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Right Hand Thumb Position

Discussion in 'Jazz Technique [DB]' started by Moondog, Oct 23, 2003.

  1. Hey Guys

    I am a newbie to DB and I'm not sure the correct way to use my right hand thumb. Right now I don't have a teacher. I've played electric bass for years, and have always rested my thumb on tthe string above the one I'm playing. However I have seen some DB players live keeping their thumb anchored under the edge of the fingerboard. Of course the way I've been doing it feels much more natural to me but is this the correct technique for DB? If it makes any difference, right now I'm playing blues, country, bluegrass, and other "roots" music. Thanks for any input/suggestions on this.
  2. The best place is on the side of the fingerboard, not underneath. Check all of the past threads re. R.H. technique, there's a lot of good info there.
  4. OK, let me rephrase. The best place for me is on the side of the fingerboard. I've seen several techniques, and as with many things in life there is more than one way to skin a cat (no hip jazz parlance intended). What's best for you will depend on your physical makeup, the sound you are trying to achieve, what style of music you play, etc. In addition to watching as many different players as possible, get with a good teacher who can give you exercises for developing your technique.

    For me, placing the thumb on the side allows me to use a pincher-like motion, giving me greater leverage to be able to pull more sound out of the string (I use 1st and 2nd fused side-by-side for walking, alternating for solos and super fast tempi). The thumb does rotate towards the back slightly when I play the E string. The other aspect of this placement is that the thumb acts as a pivot point for the larger motion of the whole arm, which to my way of thinking is essential for strong pizzing.

    Paul, I love all of your cuts on the sampler. Also, Sam was kind enough to lend me his copy of the Secret Garden session, which is sublime.
  5. Paul, I love all of your cuts on the sampler. Also, Sam was kind enough to lend me his copy of the Secret Garden session, which is sublime. [/B][/QUOTE]

    Thanks T, for rephrasing your point and well put BTY. Another point i'd like to make concerning the right hand....When trying for different sounds with your pizz, another rule of thunb, for me, is rather than pulling straight across the strings, pull in a "pinching motion" as T-Bal mentions or, in other words, SQUEEZE the tone out, pulling the string in a downward motion towards the fingerboard while pulling towards your body at the same time. Between the both of us, Moondog, you should be set in the right direction.
    Thanks, also T, for mentioning the Secret Garden sessions. I especially like the Lost in a Dream cut for the interplay and feel. Unfortunatly, being recorded in the 80s,the engineer went "Dreaded Direct" to the board. After years of this, double bassists have finally convinced engineers to deal with the acoustic beauties of our instument.
  6. Hey guys this is great info. Since I am a newbie I just want to make sure that I am not developing a style that will be problematic or that I will have to change later. I have short fingers so at this time I am not using the fingerboard to anchor at all. (it's a real stretch for me and feels awkward) Rather, I anchor my thumb on the next string up from the one I am playing. This feels more natural to me and I seem to be getting a pretty strong pull on the string. Are there any other players that play this way? Are there any disadvantages? All input is appreciated.

    Thanks again

  7. I'm not aware of anyone using this technique, but that's not to say it won't work for you. The issue for me is leverage. If you're anchoring on an adjacent string, that's not stationary, and you don't have as much leverage as if it were achored to a stationary object. Also, every time you cross strings, you have to reposition your thumb, and that seems like an extra task that you may just as well eliminate. See if you can get used to the stretch. There are exercises pianists do to increase the span they can reach, maybe these would apply here. OTOH, if your fingers are THAT small, you may have even greater challenges with your left hand.

    BTW, I personally find that my R.H. motion is all sideways, and not into the board, but of course, to each his own.

    Good luck!
  8. Don Higdon

    Don Higdon In Memoriam

    Dec 11, 1999
    Princeton Junction, NJ
    The problem with habits is that they come to feel good and "right", even bad ones that limit you or even harm you.
    The sooner you get out of this one, the better.
  9. I guess what got me into playing INTO the FB was that little "click" that some of the great players would get, especially Ray Brown and Red Mitchell, after producing the tone, of their finger hitting the FB.
  10. Whenever possible, especially when playing slower, quieter tunes, I use the side of my index finger from the second knuckle down to play the E string with a motion which results in my finger coming to rest on top of the fingerboard after releasing the string. It's like, push the string towards the board then release it. (does that description make sense?) I find it produces a nice fat, growly, sustaining sound, moreso than pulling the string sideways and releasing it. Gotta be careful not to pump it too hard and rattle it off the board, though.

    It's amazing how such a slight change in approach changes the sound you produce.
  11. Lunarpooch, if you're used to playing electric bass, resting the thumb on a string might feel natural, and the DB strings may seem a great distance apart. I'd suggest you start by anchoring the ball of your thumb against the side of the fingerboard with the thumb pointed down towards the floor, and learn to reach the G string with your index and middle fingers. You'll have much more success getting a sound out of the instrument. You gotta make the string and the body vibrate, you can't rely on amplification.

    Ps- Start by playing the strings at a point about 3-4" above the end of the fingerboard. Like a slab, you'll get different sounds by moving closer to or farther from the bridge.
  12. It seems like you would need fairly high action to allow this to happen, true? And are you using the side of your index finger or what?
  14. Thanks!

  15. Johnny L

    Johnny L

    Feb 14, 2002
    Victoria, TX
    Coming from a country and rock n roll background, I spent a long time listening to and playing music that stayed at one volume - loud. So since I began double bass lessons with my teacher over a year ago, appreciating dynamics and how they are used to give life to a song, a line, or even a single note has been a long, hard journey.

    I wouldn't have even considered any other dynamics but ff without hearing someone like my teacher doing them in front of me. Awesome stuff...
  16. Thanks for all the input on this. While the technique I have been using works extremely well for bass guitar, it does seem to make more sense to use the fingerboard to anchor when playing DB (better leverage). I have been trying it, and even though I have fairly small hands, it's coming along pretty well. I really appreciate the in-depth descriptions of playing technique, these are very helpful since I do not have a teacher at this time.

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    Primary TB Assistant

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    Mar 7, 2021

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