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Picking hand thumb issue...

Discussion in 'Jazz Technique [DB]' started by bass_lord_mutha, May 30, 2011.

  1. Hey guys, I'm more of an electric bassist, not having played the double bass extensively for about 8 years now, but now I've picked up the double bass again, this time in more of a jazz mindset rather than orchestral like I did in high school. However I've noticed that usually about halfway through a DB gig, my picking hand thumb starts to get pretty sore from resting it on the side of the fingerboard (actually, more on the corner nearest the top of the body). My question is, would this be a situation in which I just need to build up a callus, or should I maybe have that corner of the fingerboard rounded to less of an edge? I've also thought about getting one of those rubber thumb caps that the postal workers use to sort though papers, odd as that sounds. Any other suggestions?
  2. dbass87


    May 16, 2010
    If I understand your placement correctly, I guess if you continue to do it that way you'll have to build up a callous, or even wrap your thumb with something?... But when I pizz, my thumb is actually back behind the fingerboard, so that the web of the hand is actually in contact with the fingerboard. Now sometimes I do bring the thumb around to rest more on the side of the fingerboard, such as when I'm adjusting my position for soloing sometimes, but it's not really on the corner so much as just the side really...You could try the web of the hand against the fingerboard, and see if you can get comfortable that way, it's a pretty nice feel
  3. Never thought of doing it that way, I'll give it a try and see what that does for me. Is that a pretty common technique with jazz bassists?
  4. PocketGroove82


    Oct 18, 2006
    No, it's not common to play with your thumb under the fingerboard, I've never seen a great player do this. It inhibits your ability to quickly switch between one finger parallel and two or three finger perpendicular technique, and the energy of your pull goes down into the board rather than across. Sure, you can play that way, I've seen capable students do it, but it's not ideal.

    Some basses out there have fingerboards with sharp edges. Some have been shaved down so much they they are sharp and flimsy with considerable "give". Some have big wide boards with flat sides that are solid as a rock: Something to consider.

    Keep practicing it will get easier. Observe the great players. Observe the great players.
  5. dbass87


    May 16, 2010
    Actually I think it's more common than you think. For instance, look at Dave Holland's right hand thumb in this clip: YouTube - ‪Dave Holland Quintet - Last Minute Man (Part 1/2)‬‏

    You can see that his thumb is definitely behind the fingerboard. Also, it doesn't really affect the pull, at least not for me, and it's not really an issue when switching to a perpendicular position for soloing (which Holland does as well). The thumb just slides over to the side of the fingerboard for this position.
    The main thing is to just do what works for you, without causing pain or injury, and that gets a good sound.
  6. dbass87


    May 16, 2010
    Wanted to let you know, I played some just to see in fact how I was doing it. When I said the web of your hand touching the fingerboard, really that's a bit of a stretch-- what I'm actually doing, after going back and examining, is making contact with the area at the base of the thumb where it connects with the hand, just at the start of the web, thumb behind the fingerboard, and this is the basic position I'm in when playing the G and D strings (talking fingers parallel to the string, not when I'm in perpendicular position). I do adjust somewhat when I play the A and E strings-- for this my thumb is making contact with the underside of the corner of the fingerboard, kind of like what you were doing. But I'm not directly on the corner, but on the flat side underneath, which is more comfortable. Now your fingerboard could be a different design as well, so you'll have to figure out what works. I think as you keep playing, you'll begin to develop the way that's comfortable and that works for you. Just keep trying to discover what that is, and avoid anything that causes pain or could lead to injury.
  7. Les Fret

    Les Fret

    Sep 9, 2009
    It is possible that the side or bottom of the fingerboard (where the thumb rests) is too sharp like mentioned before. I had that on my bass. I just sanded it a little rounder and now I don't get blisters anymore on my thumb.

    The other issue about where to rest the thumb: You can pretty much rest it everywhere. There are no rules.
    When playing on the E string it can be under the board. But when playing on other strings it can be on the side. Also it can rest on the E string, I do that a lot of times when I play fast.
  8. andy rice

    andy rice

    Jul 30, 2006
    Fort Wayne, IN
    Sales Engineer, Sweetwater Sound
    I usually play with my thumb on the side of the fingerboard...and i have a pretty hard callous there.

    Moleskin works pretty well for stuff like that. i think you can put it on your thumb or on the fingerboard and it shouldn't cause any harm to your bass...and it's thicker and more durable than a bandaid.

    I second the mention of the injury aspect. Listen to your tendons!

    Shoot for relaxed, however that may work for your hands, and go with that.

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