Unstable position when using floating thumb

Discussion in 'Technique [BG]' started by Recover9720, Jul 25, 2021.

  1. Recover9720


    Oct 16, 2020
    Hello, everyone

    I've been practicing floating thumb since last month, with classical guitar position.

    However, whenever I play the bass, I feel unstable because there is no anchor to hold the bass.

    Well.. before I play with the floating thumb, I could anchor the bass with my forearm so that the bass doesn't move while playing. But with the floating thumb, only my left hand is holding the bass and I found my position is changed while moving on the fretboard.

    I'm trying to get used to the floating thumb but the unstable bass position makes me feel uncomfortable. Also, my left thumb feels fatigued because only the left thumb is taking all the pressure from the neck.

    Is this normal? or is there something I missed with using floating thumb?

    I know holding bass with my legs could be helpful but I want to practice in the same way as when I play standing. Hope there is some advice for my situation. I uploaded my playing posture images so you can find out my problem.

    Attached Files:

  2. JeezyMcNuggles

    JeezyMcNuggles Supporting Member

    Feb 23, 2018
    Santa Maria, CA
    I suck, but nobody really notices
    You need to play that bass standing up. It needs to be on a strap, apparently. Your bass should be balanced, and pretty much hold itself up. But it's not. That big ol neck is pulling your headstock down. Play it on the strap.
  3. Recover9720


    Oct 16, 2020
    I always use the strap when practicing as you can see in the picture. So it may not be the problem in the case of my situation.
    gebass6 likes this.
  4. SteveCS


    Nov 19, 2014
    Hampshire, UK
    There is nothing in the floating thumb technique that precludes resting your forearm or hand on the body to stabilise the instrument.
    Over the fingerboard:
    Over the bridge:
  5. Al Rivera

    Al Rivera

    Mar 20, 2021
    Yes! That is the key in my opinion. I've wore through the finish on my main bass from my forearm.
    Yonni and Groove Doctor like this.
  6. I think a large part of your issue is with the strap itself. Your bass, based on the position of the strap pin, suffers from serious neck dive. You should not have to support the bass with your fretting hand at all, nor should you have to use your forearm to hold the bass. Your strap looks like one of the less expensive leather straps with no backing. And that allows the neck dive to cause the bass to change position. If I were you and that was my bass, I would invest in a quality strap that has better grip and padding over your shoulder. That should help to eliminate a lot of the issue. Take your bass to the music store with you and try out some better straps.

    Can you use floating thumb with ease in the sitting position? The reason I ask is that your strap height should keep the bass in the same position whether sitting or standing. You might want to refine the technique in the sitting position and then make any small adjustments needed when standing.
  7. Recover9720


    Oct 16, 2020
    I never thought about the strap could be the problem! Does the strap differ that much? Mine is one of the cheap leather straps as you noticed. Maybe I should try something better. Any suggestions?

    Also, I can use the floating thumb with no difficulty in the sitting position. I set the strap height not to be changed whether I play standing or sitting.
  8. Personally, I would go for something with a width of 3.5 - 4.5", leather, padded, such as (I'm not recommending this strap, I know nothing about it, I just picked it out at random based on what I would look for in a strap) . . .

    Levy's MSSB2-4-BLK 4 1/2" Wide Black Garment Leather Bass Strap

    It's possible that it could eliminate some, if not most, of your issue. Like I said, take your bass to the store with you and try some out. Try before you buy, never hurts to window shop! Based upon where you're located, your local music vendor may not have a wide selection, but they may have enough to give you some idea as to whether a new strap would help with the issue. Then you could search online for more options if they didn't have what you need/want.
  9. SteveCS


    Nov 19, 2014
    Hampshire, UK
    I doubt I will ever wear through the finish - it is light pressure from the weight of the arm or hand resting there, not a grip. Gravity does the work!
    Rich Fiscus and Al Rivera like this.
  10. JeezyMcNuggles

    JeezyMcNuggles Supporting Member

    Feb 23, 2018
    Santa Maria, CA
    I suck, but nobody really notices
    Well, the neck falling is kinda the cause of having to hold it up.
    SteveCS likes this.
  11. red_rhino

    red_rhino Artful Dodger Gold Supporting Member

    Not sure why you're using a floating thumb on the fretless, unless it's just for the sake of consistency across all your basses. That fretless is a 4-string, and I think a floating thumb is of limited value there.

