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Where do you you put your thumb?

Discussion in 'Technique [BG]' started by Davidoc, Sep 8, 2000.

  1. I've been reading a book that has technique tips. It says rest your thumb on the e-string when plucking the a, d, or g strings, but when plucking the e, rest it on the pickup. This is kind of a pain moving my thumb around. '

    What techniques for thumb placement do you use? Should I get used to moving my thumb?
  2. KampKomfort


    Jul 27, 2000
    ...but that is the way I have always played, with a 2 (sometimes 3) finger technique. It just came naturally that way for me. Is your pickup in a strange location? That may make moving your thumb to it impractical. It works great on my P-bass. Good luck with it.

  3. RAM


    May 10, 2000
    Chicago, IL
    From my experiences, what I've found that by resting my thumb on the "E" string while playing the "A", "D", and "G" strings allows me to keep my right hand a little more closed, which adds to flexibility while playing. Furthermore, it allows me to mute the "E" string better, so I'm less likely to strike it while playing another string.

    I do use several types of techniques, however, and vary them according to a style or sound I'm trying to achieve. There are times that if I'm playing a fast run from low to high, and across several strings, I may find it easier to keep my thumb stationary on the pickup.

    In addition, you may also consider the sound you're trying to achieve. For example, in rock during the '60's, it was common for bass guitarists to rest their thumb on the neck, closer to the middle of the string for a warmer, rounder sound. Other bassists, such as Jaco, play (or played) back by the bridge for a "woodier", more middly, punchier sound.

    So, while there are certainly guidelines that you'll find in books, videos, and even interviews by some of your favorite artists, be conscious of what you're trying to achieve and how your hand develops. I'd still recommend practicing all different techniques to give you that added versatility, however.


    May 29, 2000
    hooksett NH USA

    I put it different places at different times...
    Some times I rest it on the side if my neck. Or the "B", "E", "A", "D" or "G" string.Sometimes I just let it hang. Some songs, like that "limp bizkit" song that everybody loves (you know the one...) I can play with my thump in my.......nevermind.

    depending on what Im playing, my thumb goes everywere.
  5. Playing a 6, muting is a major issue. I use my right thumb to control open strings as much as possible. Here's the rundown on how I work it:

    When playing on the E and B strings, my thumb is on the pickup.

    When playing on the A string, thumb on the B string.

    When playing on the D string, thumb on the E string (and also resting against the B).

    When playing on the G string, thumb on the A string (and also resting against the E and B).

    When playing on the C string, thumb on the D string (and also resting against the A, E, and B).

    Of course, there are times when this "rule" isn't very sensible, but for about 80-85% of my playing it works great.

    It also has a great side effect, my right hand playing position NEVER changes from string to string. If you always keep your thumb on the pickup, for example, you end up having to "learn" a different technique for each string, as your hand position changes from string to string. If you use the "floating thumb" technique (it works just as well for my 4 string students), you basically have the exact same hand postion for ALL strings.
  6. john turner

    john turner You don't want to do that. Trust me. Staff Member

    Mar 14, 2000
    atlanta ga
    well, if i have some vaseline handy, i usually...

    oh, jeez, he meant while we're _PLAYING_. oh, well never mind.
  7. Rockinjc


    Dec 17, 1999
    There is at least one recent thread on this already try

    I will vote for the float. In fact, most of the time my thumb is pointing toward the floor and if a string needs to be muted, my thumb just gets closer to the bass. The only time I "rest" my thumb is when I am about to pluck that string with my thumb.

  8. Hi,
    I will say ''Just pick your bass and play''.Your hands and sound will tell you the perfect place for your thumbs or the other thinhs that you want to put on :)
    Relax and trust yourself.Dont ask for everything that you do,to other people,if its wrong or right.
  9. JMX

    JMX Vorsprung durch Technik

    Sep 4, 2000
    Cologne, Germany
    Onur, don't get me wrong, but I think that's potentially dangerous - at least to some degree...
    A novice player cannot really know the 'mechanics' involved and thus can't tell right from wrong, yet. I've had some students that had a REALLY tough time to undo the 'damage' they'd done to themselves, in terms of technique...At the first stages guidance of any sort is crucial - not everybody's a 'natural'...
  10. White_Knight


    Mar 19, 2000
    When playing an on E or A, I'll place my thumb on the pickup (either bridge or neck, depending upon the sound that I'm going for). For the D and G strings, I'll move my thumb up to the E string (either over the neck or bridge pickups, again, according to the sound that I want). I don't think that there's really a right or wrong way, though you will eventually find that some ways are easier than others...

