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Picking with the thumb

Discussion in 'Technique [BG]' started by violinoscar, Jul 28, 2018.

  1. When I first learned to play bass in the mid 60s, I used my thumb, then in the 70s I learned to use my fingers. Now I use a pick and can effectively use any of these techniques now depending on the song and the sound I want to play. :D
    LowNloud1 and Son of Wobble like this.
  2. InhumanResource


    Dec 28, 2012
    Same here. If we play anything with an oldies kind of vibe I do the same thing, thumb pluck and mute with the edge of the same hand.
    Son of Wobble likes this.
  3. Wasnex


    Dec 25, 2011
    Pretty sure Bernard switches between thumb picking and finger style for the opening lick and bass solo (see video below). I would have never guessed this without reading about it. I think I worked up the tune years ago, but used only finger style.

    There are close ups of his hand at 3:08. His hand shape is closed, as if he has a pick, instead of open like I use for double thumb.

    I use thumb plucking with palm muting sometimes to emulate more of a string bass thud. Lot's of different ways to use the thumb.
  4. Think of two great players who use their thumbs primarily-


    "Family Man" Barrett
  5. toprekoms

    toprekoms Inactive

    Aug 22, 2010
    Chris Squire used both the pick and his thumb at the same. An integral part of his sound.
  6. Rumbledore

    Rumbledore Inactive

    Jun 2, 2018
    whatever jaco does is correct
  7. Wasnex


    Dec 25, 2011
    Doesn't Paul McCartney use a lot of thumb picking?
    basscapes likes this.
  8. -Asdfgh-


    Apr 13, 2010
    For some double stops, or fast octaves, not otherwise. And it's more thumbnail (and fingernails) than thumb.
    Son of Wobble likes this.
  9. interp


    Apr 14, 2005
    Garmisch, Germany
    I think it is profoundly immoral to use the thumb to pluck the strings.
    Son of Wobble likes this.
  10. Son of Wobble

    Son of Wobble

    Mar 8, 2010
    Ich auch. That' why I am perfecting the technique!
    interp likes this.
  11. Wasnex


    Dec 25, 2011
    This video would suggest otherwise ;). Forward to 1:45.
  12. Son of Wobble

    Son of Wobble

    Mar 8, 2010

    Speaking of double stops -- hard to perform one if you are an exclusively thumb player, eh?
    -Asdfgh- and Wasnex like this.
  13. bassstrangler


    Mar 2, 2015
    Son of Wobble and ThumbBum like this.
  14. Tom Bomb

    Tom Bomb Hypocognitive Supporting Member

    Apr 23, 2014
    Thumbs up! I love a bit of thumb too, just quietly. So does Mark Ferrie from The Models, Sacred Cowboys, The Rockwiz Orkestra, etc.. He's like you. Primarily, he uses the thumb.
  15. nilorius

    nilorius Inactive

    Oct 27, 2016
    Riga - Latvia
    When i used all main main fingers, i use the 5th on the low B on my 5 fretless, but that happens quit rarely.
  16. Plucking with the thumb is another tool that provides several different sounds depending on where, how hard and whether or not you use a mute. Historically one of the earliest players of jazz on electric bass Monk Montgomery used only his thumb and I am sure there were many others as Fender equipped the basses with the ubiquitous tug bar that so many switched to a position over the strings to be a thumb rest.

    I use several thumb plucking positions. Close to the neck I will softly pluck the string getting a soft attack and short sustain much like a pizzacato string bass. I will use an even softer pluck to get and almost arco type attack and utilize compression for sustain. I will also pluck using the meat of my thumb for long sustained notes between the pickups. Then I will sometimes pluck with my thumb closer to the bridge while using palm muting to get more of a Latin bass tone or I may also use a string mute like a Fump.
  17. vilshofen


    Dec 27, 2007
    Oscar, try making a thumb rest-stroke with the nail, like classical guitarists; sonority for days, all over the fingerboard! Best-kept secret in bass-playing. Alternatively, give a thumb pick a try ― second-best-kept secret!


    Attached Files:

  18. I think you might be right there!
    Wasnex likes this.
  19. ThumbBum


    Dec 16, 2016
    I think its profoundly immoral to go with the grain. Your way is perfection though....whatever that may be.
    interp likes this.
  20. -Asdfgh-


    Apr 13, 2010
    I'm not sure Macca has even seen my play, so I'm not sure he can pass comment on my style.
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