    When I use a floating thumb on a 5 or 6, I tend to "float the anchor", meaning that I actually rest my thumb on the lowest string that's not being played, which helps to more effectively mute all the lower strings since I can lever my thumb and palm against the strings from that anchor point.
  12. Jazzkuma


    Sep 12, 2008
    My forearm is always on the body. Like the other post said, there is nothing about this technique which prevents you from resting your forearm on the bass because you are not technically lifting your arm off the instrument, you are simply readjusting the position of your thumb.

    Another thing to consider is not to have the strap waist low. If the bass is too low for your forearm to even reach the body of the bass then you need to play it a bit higher.
    Thumb n Fingers, Yonni and drumvsbass like this.
  13. gebass6

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

    I use and swear by the Comfort Strapp.
    3 1/2 inches wide.3/8 thick.
    It cancels neck dive on my sixers.
  14. J_Bass

    J_Bass Supporting Member

    Feb 7, 2008
    Porto, Portugal
    I use the Moving Anchor Technique.

    I anchor the thumb on the pickup, on the E string, A string, and very rarely on the D string. The hand moves up and down, the thumb changes anchor as needed.

    Better than floating thumb, for me, of course.
    Last edited: Jul 25, 2021
  15. SteveCS


    Nov 19, 2014
    Hampshire, UK
    Why not? I've been playing fretless with a floating thumb technique since long before it was called floating thumb and brought to wider attention by Gary Willis. It is natural, fluid and effective.
    Lackey, Passinwind, Artman and 4 others like this.
  16. red_rhino

    red_rhino Artful Dodger Gold Supporting Member

    My point was specific to that bass being a 4-string rather than fretless. IMO & IME, the reasons for using a floating thumb don't apply as strongly to 4's, thus I tend to use it mostly on 5's & 6's. Of course one should do whatever they feel works best for them.
  17. SteveCS


    Nov 19, 2014
    Hampshire, UK
    From reasons of muting I can see that, but for maintaining posture the floating thumb technique beats all others regardless of the number of strings, IME.
  18. +1 rest your forearm or wrist on the body of the bass to stabilise it.

    As an exercise, Learn to play standing and sitting without using your left thumb at all. The right firearm should have total control the Bass position.

    A lighter left thumb pressure will do absolute wonders for improving your left hand proficiency.
  19. Wasnex


    Dec 25, 2011
    You have a bit of extra complication because your bass has neck dive. Ideally the bass stays in the desired playing position, which allows you to relieve the pressure on both hands.

    I also found that floating thumb is a bit unstable, and it takes time to get comfortable with it. There may be certain types of patterns where you revert to anchored thumb. In particular I found that when there were fast jumps back and forth across non-adjacent strings, that anchored thumb can be advantageous. As you become more skilled with floating thumb, this advantage may get very small or disappear altogether.

    Regarding your fretting hand:
    Many people learn to fret the notes by essentially pinching the neck and strings between the thumb and fingers. As you get more advanced you learn the pinching is bad technique. In the upright bass world we talk about using arm weight and pulling from the core. The idea is force comes from the large muscles in the back and travels all the way down the arm to the finger tips. If you can master this, there is no need to apply significant force with the thumb on the fretting hand. Light pressure is used to provide lateral stability in the low range. If you play high enough on the neck, the thumb rotates under the neck, and may even need to move in front of the finger board for certain patterns.

    Next time you buy a bass, I suggest getting one that does not have neck dive. If possible, try out a bass with better balance now to see how much of a problem your current bass is causing.

    Good Luck!
    MDBass, JRA, red_rhino and 2 others like this.
  20. TOGNA

    TOGNA Supporting Member

    Nov 15, 2020
    Just had to. :D

    Groove Doctor likes this.