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playing with your thumb

Discussion in 'Technique [BG]' started by giallos, Jan 12, 2003.

  1. giallos


    Dec 29, 2002
    does any one pluck with there thumb only , or does every one use there fingers , is there any well known players who prefer thumb plucking ?
  2. Mike


    Sep 7, 2000
    Sting does. But, I don't.
  3. Bruce Lindfield

    Bruce Lindfield Unprofessional TalkBass Contributor Gold Supporting Member In Memoriam

    I think String uses a combination of thumb and fingers - I tend to do this as well - using thumb for plucking lower strings and fingers for higher.

    I don't know of any contemporary bass players who use thumb only - this would seem to be a very limited technique.
  4. snyderz


    Aug 20, 2000
    AZ mountains
    I injured my 1st and 2nd fingers a couple years ago in a quad wreck. Almost lost my arm, so I'm a very lucky boy. I couldn't stand not playing, so I began to develop my thumb playing. I agree that it is restrictive, but I double thumb for speed and can play most songs as written. I don't slap, but use the thumb as I would with fingers. I'm just happy that I can still play.
  5. Ryan L.

    Ryan L. Moderator Staff Member Supporting Member

    Aug 7, 2000
    West Fargo, ND
    More of a Technique question, I believe.

  6. thumber


    Jan 5, 2001
    Brian Wilson of The Beach Boys played with his thumb. That was the old way to play electric bass.

    I use the thumb when doing walking bass lines that should sound like an upright bass.
  7. JimK


    Dec 12, 1999
    A lotta guys will use their thumb to 'pluck' when palm muting...
    Too, if you recall, the early Fender basses always had the 'thumb rest' placed below the "G"-string. Word is Fender envisioned people would play the thing with their thumb.

    Anyway, what I really want to say is this-
    Check out Matthew Garrison's Thumb + 1st & 2nd finger plucking technique. You can see it in-action on Hancock's Future 2 Future Live DVD.
    Pretty amazing.
  8. giallos


    Dec 29, 2002
    so you can get away with using just your thumb ,?

    im not really looking for extra complicated bass lines so do u reckon i would be ok just practising thumb technique ,

    its just i really really cant grasp finger pluckin yet i feel so comfortable playing with my thumb
  9. zombywoof5050


    Dec 20, 2001
    From what I saw, he was also using his 3rd finger quite a bit.
  10. Davehenning


    Aug 9, 2001
    Los Angeles
    Monk Montgomery played electric bass only using his thumb and he swung like hell!

  11. giallos


    Dec 29, 2002
    ah ha , glad to hear there is someone who rocks using only his thumb :D
    i will have to check him out , see if i can find anyhting on the net about him , cooooolll
  12. JimK


    Dec 12, 1999
    True. He was using everything available under The Sun!

    Monk Montgomery also used a plectrum.

    Guitarist George Benson plays with his thumb(no pick)...he's pretty darn quick, too. Anything's possible.
  13. Davehenning


    Aug 9, 2001
    Los Angeles
    yeah, you are right, I forgot about that. But Monk mentioned in a few interviews I read that he preferred playing with his thumb like his brother Wes. He thought he got a better tone using the thumb.

  14. you won't get comfortable with it unless you DO it. trust me, playing with your thumb only will limit your playing drastically.
  15. Bruce Lindfield

    Bruce Lindfield Unprofessional TalkBass Contributor Gold Supporting Member In Memoriam

    That's true - I've seen a few Jazz guitarists playing with their thumb and playing realy fast and dextrous stuff - Jim Mullen is another one playing today, but this was what Wes Montgomery did as well I think?

    But with the lighter strings - guitarists seem to be just brushing the tops of the strings very lightly with their thumbs - I'm not sure this approach would work with bass, where you need to impart more energy to get the the thicker strings moving?
  16. moley


    Sep 5, 2002
    Hampshire, UK
    Yeah, thinner strings and the fact that they're much closer together, mean that you can do it much faster on guitar.

    The only time I use my thumb on bass is some occasions when I'm playing more than one string at a time. For example when I want to play a string, but leave the one below it to ring - it's no good if I do my usual practice of following through and resting my finger on the string below in this case. So I use my thumb, and pluck upwards instead of downwards. Since I'm going for the mwah, I really do have to follow through with the pluck - which means plucking upwards with my thumb, not downwards with my finger.
  17. Howard K

    Howard K

    Feb 14, 2002
    Ooh, is the DVD good???? - Tell me more!!!

    Thumb - yeah, I use mine a lot of the time.. try playing a nice fat reggae line with fingers, then change to thumb... much better :)
  18. wulf


    Apr 11, 2002
    Oxford, UK
    Learn a range of techniques so that you can be confident of pulling what's required out of the bag. A lot of things will seem strange at first, but give them some practise time to develop. If you only play what you're comfortable with you'll never grow!

    Only being able to use your thumb is much more limiting than choosing to mainly use your thumb...

  19. Demonfish22


    Jul 31, 2002
    Bath, England
    Basically. do you really want to be an excellent bassist? If you do, then learn all the techniques you can - finger, thumb, pick, slap, two-handed tapping, palm-muting, whatever - there's no right or wrong way to play bass, and no one style is better. If you just want to be able to Jam along with mates a bit, then don't worry about perfect technique so much as just enjoying making music. You'll probably find that most great bassist use a combination of all these techniques, depending on what the music demands. Personally, I only really use my thumb (except for slapping) when I'm playing triple or quadruple stops, and even then I'm using my fingers as well. I certainly couldn't play the music I like to play with only my thumb.
  20. I use my thumb to pluck a bass note when im playing up high on the neck, kinda like a Classical Guitarist or sumthin.

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