Thumbrest below strings what's up with that?

Discussion in 'Basses [BG]' started by BIg O, Feb 19, 2003.

  1. A number of Vintage and RI Fenders have the thumbrest angled BELOW the G string on the pickguard. I've used thumbrests ABOVE the E string, but how were the lower ones intended to be used?

    Here's an example:


    I guess if one was plucking with the thumb, that your fingers could grab below the rest, but that seems kind of a crappy way to play....

    Can anyone enlighten me?

    (I hope this is the right forum, it doesn't really fit under setup or technique)
  2. BigTed


    Jul 1, 2002
    San Diego
    I've only seen Brian Wilson use that finger rest in such a manner.
  3. its to play the bass upside down:D :D :eek: :bassist:
  4. bassmonkeee

    bassmonkeee Supporting Member

    Sep 13, 2000
    Decatur, GA
    It was originally below the G string so you could rest your fingers on it, and pluck the strings with your thumb. It works very well in that regard, but that playing technique didn't really take off.

    Remember--Leo was an engineer, and not a bass player. :D
  5. wulf


    Apr 11, 2002
    Oxford, UK
    I think you'll find it IS a finger rest. As I recall, bass playing 'the way Leo intended' was originally done with the thumb - try it and you'll see that you get a nice 'upright thump', especially if you mute the strings a bit with the palm / heel of your hand.

    Yes, you can't play so fast and so fancy, but this was back in the days where electric bass players were thinking like upright bass players and were trying to get that sound but in a way that they could more easily amplify for higher volume situations.

    Playing with the thumb is fairly unfashionable nowadays, and most people think it only means 'slap bass'... however, it's still used from time to time (I once saw a guy do a whole gig, plucking with his right hand thumb and fretting with the first three fingers on the left hand... not a particularly good example of technique, but it worked to an extent).

  6. Sean Baumann

    Sean Baumann Supporting Member

    Apr 6, 2000
    Livin' in the USA
    I play with my thumb often with this type of technique. I use it as a way to tone down the "in your face" nature of my bass. However, I think a rest like that would just get in my way.

    MAJOR METAL HARVESTER OF SORROW Staff Member Supporting Member

    It is a Vintage thing:)
  8. moley


    Sep 5, 2002
    Hampshire, UK
    I'd like to know what's up with the pickup covers...

    How the heck are you supposed to play close to the bridge, or rest your thumb on the pickup with those things there? :confused:
  9. wulf


    Apr 11, 2002
    Oxford, UK
    Moley - you don't. You rest your fingers on the finger rest and pluck with the side of your thumb.

    Of course, that's why most pickup covers and bridge covers ended up either being thrown out or used for ashtrays....

    And voila, the first stirrings of the custom bass market were born :D

  10. bassmonkeee

    bassmonkeee Supporting Member

    Sep 13, 2000
    Decatur, GA
    I won't play a Jazz Bass without covers. I think they look better with the covers, and I think they sound better played near the neck. YMMV.
  11. neptoon


    Jul 25, 2000
    summerville, sc
    call me weird, but i often anchor my thumb on the neck and play just south of the 24th fret. it works for me...if not there, i usually play right off of the bridge.
  12. Ok - you're weird.;)

    Probably some kind of aftereffect of being submerged without normal sunlight for extended periods of time with nuclear devices all around you.......:D
  13. a great many people here call James Jamerson the best player ever. JJ left the pickup cover on his P bass and played with one finger.
  14. Ian Perge

    Ian Perge Supporting Member

    May 11, 2001
    Evansville, Indiana
    IIRC, Sting has been playing with this technique for a number of years (since at least the mid-90's).
  15. how did jamerson get on with the rest on the bottom
    i thought he played with thumb only??:)
  16. I recently saw a concert with Richard Bona Band and he played quite a lot with his thumb (not slapping).
    He played the lower (tonally speaking) strings with his thumb and the lighter strings with his index and middle finger. A little guitarish (maybe spanish) way to play... ok here a picture to illustrate it better...

  17. wulf


    Apr 11, 2002
    Oxford, UK
    No - Jamerson was definitely a one finger man, according to Standing in the Shadows of Motown which is a pretty definitive reference.


    ps. interesting to hear about Sting using his thumb - any further reports on that?
  18. wulf


    Apr 11, 2002
    Oxford, UK
    Regarding the Richard Bona pic, that's the way I normally play if I'm doing more chordal stuff. Was he using it through the whole set?

  19. Bruce Lindfield

    Bruce Lindfield Unprofessional TalkBass Contributor Gold Supporting Member

    Well - this technique is favoured by Jazz Guitarists who have played some very flashy stuff - fast and fancy!!

    So the most famous was Wes Montgomery - who was incredibly dextrous (Pat Metheny's favourite!!)
    but who anchored his fingers under the bottom of the guitar and played only with his thumb!

    I have seen several other Jazz guitarists who do this and play incredibly fast solos - like Jim Mullen who tours the Jazz circuit in the UK regularly and who I've seen at very close quarters! It looks very uncomfortable to me, but I think the idea is that it gets a rounder fuller tone out of a semi-acoustic.

    Of course the ironic thing about the "Leo" comments is that Double Bass players very rarely use their thumb and this is anchored on the near side of the neck to enable pulling through the strings for better tone and volume.
  20. wulf


    Apr 11, 2002
    Oxford, UK
    Some of it is a 'tone' thing - it's easier to get a pseudo double bass thing that way. Your comment about jazz guitarists makes me wonder if that had something to do with it as well - were there any guitarists in the 40's and 50's who played by alternating their index and middle fingers (like the average electric bassist might today if picking up a guitar for the first time)?