  11. Greetings,

    I am probably just as much a beginner as you are so keep that in mind! :D

    Most of the ppl I talked to online used the thumb on the E string and on the first pick up when playing the E string,so that is what I adopted.It is now natural to me.This way you only ever have your thumb in two positions.Not saying this is "the" way to do it but a lot of the online lessons,etc. had pics of this and watching videos,etc. showed most musicians using this technique.

    My Larry Little bass video shows to place the thumb on the string above the string you are playing.That was too complicated for me.

    My advice would be to listen to the seasoned bassists here and then apply what they advise in your own playing.

    Viel Erfolg!!


  12. lump


    Jan 17, 2000
    St. Neots, UK

    Didn't you used to hang out here a while back? Welcome back.

    IMLessThanHO, muting is an EXTREMELY IMPORTANT skill, and is one of the things that separates the Good Players from the Not So Good Players (I'm lodged squarely in the middle). And Gard is right on the money with the floating thumb thing. Again, IMO, it's probably the best technique to use, although it does take a little getting used to. But if you work on it for a few days it'll become second nature, and you won't have to think about it.

    The only rub is that it doesn't work for descending lines using open strings. There you have two choices - mute with your left hand or come up with some other way for your right hand to do it. Some guys play "flat handed," laying their left hands lying on the open strings to keep 'em muted, but I'm a more of a fingertip, "spider hand" player, so that technique doesn't work for me. I use my right hand instead, and use a non-plucking finger to mute. For example, if I play an open A with my middle finger, I'll then mute it with THE SAME FINGER (middle) while simultaneously playing the next note (G) with the index. That way your index-middle finger alternation isn't interrupted. Some folks use their ring finger to mute the open string with, but personally, I get too tangled up doing that.

    A good scale to practice your muting technique with is something in F major, using open E, A, D and G. I picked F major cuz it's usually the key I get into the most trouble muting-wise, especially descending. Try something like this, for example, going from low E up to Bb:


    When ascending, make sure you're trailing your thumb to mute the last string, and when descending, use a free finger to mute with. Start SLOW, and try to play as staccato (short) as possible, gradually increasing the speed over a few days (a metronome might be handy for that). I still keep it in my daily practice routine just to remind my right hand to behave.

    Or you could just get a bunch of tattoos and jump around a lot. That seems to work too. :rolleyes:
  13. TedP66


    Aug 25, 2000
    Funny... My thumb is always on the neck pickup, or the neck(for that Geezer Butler -60's pbass- thump). I'm a bigger guy though, 6'5", so it is probably easier. Do whats most comftorble for you. Ive seen thumbs everywere when I watch my favorites. Screw what the books and the expensive lessons tell you.
  14. Blackbird

    Blackbird Moderator Supporting Member

    Mar 18, 2000
    Check the thread "How has your technique changed over the years?" a lot of the more experienced players started one way and then their technique improved almost by itself. In my case, I used to rest my thumb on the neck pickup, but now I just rest my thumb onthe B or the E string, depending on how many strings I have on the bass I'm playing. Also, I started playing over the bridge pickup. whatever technique makes you comfortable is the right technique for you. Just make sure it doesn't hamper your future development.

    Will C.:cool:
  15. i keep my thumb on the pickup but it naturaaly moves to the e string when im playing other strings
  16. a lawnmower took my thumb off when i was trying to get the beer can i droped away from the jammed blade, of course the blade had just been sharpened an hour earlier. i kept my thumb on ice for a while, then i put it in a box and drove it to the hospital, mostly now i just keep my thumb as a past memory in a little section of my mind.
    boy oh boy you want to talk hard playing slap lines
  17. Dragonlord

    Dragonlord Rocks Around The Glocks

    Aug 30, 2000
    Greece, Europe
    I used to place my thumb on the pickup for every string I played for a couple of years;a few months ago,my teacher told me that I should place it on pickup for E,and on E for the rest strings.It took me about a week or less to get used to it,and now it just feels natural,so I guess it shouldn't be THAT hard to master this technique...have patience,and PRACTICE!
  18. puppet654

    puppet654 Guest

    Apr 6, 2000
    I had it on my pickups for a while, but then I got a thumbrest, so I moved it there, it seems to fit me great, I have good mobility and muting isn't a problem. If you know that you aren't gonna have to do slap bass at all, I'd look into a thumbrest
  19. I usually ONLY rest it on the pickup, because I put a lot of pressure on it, and if I rest it on a string, I just might pull it out of tune!

  20. Stangg

    Stangg Guest

    I don't use my thumb at all, actually! I rest my palm on the top edge of my bass, and plunk away. For the top two strings, i just hold my hand suspended in midair (ooh, sci-fi) I never really had a real teacher, so i had to improvise. My dad, who taught me most of what i know, used his thumb, and i couldn't do that.

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