Thumb plucking....

Discussion in 'Technique [BG]' started by Doublesixes, Apr 22, 2019.

  1. Is it me but could it be that plucking with the thumb gives the overall playing a more consistent tone and even a tighter tempo than when using the usual suspects (index and middle fingers)?

    I was recording the same part, the same notes, in separate tracks first with the thumb and then with the other 2 and comparing the overall results and realize that the consistency was almost rivaling the quantized version of a virtual P bass which I also recorded on a separate track for comparison's sake. I'm talking about Garageband iOS version.

    Of course, certain basslines aren't suited for thumb plucking as may require faster notes, which the thumb can't deliver but sometimes for more simple parts, the thumb seems to be the right tool.

    Anybody experienced something similar?
    Last edited: Apr 22, 2019
  2. Yup.
    Doublesixes likes this.
  3. bikeplate

    bikeplate Supporting Member

    Jun 7, 2001
    Upstate NY
    Never do it
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  4. Came over from rhythm guitar and the pick came over as well. I found I like the sound of just the thumb more than the pick so I put the pick back in my gig bag.

    No problem about speed with what I play, I can see that some of the faster tempo pieces would lend themselves to finger picking. I do sometime use more than my thumb, but, it's like a thump-ring thing.

    Sir Paul and Sting......
    Last edited: Apr 29, 2019
    Doublesixes likes this.
  5. BwanaDust

    BwanaDust Inactive Commercial User

    Apr 11, 2019
    Pittsburgh, PA
    Lincoln Learning Solutions - Lincoln Park Performing Arts Center
    I mentioned this elsewhere, but I have a friend who only uses thumb and index and he is a beast. So fluid and fast. The thumb only does down strokes and the index does the upstrokes.

    Personally, when I have the drop D extender in use, I like to do octaves with the thumb and two fingers.
  6. minddrain


    Dec 17, 2018
    I played like that when I started. I switched to a left handed bass and play with two fingers now. Never could use a pick with either hand.
  7. Fergie Fulton

    Fergie Fulton

    Nov 22, 2008
    Retrovibe Artist rota
    Thumb plucking is cool, as is the tone and effect it gives...and Double Bass player can show you how getting more "meat" on the string affects the tone.
  8. gebass6

    gebass6 We're not all trying to play the same music. Supporting Member

    But as you said,you can only play so fast.
    Unless you double thumb.
  9. For sure alternating I/M is more difficult and requires more practice to keep consistent and find the right tone. Thumb offers a different sound palette, which I like and use when needed, but at the expense of speed. Three finger alternating? Another world (and level) altogether.
  10. PaulKaplan

    PaulKaplan Supporting Member

    Sep 23, 2013
    Western Massachusetts
    Curious as to whether your friend uses strict alternating, i.e. literally thumb, index, thumb, index. I've been playing around with thumb, index and it seems like it might be a good way to go. It's kind of like playing with a pick, only without a pick. I also use RMI a lot, and am experimenting with using thumb, index and RMI in the same tune. E.g. in the Allman Brothers "Tied to the Whipping Post", the 11/8 part is kinda tricky with RMI and just works with thumb, index, but then the rest of the song is easier for me with RMI.

  11. Son of Wobble

    Son of Wobble

    Mar 8, 2010
    Saw a video once of Family Man Barrett of The Wailers showing how he played with his thumb to get extra-thick n dubby tone.
    Spin Doctor likes this.
  12. Element Zero

    Element Zero Supporting Member

    Dec 14, 2016
    It has its place. It’s not a technique I’ve worked on a bunch so I rarely use it. It every now and then though it’s cool.
  13. BwanaDust

    BwanaDust Inactive Commercial User

    Apr 11, 2019
    Pittsburgh, PA
    Lincoln Learning Solutions - Lincoln Park Performing Arts Center
    That's exactly how they do it. He crosses his thumb and index finger. Right angle between them when the index is pointing towards you.

    This guitar player I worked with at the time did it the same way. They could both play unbelievably fast and clean.
  14. First, what is the "R" in RMI? Thumb? As a kid I was taught that the thumb is "P" and thumb+3 is PIMA. Did something change?

    As for "Whipping Post" I don't see what the difficulty is with I/M on the 11/8 section that can't be played easily IM. I only started practicing I/M about 18 months ago and my right hand speed isn't nearly where I want it to be, but for me it is easier with I/M than a pick or coming up with and alternate finger combination. The one that gets me at tempo is TOP's "What is Hip". That endless 16th note drone on the E gets my fingers tired and for me would be easier with double thumb, pick or a thumb/index combination.
  15. You don't have to be locked into one way of playing. Every way of playing has a different sound. I used the thumb in this video because it is just like adding another colour of paint to your palette.

    If you want the same time and tone consistency with your fingers as you're thumb, you'll just have to put in the hours and practice more. Record yourself with a click or with a track and really focus and dial in your time and tone. Have the recording to keep you honest and able to analyze your time and tone without any distractions.
  16. PaulKaplan

    PaulKaplan Supporting Member

    Sep 23, 2013
    Western Massachusetts
    RMI is ring, middle, index, which is supposedly easier because it mimics drumming your fingers on a table, which comes naturally to many people. And you're right that IM would be fine for 11/8, but I tend to gravitate towards RMI and it's all about habits (that sometimes may need to be broken).

    OK: it's my turn - what's "double thumb" ??

  17. My understanding of "double thumb" is using the thumb in a down/up action, much like you'd use a pick. It may be used in other contexts, but that's the one I think of when I hear the term.

    The RMI model seems to be more intuitive than IMA. When I began guitar as a kid I learned a classical/folk style and just learned it as PIMA , but it's all semantics and neither here nor there. But what is the initial for the pinky? Taking the logic further, thumb, index, ring, pinky would look like TIMRP... Odd, no?
  18. Element Zero

    Element Zero Supporting Member

    Dec 14, 2016
    @vindibona1 yes you are correct about double thumbing. It’s typically used in conjunction with other slap techniques but can be used to simulate a pick to great effect.
    gebass6 likes this.
  19. two fingers

    two fingers Opinionated blowhard. But not mad about it. Gold Supporting Member

    Feb 7, 2005
    Eastern NC USA
    It took me WAY too long to incorporate this method into my playing. I tend to simply dime my tone knob on my basses and use technique to change attack and tone. You can cover a TON of ground sonically that way.... using a pick near the bridge at one end of the sonic scale and thumb plucking near the fretboard at the other. I probably thumb pluck a quarter of the time these days.

    Now, if I could nail using the side of the thumb ALONG WITH the index and middle like Sting does, I would be a happy bass player. It's coming. I'm working on it.
    Element Zero likes this.
  20. Your playing has a nice vibe... You should do more instructional videos.
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