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Thumbs....where do you put yours?

Discussion in 'Technique [BG]' started by justlouiz, May 28, 2011.

  1. justlouiz


    May 31, 2010
    Charlotte, NC
    So I FINALLY got my hands on a bass and I've been playing nonstop for the past few days and I love it. But I've seen two different thumb placements for playing: The first being keeping your thumb straight on the back on the neck, which is how I've been doing it. While the second is having your thumb arch over the top of the neck to mute the top strings. Which do you guys prefer?
  2. dalahorse


    Apr 14, 2010
    Thumb just about centered in the back of the neck for me. I'm sure it wanders around a touch as I don't really look at it. But yeah, I've seen it done the other way, too. I'll say this - I'm a pretty small guy and can pull off one finger per fret anywhere on the neck with the thumb in the center of the neck technique. When I first started, I tried the wrap around thumb method. My hand would cramp up within a couple minutes. It really didn't work at all for me.

    Something to note would be bass height. If the bass is too low down, it's really hard to use the thumb in the center of the neck method. If you're going to do that, get the bass up to a pretty good height. A lot of folks around here say that the strap should be adjusted so that the bass is at the same height when standing as when resting on your knee while you're sitting.

    Please note I'm nowhere close to being a qualified teacher. I just know what feels right (nimble fingers, no cramps, no pain) to me.
  3. BassmanSBK


    Mar 31, 2011
    Los Angeles
    Thumb against the back of the neck. Thumb over to mute the E string may seem like a good idea at first, but it is really going to limit you. (Unless you have freakishly large hands, and a jazz neck.)
  4. Stilettoprefer


    Nov 26, 2010
    My hands are freakishly large and I used to do the wrap around technique. I formed tendinitis because of it... I now use thumb in the center technique. If you need to mute strings, use the thumb of your right hand instead.
  5. justlouiz


    May 31, 2010
    Charlotte, NC
    Thanks guys, your input is much appreciated!
  6. dalahorse


    Apr 14, 2010
    justlouiz: Something I can't stress enough is pain. If any technique you use causes pain anywhere in your body, stop doing it immediately and seek the advice of a qualified teacher. Again, I'm definitely not that on the bass at all. I have, however, been a drummer for a very long time and have taught on the instrument. Holding and using the sticks with poor technique causes pain in varying amounts and eventually leads to injury. The same is true for bad technique on any instrument. So if the thumb behind the neck technique causes discomfort, seek out a local teacher and ask for help.

    Sorry to sound so serious. :meh: Enjoy your instrument! :bassist:
  7. justlouiz


    May 31, 2010
    Charlotte, NC
    Oh no, not saying it's causing me pain at all. Just been watching videos of people playing bass and have seen it both ways was just wondering which one you guys prefer.
  8. bluesdogblues


    Nov 13, 2007
    Me: either.. Depend on my need
  9. justlouiz


    May 31, 2010
    Charlotte, NC
    When you use the second one what're you doing? Playing faster? Or strumming...or?
  10. Eric Albany

    Eric Albany

    May 22, 2011
    I usually have my left thumb in the middle or on the side of the neck. I usually use my right thumb to strum instead of using a pick.
  11. bluesdogblues


    Nov 13, 2007
    I do it almost unconsciously,.. Fretting a note on the biggest string or mute it or just hanging it or sometimes when do some chord. It's automatic that I never think.. Maybe it's a bad habit, I don't know :)
  12. AMp'D.2play

    AMp'D.2play Supporting Member

    Feb 12, 2010
    Do a search & check out some of Fergie Fulton's posts (& videos) on thumb placement.

    When I was starting out, I was getting the onset of tendinitis at the base of my left thumb by trying to maintain the 'textbook thumb position'. You need to find what's comfortable for you and not put your thumb in an unnatural position. If that's thumb up, or thumb pointed towards the headstock, or somewhere in between, go with that. Let your body determine what is right or wrong.

    Obviously, if there's a range of positions that work for you, go with the one(s) that don't inhibit your ability to reach the frets/strings needed to play a particular bass line.

    Given that, I rarely have my thumb draped over the E-string side of the fretboard. My thumb pad is somewhere along the back of the neck, usually in the upper 1/3rd. YMMV. Someone like Bunny Brunel, who looks like he has his thumb positioned along the bottom edge of the neck (along the G-string side). I can't even hold the neck like that, nevermind play any notes.
  13. john grey

    john grey

    Apr 19, 2011
    Oracle, Arizona
    I agree with the individualistic approach. Even though I do NOT drape my thumb on top of the neck; it doesn't arch ridgedly against the center back of the neck 100% of the time. Occasionally I'll "roll" my thumb as it's natural tendency for larger hands. I've been told that there is a rough standard for hand (glove) size. And this in turn may influence you thumb rotation. The other significant issue is the neck DESIGN! If it's a deep "D"(chunky) it's one thing; if it's a very mild, flatter "D" shape the thumb is often very naturally placed in the direct back of the neck. That's why it's vital to eventually find the neck that fits you: rather than attempting to work with a baseball bat when a Cricket paddle is available.
    From the 1st flexing skin line of the wrist to the tip of the middle finger my hand is 8.5" ; this is considered to be moderately large glove size & therefore my thumb COULD reach down to the full neck on some j-bass neck - but I choose not to.
    Many folks with larger hands are attracted to bass becasue standard guitar strings as SO close together, yet with more and more 5 & 6 string Basses, smaller handed folks can rip that up.
  14. I play with my thumb smack in the middle of the neck. That way when I come down on a string my finger is pretty much perpendicular with the string, so I wind up playing with the tip of the finger instead of the meaty part of the finger. When my left-hand technique gets a bit sloppy I'll check my thumb's placement first, recentering it on the back of the neck usually cleans up any sloppiness in my playing.
  15. Johnny Crab

    Johnny Crab ACME,QSC,Fame/Hondo/Greco/HELIX user & BOSE Abuser Gold Supporting Member

    Feb 11, 2004
    South Texas
    +10000 !!!

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