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Discussion in 'Technique [BG]' started by __Syxx__, Feb 6, 2001.

  1. __Syxx__

    __Syxx__ Guest

    Nov 14, 2000
    brisbane australia
    hey, i'm just wondering where you people have your thumb when your playing. When i first started playing bass i rested my thumb on the pickup, but my teacher is telling me that i should place my thumb on the string above the one that i'm playing, (eg. play the D string and rest thumb on the A string ect...) and i find that really hard to move from string to string when playing.

    Also i used to play where you pluck the a string and your plucking finger comes to rest on the string above it (pluck D rest on A). Was the a good/correct way to play?

    Sorry if this has been posted before. Thanks.
  2. Floating-thumb technique, which is what your teacher is trying to get you to use, is superior to planting for a number of reasons:

    1. The lower strings are muted more effectively when you're not playing on them.
    2. On basses with a single pickup (like Precisions or Stingrays), you'll be able to play in more than one position.
    3. If you ever play a five-, six-, or, God help you, a seven-string (j/k, Mr. Turner), you won't have to bend your wrist as much to play each note, which will reduce the likelihood of tendinitis and carpal tunnel.

    The key to getting floating-thumb right is to keep your wrist relatively straight and your thumb relatively perpendicular to the strings. It took me about two weeks to get it down, but when I did my playing improved immeasurably. I was able to play back by the bridge, which lets me have a punchier tone.

    The other muting method, whereby you rest your plucking finger on the string below it, isn't a particularly effective muting technique (if you're playing on the D or G, the E will ring) and arguably slows you down. You can keep using it if you want, but I'd advise you to discard this technique and use floating-thumb muting.

  3. Analogkid is stearing you in the right direction!

    I too started out with my thumb either on the E string or on the pick up.It just seemed so difficult and frustrating to put my thumb on the string above the one I was playing.

    On a fluke I started using the "floating thumb"technique whenever I was learning new tabs or unfamiliar chops.Hey,you are learning so hence going at slow speed anyways,right? Gradually I got into the habit of always placing my thumb on the string above the one being played.Now it is second nature and feels weird to keep it ont he p/u.

    Yes,it does take a while get used to but you will damn near never have to worry or say "how do I keep this effin string from ringin while playin this one??" Your speed will increase with this method and it makes you "look" more professional!

    Just my thoughts fellow TB`er!

  4. Dragonlord

    Dragonlord Rocks Around The Glocks

    Aug 30, 2000
    Greece, Europe
    I used to rest my thumb on the pickup,but under my teacher's guidance I now rest it on the pickup when I play on E,and on E for the rest of the strings.Question to the guys who answered:You mean that when you play a bass line that uses say both D and G strings,you keep on moving your plucking finger from D to G AND your thumb from A to D?(and vice-versa,of course).This seems awkward to me...doesn't it slow you down?
  5. Bruce Lindfield

    Bruce Lindfield Unprofessional TalkBass Contributor Gold Supporting Member In Memoriam

    I just leave my thumb pointing down across the strings and resting on top of all the strings lower than the one I am playing. So it doesn't really keep changing position but just moves with the rest of my hand and is usually muting B and E, possibly A as well. I then find it is in a more convenient position for bringing it into use, when doing things like artificial harmonics, slapping or thumb plucking - sometimes in conjunction with palm-muting. Or if I am using my thumb to play the bottom note in a chord.
  6. Rockinjc


    Dec 17, 1999
    I'm with Bruce on this one. If you can avoid having your thumb anchored at all but gliding on the strings it gets to be a lot more fun. True again on the harmonics as well. I find that I can sweep a three-note chord playing artificial harmonics with the thumb as the pivot point. So easy, so cool! Try it with a note and octave and the diminished fifth in a diagonal movementÂ…oh yeah!

    My exception to pointing the thumb more or less straight down is when I am playing tunes up the neck and want to use an open string as pedal point. Then it makes sense to me any way to curve the thumb back a bit and have it ready to pluck or thump the string it's muting.

    The other thing to keep in mind is muting with the tips of the pinky and ring fingers. This I find handy quite oftenÂ…especially when you want to pluck the string you are muting, at the bridge, as an effect.

