Plucking arm position while standing

Discussion in 'Technique [BG]' started by CallMeAl, Aug 2, 2019.

  1. CallMeAl


    Dec 2, 2016
    Ithaca Ny
    Hi all,

    I've been working on my standing technique/position, trying to be relaxed while I play. I'm using the "same strap height sitting and standing" method. I use my P pickup as a thumb rest, but try to use as little pressure as possible and transition to floating thumb.

    My question involves the right (plucking) forearm: should I be resting my forearm against the body of the bass? Or should the forearm be away from the body?

    I find with a little pressure (from gravity) the neck is more stable and in a better playing position. But I wonder if this is a problem- if my hand/wrist should be more free to move, or if this means I have a bass balance problem.

  2. Lobster11

    Lobster11 Supporting Member Supporting Member

    Apr 22, 2006
    Williamsburg, VA
    Well, using the floating thumb requires you to move your entire arm up and down as you cross strings, so ideally your forearm would not be resting against the bass so it can move freely. However, I think it's fine for the forearm to brush (gently) against the front of the bass as long as it doesn't impede the arm movement -- as it might, say, if you're wearing short sleeves and the bass has a glossy finish. Of course, an extra advantage of not brushing against the body is reducing wear-and-tear on the bass' finish, which might or might not be important to you.
    fearceol and alanloomis1980 like this.
  3. CallMeAl


    Dec 2, 2016
    Ithaca Ny
    I'm not 100% married to floating thumb, just exploring ways to reduce tension and pressure. I dont move my hand placement around a whole lot; it's either right over the P pickup for rock or up near the neck for country/acoustic. (Which is easier to "float" but will still sometimes use the fretboard/neck as a thumbrest.) But I get wanting more freedom to move up and down, E string to G string.

    Not really concerned with the finish, wouldn't mind a natural relic TBH. ;) But I almost always wear short sleeves, and it's a gloss finish- so my arm naturally gets stuck in that position.

    What i notice without the forearm holding the bass down, is that it wobbles around with the natural motion of playing, motion up and down the neck. I kind of have to counteract that with extra pressure at both thumbs, and it feels like I have to hold the neck still with my left (fretting) hand especially. Forearm on the body just feels more stable and lets me use a lighter touch with both hands.
  4. fearceol


    Nov 14, 2006
    Resting the thumb on the pick up can lead to potential injury problems over time, because the wrist is bent.

    You could persevere further with the FT until you are more comfortable with it. If you feel that you MUST rest the thumb, then try using the "Moveable Anchor" technique. Here, the thumb rests on the string above (or two above) the one being plucked. As with the FT, the wrist is straight when using this technique.

  5. lz4005


    Oct 22, 2013
    Anchoring your thumb on a pickup has nothing to do with whether your wrist is bent or not.
    SteveCS, jallenbass and Nanaki like this.
  6. CallMeAl


    Dec 2, 2016
    Ithaca Ny
    Thanks. I've looked at that MA technique too, just havent watched that particular video. Straight wrist is one of my focuses as well, didnt mention in my OP.

    I've made decent progress with FT sitting, it just falls apart when I stand up. Without the thumb on the pickup or the forearm to hold the bass stable, it wobbles around and the neck is just a little too low. I'm wondering if bass balance isnt part of the problem.
  7. SteveCS


    Nov 19, 2014
    Hampshire, UK
    Personally, and IME, a little natural weight on the lower forearm is a good thing...

    It gives you a reference without tying you to the spot, and your hand can remain fully mobile with ergonomic curves - a straight wrist is pretty much impossible without slinging the bass so low that full ergonomic access to all areas in the left hand becomes impossible.
    The light downwards pressure keeps the neck in a more elevated position which helps your left hand mobility.
    The light inwards pressure helps your left hand by reducing the grip required in your left hand to stop notes. You should be able to stop notes without your left-hand thumb even touching the neck...

    alanloomis1980 likes this.
  8. fearceol


    Nov 14, 2006
    Last edited: Aug 2, 2019
  9. dr doofie

    dr doofie

    Jul 6, 2017
    My thumb is my only anchor to the body of the bass. I like to dig in kind of aggressively, and I’m working on using three fingers (ring, middle, pointer) without it becoming triplets.
    I added weight to my strap on the bottom and it balanced out any neck dive. Sure it adds weight but being balanced pays off.
    Fingerstyle playing is assisted by floating thumb; picking style obviously something has to rest somewhere, right?
    alanloomis1980 likes this.
  10. ixlramp


    Jan 25, 2005
    Never apply any significant pressure with the forearm, especially on any kind of 'edge', that can cause injury, only very gentle contact against non-edge surfaces.
    P basses and almost all other basses have poor balance and are neck-heavy, especially at higher playing angles (which is what results in a neck that is too low and too horizontal).
    There are simple DIY ways to improve balance.
    alanloomis1980 likes this.
  11. IamGroot


    Jan 18, 2018
    Pay attention to your plucking arm shoulder.

