So I noticed Gary Willis's technique

Discussion in 'Technique [BG]' started by SunShine, Mar 1, 2005.

  1. He doesn't set his thumb. He doesn't anchor it on a pickup or a string, he lets it sit on and mute the strings behind the one he is playing, and that's just hard for me. Does it just come naturally for people, or do they have to work at it? Is it possible/likely that I could become better at it than where I am now with my current style or would I be better off sticking to what I know?
  2. NJL


    Apr 12, 2002
    San Antonio
    do you have his instructional vid? if you don't you should get it, he's totally amazing!

  3. Willis has played like this for years - and having tried to adjust my own fingerstyle technique all I can say is it's damn hard - but I just installed a 'ramp' on my bass and it really helps with the Willis picking style - it's not neccessarily better it's just another way of playing - find a way that suits you best and work your ass off getting it down... :smug:
  4. I first got into this some years back when I was studying with a great player and teacher, Stuart Bradley. I think it really helps my hand problems (arthritis) and frees up the fretting hand because a lot of muting is handled by the plucking hand. I also found that it encouraged me to use a far lighter touch with my plucking hand. It took some time to get it down but now I find it second nature and I can still swap back to my old style as well although I don't very often.
  5. WillPlay4Food

    WillPlay4Food Now With More Metal! Staff Member Supporting Member

    Apr 9, 2002
    Orbiting HQ
    I believe this style of plucking is called the 'floating thumb' technique. I don't use this when I play on my 4 string but I find it very useful when playing on my 5 string.
  6. wyliee


    Jul 6, 2003
    South Hill, WA
    I learned this from one of Gary's former students. (Todd Johnson, who has mastered it, IMO.)

    Start by letting your right arm hang limp. Drag your arm up over your strings until your hand is roughly in playing position. Your upper arm and shoulder should be carrying the weight of your lower arm and hand. Your hand should not sit heavily on the bass. This will feel odd at first and may be slightly uncomfortable as you're using muscles in your arm differently.

    As a six string bassist, this technique has proven very valuable in string muting. It's totally up to you if you want to work on this. However, for ERB players, I think it is well worth the effort.

  7. NoisemakerD-Lux


    Oct 12, 2004
    I let my thumb slide all over the place. It [along with the beefy part under the thumb] basically "lays" on (all) the strings below the one I'm playing. Not only does it mute all the lower strings, but actually helps a great deal with accuracy.

    When I first started, I used to anchor my thumb on the bottom string, but I quickly got over that. I realized that that method doesn't mute A or D, if you're playing on G. And that it is also much easier to have your fingers travel the same distance each time [better way of explaining this would be saying that the "hand positioning" is the same no matter what string you're on], if your thumb is right behind, no matter if you're playing E or G.

    You combine that with the left hand muting strings above the one you're on and you have muting galore.

    As wyliee said, this is even more valuable on multi-string basses.

    Gary is a great player, I must say. Very inspirational. One of my very fav.
  8. fraublugher


    Nov 19, 2004
    ottawa, ontario, canada
    music school retailer
    i was lucky enough to see gary play a few times and the muted frettless note turned me on to it.
    a great sound and more "proof " that no matter how you finger it ,
    it allways comes up bruno. :eyebrow:
    seriously though it tricked people into thinkig the bass had frets ,
    which is a compliment to me , sometimes .
  9. NJL


    Apr 12, 2002
    San Antonio
    bump, good thread
  10. Bryan R. Tyler

    Bryan R. Tyler TalkBass: Usurping My Practice Time Since 2002 Staff Member Administrator Gold Supporting Member

    May 3, 2002
    Floating thumb technique is pretty common-it's how Willis plucks and mutes the strings that is so amazingly effective although complex and difficult to do. I tried it for a few hours once-I don't think I could ever develop that sort of coordination.
  11. Brad Johnson

    Brad Johnson Commercial User

    Mar 8, 2000
    Gaithersburg, Md
    Boom Bass Cabinets, DR strings
    I felt like that too but it's not true. You just have to keep at it. That's all... if you really want to, of course;)

    I didn't... but I already played with a light touch and floated my thumb. His alternate finger muting technique is very cool.
  12. Andrew Jones

    Andrew Jones Banned

    Feb 28, 2001
    Northampton Mass
    AHHHH.................. my floating thumb' technique cannot kill! I must return to Shoalin and Train!

    Buda Bless You

  13. The Clap

    The Clap

    Jan 5, 2004
    Scottsdale, AZ
    Your Floating Thumb is no match for my Wrist Crane

    I learned as a thumb-floater, and it's difficult to skip strings for me when my thumb is anchored, it just doesn't feel natural.
  14. Brad Johnson

    Brad Johnson Commercial User

    Mar 8, 2000
    Gaithersburg, Md
    Boom Bass Cabinets, DR strings
    Enter the Chicken Wing.

    No mercy!

  15. Bryan R. Tyler

    Bryan R. Tyler TalkBass: Usurping My Practice Time Since 2002 Staff Member Administrator Gold Supporting Member

    May 3, 2002
    You could always borrow Louis Johnson's technique-brings a new meaning to "floating" thumb.
  16. Suckbird

    Suckbird Banned

    May 4, 2004
    I dont know if it's this you mean but when i play on the a string, my thumb is on my e, when i play on the g i rest on the D etc..

    i like it
  17. Bryan R. Tyler

    Bryan R. Tyler TalkBass: Usurping My Practice Time Since 2002 Staff Member Administrator Gold Supporting Member

    May 3, 2002
    Yep, that's floating thumb.
  18. Joe P

    Joe P

    Jul 15, 2004
    Milwaukee, WI
    Oh-hoooo, yes! I can't add much to the excellent posts so far, but I will say that it's WAY-worth learning. It took me about six months to feel comfortable with it, and I'm still getting better (of course! - I've only been seriously studying bass for a couple years). It has also taken me quite a while to impliment three-fingered plucking (mostly for triplets - I throw-in triplets now a lot more than I used to though), but between the thumb-trailing and three-fingered triplets: ohhh-yeah.

    Although it looks a little dorky, I'm more and more raising my elbow these days like a... a.. yeah, a 'chicken wing'!

  19. lownotes02


    Jan 19, 2005
    Melbourne, Fl
    Agreed. I find if I dont bend my left wrist as much, I can play longer with more stamina. Willis covers this in his vid as well, keeping your hand parallel to your forearm, instead of having your wrist bent. What an amazing player....I saw him in 1988 with Wayne Johnson and have been a fan ever since. His right hand technique allows him to play whatever he wants, with no limitations.....anybody who's never heard or seen him NEEDS to.
  20. Good points made by everyone, I also noticed when I started floating and lightening up my touch I had to turn my amp up, let it do more work. The upside to this was that my dynamic ability increased about 10 fold as did my control, speed, and stamina.