    If you play fretless you may find left hand muting useful. As far as palm muting I don't do this so hot. I always feel so constrained when doing this unless I use a pick. Is if fair to call it palm muting still if I am using the side of my pinky?

  7. When I first started I always kept my thumb on the pickup. Then, somewhere along the way I started moving my thumb along with the rest of my hand, and ended up resting it on the string right above (or sometimes 2 strings above).
    As for playing a bass line that uses the D and G strings, depending how fast the change is, I'll move my thumb from the A to D strings if it's relatively slow, but if I have to make it a faster transition, I tend to just leave my thumb on the A. :)
  8. __Syxx__

    __Syxx__ Guest

    Nov 14, 2000
    brisbane australia
    It also seems awkward to me it i find that it slows me down a hell of a lot and it feels very uncomfortable for me too.
    But my old way of playing (thumb on the pickup and resting plucking finger on the string above the one i just played) felt very easy and comfortable for me, and i could go as fast or as slow as i wanted without the problem os shifting my whole hand just to play one note.
  9. Rockinjc


    Dec 17, 1999
    As far as "slows me down" is concerned, if you don't already, try playing with a lite touch and close to the bridge. And dont hold on to the strings just touch um with the side of your thumb.

    Just a thought or two
  10. Ty McNeely

    Ty McNeely

    Mar 27, 2000
    What ya'll are saying is completely opposite to everything that I've ever been taught (which really ain't a whole lot:(). I've ALWAYS been told NOT to rest my thumb on the above string. Maybe its because I play on a jazz bass, so I have options as to where to rest my thumb, but everyone has always told me NOT to rest my thumb on the string. And it really makes more sense NOT to rest your thumb on the string because it does in fact slow you down. Since I play a 5, the B string isn't in use a whole lot when I play in jazz band, but I still don't rest my finger on it. Oh well.....I guess everybody is different.
  11. basslax


    Apr 20, 2000
    Washington, DC
    just get a 5 string and use the b string for a thumb rest :p . seriously though, i (try to) put my thumb on the PU when playing songs that involve the E string a lot, but when i dont use it much (the E string that is) i put it on the e string. i hate it when the e string vibrates randomly. i dont like switching around though, so depending on how many E string notes there are in the song i place my thumb in different positions.
  12. I'm kind of mixed as to where I usually put my thumb. I love the floating thumb technique which is where you place your thumb on the string above the one you are playing so that if you hit it by accident, it won't ring. My teacher is trying to get my to keep my thumb on the pickup or B-string and swivel around though. I guess whatever happens happens.
  13. Your teacher's an idiot. Not only does that prevent proper muting, it also puts you at risk for tendinitis (which I have...GRRRRRRRRRR!) in your right wrist. I'd find another teacher.
  14. Rockinjc


    Dec 17, 1999
    Brash but true!
  15. I've only been playing for about 5 months but I have found the easiest way to mute an open E is to actually bring my left hand thumb over the top of the neck. I just started doing this on my own and I don't really even think about it anymore. Does anyone else do this or is it just a really bad habit and I am never going to become a good bass player and most likley develop several diseases in my wrists and eventually die from them because of it?
  16. Plenty of people do this, but you'll never be able to play anything bigger than a 4-string unless you keep your thumb on the back of the neck. Most 5-string necks are way, way too wide to allow you to bring your thumb around, and forget it on 6-strings.
  17. I wouldn't say he's an idiot. He's actually a really accomplished bassist and pretty reknown in the area for his skill. He seems to have it down pretty well, I just have a different style of playing than he does. I don't know though, he likes that technique, but I pluck the strings really hard and I don't like that "bwing-g-g-g-g-gg" noise when you hit another string.
  18. The thing is, unorthodox technique may work well for a select few, and he may be quite fast with it, but he's gonna have arthritis like nobody's business when he's 60. Don't take any chances with your wrists; they're a bassist's most important possession.
  19. Steve S

    Steve S

    Jul 26, 2000
    I use my thumb this way when I'm playing barre chords on my guitar. I think that it would be hard to shift your hands quickly if you do this on a bass.
  20. Arthritis doesn't seem too up there on my list to have, so I'll stick to the move the thumb around technique. Besides, I've been using it for 3 years, why switch now.

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