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Thumb plucking

Discussion in 'Technique [BG]' started by ZaneA, Dec 23, 2018.

  1. ZaneA


    Dec 23, 2018
    Hi! I'm new to the forum. Now, I know it's 'incorrect' technique, but does anyone else prefer to pluck strings with their thumb? I don't know if this is just me, but I find it works better for me and sounds just as good. I'm no 'bassist' strictly speaking but I am a multi-instrumentalist, I suppose, with a particular love for bass guitar, so thats why my technique isn't so 'traditional'. Anyone else the same?
    saabfender likes this.
  2. JRA

    JRA my words = opinion Supporting Member

    there was a time when most electric bass was played with the thumb. many players prefer that method. i don't think it's important what your preferences are if you can deliver the goods. good luck with your playing! :thumbsup:
    ZaneA and Lobster11 like this.
  3. ZaneA


    Dec 23, 2018
    Wow that's very interesting, I didn't realise that. Thank you! :)
  4. ak56

    ak56 Supporting Member

    Apr 2, 2015
    Carnation, Wa
    It is not 'incorrect' technique, it's just 'another' technique. I've been playing primarly with my thumb for over 45 years. Whatever works for you is fine.
  5. saabfender

    saabfender Banned

    Jan 10, 2018
    The idea was you'd hang your fingers on the "thumbrest" and pluck with your thumb.

    Yeah, man; use your thumb or whatever. If you have a special technique incorporating your elbow, we want to hear about that too.
    hintz, ZaneA and JRA like this.
  6. tshapiro

    tshapiro Gold Supporting Member Supporting Member

    Aug 25, 2015
    Jax Florida
    For most of the funkier stuff I play, I sort of imitate playing with a pick by plucking down with my thumb and plucking up with my index finger. My hand position resembles holding a pick
    _godspeed_ and ZaneA like this.
  7. Lot of us came over from 6 string rhythm guitar and the pick came over also. I quickly ditched the pick and liked the sound my thumb gave better.

    Never did get my fingers working so stayed with my thumb. IMO pick, thumb, slap or fingers is kinda left up to you and the people you play with. If it sounds good it is good.
    hintz, tshapiro and ZaneA like this.
  8. RhynoRock


    Dec 19, 2012
    Fredonia, NY
    Playing with the thumb was the original idea Leo Fender had when he created the p-bass back in the 50's for playing country music. So what you're fretting over (no pun intended) is actually a rather traditional technique for the instrument. :)

    Two songs I perform with my band utilizes a thumb and pop technique. Not straight up slap technique mind you, but a soft, beefy sound from the thumb followed by a regular pop as in slap style. If you check out "Treasure" by Bruno Mars, that's what you'll hear.
  9. Most advanced players consider the only downfall to thumbing to be speed. It is generally thought that playing with alternating fingertips is about twice as fast as just the thumb.
    hintz, Lobster11, tshapiro and 2 others like this.
  10. lfmn16

    lfmn16 Supporting Member

    Sep 21, 2011
    charles town, wv
    As far as picking goes, the only "incorrect" technique is one that causes physical pain or doesn't achieve the sound you want.
    hintz, 12BitSlab, tshapiro and 3 others like this.
  11. Afc70

    Afc70 Supporting Member

    Feb 2, 2004
    Northeast Arkansas
    I started playing bass as a young teenager around 1985 or so.. all the
    books available to me at the time said to either use 2 fingers or a pick.
    I had been incorporating my thumb into my playing along with my fingers, regardless of what the “right or wrong” view of the day was. I discovered victor wooten around 92 & his amazing technique & was glad I’d been using my thumb all along!
    hintz, tshapiro and ZaneA like this.
  12. mmon77

    mmon77 Supporting Member

    Jul 9, 2008
    Southern MN
    Do whatever works for you.

