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Using the thumb while fingerpicking

Discussion in 'Technique [BG]' started by dumeril7, Dec 11, 2002.

  1. dumeril7


    Oct 21, 2002
    Raleigh, NC
    I'm curious how many others have developed a similar technique.

    First, I should say that 99% of the time, I play with the usual index/middle technique and I've forced myself to develop that technique pretty well.

    But when I was a guitarist, I became really enamored with Mark Knopfler who plays without a pick, using his thumb, index and middle fingers, claw-and-hammer style. He did this whether he was doing Travis picking stuff or playing lead lines. I practiced it and got it down very well and could play fast, single-note lead lines with or without a pick.

    When I went back to bass, I found that I could play much faster and more accurately that way than the standard index/middle plucking. Like I said, most of the time I play with standard index/middle technique. But when it comes time to blow chops, out comes the thumb.

    The advantages for me are: 1) I can give most guitarists a run for their money in the chops dept. for all that's worth; 2) I can mute very effectively with my right-hand palm; 3) I'm very well-positioned to throw in slap lines.

    The disadvantages for me are: 1) you can't get the same kind of volume as with index/middle; 2) there's a tendency for tonal differences between thumb-plucked notes and finger-plucked notes so you have to work on that; and 3) other bassists look at you funny.

    Anybody else play this way?

  2. Jontom


    Mar 11, 2002
    New York
    Yes. I play in a cover band, so theres not too much call for using the technique, but for my original recordings I have. Mine comes from playing a lot of nylon string classical guitar. The side attack on the string makes it a lot easier to play long arpeggios. It does help to have low action as well.
  3. I've played with my thumb a little, but mostly when I was trying to play weird pedal tones. I've seen John Myung of dream theater do it; you grab a chord way up on the neck (I'm sure it's easier for him, since he has a 6 string...) and then hit one of the low strings every once and a while while plucking the high strings.. and let the low note sustain. it's really hard to do this without using your thumb (well, not THAT hard, but it helps), and plus.. you can slap the lower string if you want while you're at it.
  4. I play like that all the time. When Im playing chords, raking towards the G string, or playing melodies in chordal positions finger picking style I always use my thumb, index and middle fingers. Other bassists do look at me funny, but unfortunatley there arent that many bassists I know that play half as well as I do.

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