    Avoid a forearm position that causes you to raise your shoulder which can hamper technique and cause a very sore shoulder.

    In my case, I had to scale back playing a particular bass and my arm pain disappeared.
    SteveCS and alanloomis1980 like this.
  12. juggahnaught


    Feb 11, 2018
    Seattle, WA
    I float - your forearm should float, ideally. I used to do this with one six-string that had crazy neck dive (the one with the neck inlay in my profile picture) - that one has two straps, and I'd use them like a harness which would keep the bass in place so that I could float.

    I now use my other basses, and because I don't use the harness method anymore I've picked up a bad habit of resting my forearm on the body to hold the neck up. I now loop my strap through my belt, but I still have this bad habit - it impairs my right-hand muting and mobility.

    If you can, stick to floating your forearm. Find a way to make your bass immobile, anchored to you.
    alanloomis1980 likes this.
  13. I'm no expert (I'm just learning) but I'm 65 and have trouble with basal thumb joints among other age related hands-not-working-like-they-used-to issues. I started out resting my forearm and found it causing lots of wrist and tendon issues for me - so I worked at using my shoulder muscles to support the arm and I swing my elbow out a bit (feels very odd at first) so my forearm can just dangle and that makes floating thumb much easier for me and the wrist and tendons are so much happier.

    HOWEVER ... I found that without the forearm pressing against the body, the neck wants to swing back away from the pressure of my fretting fingers unless I support the neck with my thumb (which hurts because of the basal thumb joint issues). SO what works incredibly well for me is to thread the strap through a belt loop and that holds the bass in the perfect position for me without any support from either hand and no need for forearm to press against the body to support it.

    It takes longer to put on and take off the bass, you can't just swing the strap over your head, you have to undo one end and unthread it from your beltloop... and it's hilarious when you forget so you'll look a doofus on stage giving yourself a wedgie.:roflmao:
  14. Govner22


    Jan 19, 2013
    Thanks for the video. I was having tendinitis and eventually stumbled into the idea of using my shoulder to slightly lift my arm, enabling me to keep my wrist straight, taking pressure of my forearm when I pluck. At 60 years old, I’ve not had any shoulder problems from this technique for years as my shoulder is apparently much stronger than my forearm tendons. I can’t say this will work for everyone but it does for me.
    fearceol likes this.
  15. TheReceder


    Jul 12, 2010
    Anyone else out there have to think about, or actually pick up a bass to see how they anchor? I honestly have no idea what I'm doing as I type this...

    My significant other might say that's my natural state of mind. ;)
  16. SteveCS


    Nov 19, 2014
    Hampshire, UK
    Wow. Since when does raising your shoulder like that, with the associated twisted spine, curved/compressed neck and messed up centre of gravity, represent any kind of ergonomically neutral stance?
    Last edited: Aug 4, 2019
  17. CallMeAl


    Dec 2, 2016
    Ithaca Ny
    Thanks everyone! I've got some techniques to play with, and still considering breaking down and getting some in person lessons as well!

    Also, any additional technique videos would be appreciated, even if it's not covering this specifically I might get something from it.

    Overall, in playing with all the techniques, having something rest on the bass feels the most relaxed. Like I said previously, any attempt to float leaves me overcompensating to stabalize with my left hand, resulting in tension. I'm finding the forearm down does seem to immobilize my right hand a little too much (not to mention the skin to gloss contact is bugging me!) Thumb or palm anchor seems to work best, feels the most natural.

    Definately not pressing, it's just the weight of gravity pushing it down. The whole point of this quest is to reduce pressure and tension!

    Good point. I notice when I try to float, I have to pull up my elbow, and then my shoulder goes up a little too. Maybe not raising my shoulder, but it does introduce some tension.

    I tried this method before I got my neotech mega strap, when my basic nylon strap was slipping around on my shoulder. I found it uncomfortable, with it pulling on both my pants and shoulder. But it would be worth revisiting, it makes sense to stabilize the bass as much as possible. I think there are commercial harnesses out there, as well as those tripod stands that Joe Dart sometimes uses.
  18. fearceol


    Nov 14, 2006
    @alanloomis1980 : Good to know you have gleaned some useful info/tips from this thread. :thumbsup:

    One thing to remember...whatever technique you choose to pursue, make sure to give it ample time (some can take up to six months to nail and be comfortable with).
    alanloomis1980 and Lobster11 like this.
  19. Lobster11

    Lobster11 Supporting Member Supporting Member

    Apr 22, 2006
    Williamsburg, VA
    I use the Phil Lesh method for this problem: a wide cotton wrist band.
    alanloomis1980 likes this.
  20. CallMeAl


    Dec 2, 2016
    Ithaca Ny
    Definately! My problem is I just picked up a 2nd band, doubling my homework, rehearsal and gig time- a good problem to have, but doesnt really allow my to completely revamp my technique!

    That did occur to me!
    Lobster11 likes this.
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