What do I do with my right thumb?

Discussion in 'Technique [BG]' started by seilerbird, Apr 12, 2012.

  1. seilerbird


    Apr 12, 2012
    I have been playing guitar since the Beatles first appeared on Ed Sullivan and recently I decided to get serious about playing bass. I bought a Beatle Bass and a small amp along with a few instruction books. I have a question that is not addressed in any of my books and I can't find an answer with Google so I will ask the experts here.

    I am not sure where I should be placing my right hand thumb (I play right handed). It feels most comfortable if I rest it on the top of the bridge pickup right above the E string. I then use my index and middle finger for plucking the notes. However I have been watching concert videos and it seems like every bass player is resting their thumb on the E string. I try it that way and it doesn't feel right to me. Should I force myself to change or should I go with the flow?
  2. Use the floating thumb technique. That's where you keep your thumb on the string right above where you're playing. If you're playing on the top strong (B or E) then rest it on one of the pickups. That's how I do it and it's perfect for me to get around.
  3. Mitchinboxer

    Mitchinboxer Guest

    Jan 25, 2012
    +1, just checked and I indeed do this, feels great for me. For some reason, I just never thought about it before :D
  4. mcblahflooper94

    mcblahflooper94 Guest

    Aug 31, 2011
    A lot of bassists play on the pickup. Nothing wrong with that. But, you should work on the floating thumb technique, so that you can play up around the D & G string comfortably.
  5. I agree with what capensandwhich said. I use the same technique and it hasn't hindered my playing. Ultimately you should do what's most comfortable for you as long as its in the realm of good technique....
  6. VitalSigns

    VitalSigns Guest

    May 8, 2011
    Central NY
    Is it weird that I developed this without knowing it was a 'technique'?
  7. Not at all. I did the same thing and then realized that's what it was called. Thank you talkbass!!!
  8. fearceol


    Nov 14, 2006
    I think you may be referring to the "Movable Anchor" technique here. The actual floating thumb technique does just that, i.e. floats. It does not rest on anything. Apart from being a safe healthy way to play ( because the wrist is not bent), it also mutes unwanted string noise.

    Here is a clip demonstrating it :

    Todd Johnson Bass Guitar : Floating thumb technique - YouTube
  9. Megazap63


    Apr 12, 2009
    London, UK
    +100 on this method, best for muting an open A that tends to ring when playing notes on D & G strings. Check out Jaco's instructional DVD (with Jerry Jemmott) where he demonstrates this in detail.

    Alphonso Johnson uses a similar 'barring' technique thats very effective for him, however I find this a little awkward since it limits mobility (perhaps just me).
  10. kevteop


    Feb 12, 2008
    York, UK
    What you're doing is fine, lots of bass players do that their whole careers because it's simple and it works.

    The 'floating thumb' technique felt unnatural to me and I couldn't see any obvious benefits to playing that way.
  11. alec


    Feb 13, 2000
    Perth, Australia
    I play a 5 string. I usually rest my thumb on a pickup when I'm playing the B and E strings and then move it to rest on other strings depending on which strings I'm playing. If I'm staying on the E and A for example, I'll rest my thumb on the B.
    If I'm not resting on the string adjacent to the one I'm playing, I'm usually muting that inbetween string with my little finger.
  12. cracked_machine


    Jan 8, 2010
    I usually rest my thumb on the pickup as well, but I've noticed that I've started using the floating thumb technique with even realizing. It is surprisingly comfortable and practical. And I had no idea what it was until coming here, maybe I've started doing it subconsciously?
  13. What about we who PLAY with our thumbs?

    I can float betwixt thumb-playing and fingertips - so it's not so much a rule but what fits and feels good at the moment and for the musical style.

    The rule is --- there IS no rule.
  14. AFRO


    Aug 29, 2010
    wrong verbage.. this is the movable anchor. Adam Nitti has a youtube of movable anchor you should check out. (not you Cap, the OP)

    Adam Nitti's Moveable Anchor Technique - YouTube

    This is what I was reffering to; and why I bought into the technique aswell..

    if you play more than 4 stringer, you will (may I guess) need to adjust; muting w/moveable anchor and floating thumb are almost essential.. IMO of course. and too; it can be adapted for the 4 string players aswell. YMMV:meh:

  15. FretlessMainly


    Nov 17, 2010
    In response to the OP's original question:

    What you are doing is not subjecting yourself to injury and is a completely viable technique that will likely not hinder your playing. So, you should not force yourself to change anything. Some folks here have suggested that you should learn the moveable anchor technique whereby you rest your thumb on the E or A string to play the higher strings.

    Personally, I find that extremely uncomfortable (like having dinosaur arms - all cramped up) and I prefer a thumbrest about an inch or two above the E string or the top of a pickup as you use. I can easily reach all four, five or six strings on all of my basses comfortably. But you may not be built the same way.

    What you need to figure out is whether you feel that anchoring on the pickup allows you comfortable and nimble access to all of the strings in a way that makes you feel convinced that your playing is not hindered by your technique. Only if you feel hindered by what you are doing should you change.
  16. Sorry guys. that's just what I've always called it because that's what I was told it was called. Damn you talkbass!!! Damn all your lies!!!
  17. AFRO


    Aug 29, 2010
    LOL :D that one made me laugh!

    just wanted to let you know you had been passing along mis-information..(as did fearceol) you know hind sight is 20/20!
    now you maybe can work on that For REAL "Floating Thumb Tech"... I think you will find it a useful tool to add in addition to your 'M/Anchor' (and if not, my feelings wont be hurt.)

    keep rawking monn! :bassist:
    "Damn all your lies!!!" LMAO..
  18. Mushroo

    Mushroo Guest

    Apr 2, 2007
    +1 to the movable anchor technique for proper muting. Also you should move your right hand up and down the strings (toward/away from the bridge) because that is how you get different tones. :)
  19. hennessybass

    hennessybass Supporting Member

    Oct 11, 2008
    Bayou City
    Do what works for you.
  20. Jazz Ad

    Jazz Ad Mi la ré sol

    That's what floating thumb had always been, until somebody on TB decided it was actually a movable anchor and people just followed.
    These terms are never used out of the forum anyway so it doesn't matter in any way.

    It's worth noting that the so-called true floating thumb with no anchor gives most bassists who try to use it a lousy groove and poor dynamics.
    It takes a lot of skill to move your fingers in the air with no physical pivot and keep a good rhythm.