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" thumb-only" bassists (like monk montgomery)

Discussion in 'Bassists [BG]' started by donnyfied74, Apr 19, 2010.

  1. donnyfied74


    Aug 20, 2008
    I'm trying to find out if there are more well-known or lesser known players who played with their thumb instead of index and middle fingers . I mean the thumb in non-slapping context
  2. D.A.R.K.

    D.A.R.K. Supporting Member

    Aug 20, 2003
    robbie shakespeare used his thumb a lot...
    although not exclusively...
    here's a live clip:
  3. Every time I saw the Roots, Leonard "Hub" Hubbard used his thumb in this fashion a lot. He would switch to standard two-fingers for faster parts or for more midrange. Then he also used his thumb for slap too during his solo part.

    But primarily, he was a thumb player from what I've seen.
  4. BobaFret


    Jan 22, 2008
    Sting does it a lot.
    MrDOS and bluesdogblues like this.
  5. snyderz


    Aug 20, 2000
    AZ mountains
    Brian Wilson
  6. chanson

    chanson Supporting Member

  7. RonChase


    Aug 15, 2008
    I got a hofner a few year back because of the oldies band and look and the weight.I was watching Sir Paul( about as well know a bassist there is) and see that he is using his thumb,till that point I was a P bass index middle finger mainly player though I used other fingers picks and or body parts.For me using my thumb gave me a different style and feel and I am about half and half now with fingers and thumb.Oh I found out later on Macca uses a pick which I gave up with way way back in my ore blister days.Point of all this is try your thumb you will like it after a while because it sounds some how different than finger plucking and is almost as good as inventing a new color
  8. Bruce Lindfield

    Bruce Lindfield Unprofessional TalkBass Contributor Gold Supporting Member In Memoriam

    Great stuff!! But what i think Robbie is doing is using both thumb and fingers. So I have done this quite a lot and it is a very useful technique - if you have your thumb ready to play lower strings and first two fingers playing the higher strings then you can use your thumb for muting and artificial harmonics (like Jaco) as well! It makes your right hand much more flexible than if you anchor your thumb! :)
  9. donnyfied74


    Aug 20, 2008
    dave swift who plays with bbc's jools holland also plays with his thumb a lot

  10. donnyfied74


    Aug 20, 2008
    and this incredible stuff is also played with the thumb, and index finger

    melvin dunlap who also played with Charles Wright & the Watts 103rd Street Rhythm Band...

    a very soulful dude, underated like lucky scott from curtis mayfield
  11. BoomSTICK


    Jul 23, 2001
    bluesdogblues likes this.
  12. Plantbrain


    Oct 9, 2006
    I use to play this way, suppose I still can, but I was limited, so I decided to broaden out and try different methods and techniques, truthfully? Really glad I did.

    You can certainly do it with the thumb only, but I think most do much better learning a few different ways and have more to offer.
    Still, folks can play all the techniques, and still suck, likewise, one single finger(eg Jamerson) or thumb, can really groove and rock the place to the core.

    I went back to looking at that hook index finger of Jamerson's, found some new territory along the way, so really mess with it as much as you can and see what comes from it... but still leave yourself options.

  13. JimmyM

    JimmyM Supporting Member

    Apr 11, 2005
    Apopka, FL
    Endorsing: Ampeg Amps, EMG Pickups
    barbara mandrell plays bass with her thumb.
  14. thombo

    thombo Supporting Member

    Aug 25, 2006
    Denver, CO
    Fred Thomas JB's is all thumb, all the time, doin' it ta death!
  15. Tommy Caldwell from the Marshall Tucker Band. His brother Toy played guitar with his thumb as well.
  16. corinpills


    Nov 19, 2000
    Boston, MA
    I play like that a lot. I love the muting from that fleshy part of my hand and it imposes a nice economy to my bass lines.
  17. donnyfied74


    Aug 20, 2008
  18. chanson

    chanson Supporting Member

  19. jtb


    Apr 27, 2008
    London and Bangkok
    Doug Rauch
  20. Alvaro Martín Gómez A.

    Alvaro Martín Gómez A. TalkBass' resident Bongo + cowbell player

    I'm sure nobody here has heard about him, but Luis Felipe González is a famous Venezuelan bassist/songwriter/singer who plays with his thumb exclusively and recorded lots of basslines with his very distinctive style that turned out to be very influential for those of us who play Latin music and have taken his style as a point of reference (I can tell I incorporate many "Gonzalisms" in my playing with my tropical music band). He was the lead singer/bassist and composer of most hits for a Venezuelan band called "Nelson Y Sus Estrellas" ("Nelson And His Stars"), mainly during late sixties/early seventies. In the second half of the 70s, he created his own band, called "La Super Banda De Don Filemón" ("Don Filemón's Super Band"). His music and style has always been a blend between Salsa and dancing rhythms from my country like Porro and Paseo.

    Here's a video (with awful audio) of his band during a rehearsal. You can see him playing with his thumb between 0:12 and 0:27. For some good audio samples of his style (and voice), click here.

    Not so many people here has shown interest in tropical music, but anyway hope you find the excerpts in the audio file interesting (or at least can take 10 minutes from your time to hear them). BTW, if you ever hear a Latin bassist playing the 1-second lick heard at 4:30 (I do it in several songs), you can have for sure that he/she was influenced by Mr. González. That simple lick is probably the most distinctive "Gonzalism". Besides, I had the chance to talk to him some years ago and he told me that for most of his famous recordings he played a Fender Jazz Bass and he credits himself (and I agree) as one of the first (if not the first) tropical bassists that made a recording with the tone fully open instead of the muffled tone favored by most tropical bassists at the time. Specifically, he was talking about the excerpt starting at 4:37 on the audio file posted above.

    And again, plucking the strings with just his thumb.
    johnf and ColdEye like this.

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