. After using this technique since about 1995 I can assure you wil never wear through your thumb nail. It's just like building callouses - it takes time - but when you get them you have them pretty much forever.

    3. Play light, that way you maintain control - if you need more volume turn your amp up - work on a slow groove getting even notes and make sure you are relaxed the whole time - try and watch out for when you start to tense up, try and work out why you are tensing and then try it again - breathing nice and evenly will actually help you with your rhythm as well. When you have it flowing and even then start working on accents on the up and down strokes and vary thekm to create some interesting patterns and variations - combining them with pops is the way to go after that.

    4. A lower action and slightly lighter strings can help a lot with both comfort when playing like this and actually getting more control/dexterity with this stuff

    I think that's it - any more stuff I think of I'll add later - and if you have any questions please ask me.



    PS My stinky old DT video from a while ago, shows you a few of things I'm waffling on about - I might make a new one soon...
  13. mVC


    Jan 28, 2006
    Not exactly a nail-problem but on topic; I've been practicing since a while on DT'ing, and whatever I try, I can't get a decent tone on the upstroke. It's like my thumb is just vibrating the string very softly and I cant get the string to 'pop' onto the frets. Any suggestions how can I improve the upstroke?