    James Jamerson, only played with his index finger. It worked great for him.
    tshapiro, ZaneA and _godspeed_ like this.
  13. I do use my thumb but I wouldn’t go as far as to say I prefer it. I mainly use my thumb when playing multi part lines. By that I mean I’ll pluck the bass line with my thumb while plucking the melody with my fingers. Sometimes I’ll do the micheal league style palm mute thumb technique also but that’s even less often
    tshapiro and ZaneA like this.
  14. bassdude51

    bassdude51 "You never even called me by my name." Supporting Member

    Nov 1, 2008
    Central Ohio
    Thumb picking is not incorrect technique! It is an optional way of plucking. Many legitimate bassists use their thumb.

    In fact............there are professional guitarist who use their thumb for picking. Wes Montgomery (RIP) a famous jazz guitarist used his thumb. There are others too.

    2 Thumb It
    Of course, everyone knows that Montgomery played exclusively with his thumb, but do you know why? As an early GP once reported, Montgomery’s famed thumb technique “evolved from his experimentations after complaints from neighbors, his next-door aunt, and his wife over the loud sound created by the pick. The more subdued sound of his thumb quieted all objections and became, unintentionally, a vital part of the Montgomery sound.” Over time, Montgomery reportedly developed a hardened corn that could be used to put a “point” on notes and catch the string on upstrokes. Montgomery’s picking motion—both down and up—came from the large thumb joint, and he loosely anchored his remaining splayed-out fingers against either the bottom of the pickguard or the bottom edge of the guitar. And here’s the kicker: Montgomery attacked notes with his thumb, but the rest of his hand also went along for part of the ride. As Montgomery plucked downstrokes with his thumb, his fingers reacted, brushing gently against the face of the guitar in the opposite direction. Do a little video research, then try playing the following examples using this technique, and you’ll be shocked by how much “bounce” this subtle texture adds to the sound.
    hintz, tshapiro and ZaneA like this.
  15. Sonicfrog

    Sonicfrog Supporting Member

    Jan 4, 2008
    Fresno, CA
    I used to be a finger player exclusively. 12 years ago, I decided to do a Police tribute band. Stings bass lines are not complex, but his tone is amazingly even.... Subdued in a way. As I was learning how to play his songs, I noticed he plays with his thumb. Not slapping mind you, but it did explain why his tone sounded a bit different.

    I can emulate to some degree a picking sound with them... But as I paid more attention to sonic details, I realized I couldn't really get THAT sound unless I played with a pick. That's one reason I took up guitar... To learn to use a pick so i could really get the sound I wanted.

    Try and learn as many types of playing methods as you can. I still can't "slap-that-bass" to save my life... But one day...
    ZaneA and CameronJohnson like this.
  16. _godspeed_

    _godspeed_ Supporting Member

    Jan 5, 2009
    Vancouver, Canada
    Watch John Mayer’s Trio set on “Live in L.A.” and watch how Pino is using his thumb. Opened my eyes when I watched it for the first time! Since then I’ve been learning how to play tumb and use it on a lot of occasions.
    ZaneA likes this.
  17. Fialka


    Jul 29, 2018
    Nothing wrong with that, I use it like another texture in playing, whenever I need fat boomy sound that doesnt require speed.
    ZaneA likes this.
  18. Mushroo

    Mushroo Supporting Member

    Apr 2, 2007
    Massachusetts, USA
    Welcome to the forums! Plucking with the thumb is considered to be correct and normal technique. Keep on thumpin'. :)
    ZaneA and rtav like this.
  19. Tony In Philly

    Tony In Philly Gold Supporting Member Supporting Member

    Oct 25, 2007
    Filthydelphia, USA
    I like using my thumb, especially when my fingers need a rest!
    hintz and ZaneA like this.
  20. Tony In Philly

    Tony In Philly Gold Supporting Member Supporting Member

    Oct 25, 2007
    Filthydelphia, USA
    Exactly - note how the earliest basses had a finger rest rather than a thumb rest.
    hintz, ZaneA and JRA like this.

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