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WHERE IS YOUR THUMB?

Discussion in 'Technique [BG]' started by dan.ablett, Aug 18, 2007.


  1. when playing a G major scale starting on fret 3 of E. mine is pressing HARD into the neck. i cant imagine that being very good techinique, my thumb does hurt...

    and im talking about 2 4 1 2 4 1 3 4 fingering.

    so where is it, and what angle is it on? most importantly, do you feel pain or discomfort playing in this manner, and does your scale sound good?
     
  2. Chipsonfire

    Chipsonfire

    Jul 20, 2007
    Socorro, NM
    I do the exact same thing and have the same question. I loath playing pretty much anything above the 4th or 3rd fret because it feels so awkward.
     
  3. Poop-Loops

    Poop-Loops Banned

    Mar 3, 2006
    Auburn, Washington
    Take your thumb off the neck and try the scale again. The thumb is a place holder, nothing more. If you can't do it without your thumb, then revise your technique.
     
  4. gre107

    gre107

    Dec 25, 2005
    PA
    A general rule of "Thumb" (pun intended... Ahem...) is that your thumb is in the center of the neck behind the 1st or second finger.

    You should not be pressing so hard that your thumb hurts! This is not a good thing.

    Try this play a note and release the pressure till the string starts to buzz. Then do the same with pushing down on the string until the string starts to buzz but without playing the note cleanly as you would normaly do. This is how much pressure you should be using to play a note. (From the buzz to the clean note)

    Your action or relief in your neck sounds like it is to high and is causing you to have to play with more pressure.

    Ultimately, your string height should be low enough that you pretty much press effortlessly to play a note.

    Your string height should be (about) a 16th of an inch from the top of the 21st fret to the bottom of your G string. This is approximate but close enough for government work.

    All the best.
     
  5. Chipsonfire

    Chipsonfire

    Jul 20, 2007
    Socorro, NM
    Hmm, I'll have to go take a closer look at my bass and technique when I get off work. I really wish there were a teacher closer than 50 miles, as I have full time school, part time work and all the time homework :meh:
     
  6. I've pretty much adopted the Caron method that places your thumb directly between the index and pinky - the triangle, of sorts. However, this does feel somewhat uncomfortable when I'm doing awkward shifts into the first position, and often I find my thumb sliding closer to the index finger.

    Just remember to relax the pressure, and work on keeping your wrist straight - contortion in the wrist leads to more stress on the thumb and index fingers.
     
  7. You should never ever be pressing with your thumb at all! This is the probably the most important aspect of technique there is. Its actual location doesn't matter at all, except for the fact that where your thumb is says a lot about where the rest of your hand is in relation to the neck.
     
  8. I had the same problem and here was my solution to it :

    1 - If your problem is about Technique like everyone else has mentioned , the fact of the matter might be that even though your note is sounding right , your unecessarily adding extra pressure on the thumb . It's kinda the same thing as if you ever play a racing game you often find yourself twisting the controller to the left or the right when you want to take a sharp turn , which doesnt have any effect rather than making you look like a fool....:p . Same thing , different activity . Your fingers are putting unecessary pressure .

    2 - The other thing , and this is what happened to me early on is that keeping the thumb too weakly placed on the back of the neck caused the neck to bob up and down at time , which was really frustrating . The best solution to this is usually that your right forearm to push the guitar against yourself , and the strap should hold it in a proper position otherwise . After this your thumb will invariably need no pressure , and you can fret like there's no tomorrow !!

    Hope this was helpfull . Cheers .
     
  9. Drifta

    Drifta

    Sep 13, 2006
    South Florida
    toke up a spliff and relax man, then play your bass.
     
  10. proper bass setup and bass/neck height are important for developing a good technique. Your fretting hand should be comfortable and remain in a "c" shape. Use the tips of your fingers. Your thumb should be on the back in the middle of the neck around the a and d string and should line up with your index or middle finger.

    Practice fretting the note, you should be able to fret a note without your thumb on the neck. play with a light touch. Use your thumb as a guide or use it to pivot. Playing with a heavy thumb on the neck is only going to cause you pain and slow you down.
     
  11. my neck and action is set up fine, that's definately not the problem. the strings are low, but not super low.

    when im just playing, example "blame it on the boogie" by MJ, there is no pain at all as i gracefully dance all over the fretboard (pffft).
    however just staying in one position doing a scale hurts. it bothers me that the technical work i do causes distress and regular playing doesnt.

    will try the "thumb applies no pressure at all" concept for the next few days, see how i go. if anyone else wants to contribute please do!
     
  12. also i do heaps of playing acoustically, as in playing a fender jazz not plugged into anything, playing against the speakers of my macbook pro. probably digging in way too hard. :bassist:
     
  13. tswd

    tswd

    Jun 20, 2007
    How would this make your left thumb hurt? Playing louder is strictly a right hand thing. No matter how hard you fret a note, it won't affect the volume at all.

    It sounds like when you play a moving line, you don't have time to squeeze with your left hand so your thumb doesn't hurt. When playing scales, your left hand isn't moving so you start applying more and more pressure with it.

    Try playing the scales with one finger and see if your thumb still hurts. I'm guessing it won't.
     
  14. emythefretless

    emythefretless

    May 14, 2006
    Hey hey hey, no pain when playing. Pick up a posture and technique which doesn't give you a weird shape and pains when you're playing. Especially, keep your wrists cool.
     
  15. i guess it is physcological, but i think when i play harder, i squeeze with the left hand too. not a good thing, i know.
     
  16. Jim Carr

    Jim Carr Dr. Jim Gold Supporting Member

    Jan 21, 2006
    Denton, TX or Kailua, HI
    fEARful Kool-Aid dispensing liberal academic card-carrying union member Musicians Local 72-147
    Check my avatar, it shows my hand position in action. :p

    I was playing on the E string. 1st finger plays B and the 2nd finger is moving toward C#, also on the E.
    My thumb is pretty much behind my middle or index finger depending on where I am on the neck (7th fret E-string here), with my hand fairly relaxed. The instrument in the avatar is a '71 P-bass with action set slightly on the high side for tone reasons on that particular neck.

    So, assuming you are not playing lefty (just switch arms if you are), try this without your bass:

    1. sit in a chair next to a medium height table.
    2. lay your left arm on the table, hand flat, palm up, wrist straight.
    3. keeping your forearm on the table, raise your hand up at the wrist up to a 45 degree angle with the table.
    4. gently curl your palm and fingers so that your fingers are about perpendicular to the table.
    5. bring your thumb over an inch or two so it is about opposite your middle finger.

    That's the basic hand/thumb shape I use.

    When playing, your fingers are somewhat curved, and the palm is not in contact with the back of the neck--all of the hand is pretty relaxed, don't squeeze, though use the amount of force you need, but no more. Keep your fingers curved over the strings and "quiet," i.e. not sticking up or jerking around. Note, my index finger in the avatar is still slightly curved, even though I am playing a B on the E string at the 7th fret.

    The thumb will be touching the middle (approx.) of the back of the neck, and will be behind the index or middle fingers depending on whether you are at the 1st fret, 7th fret, etc. By leaving your hand in this position, you should be able to play in a relaxed manner up to the mid-high area of the bass, depending on your instrument. Things change a bit once you are up there, but keeping fingers somewhat curved is still vital, IMHO.

    This is a slightly modified upright technique, but is used by lots of electric players. There are plenty of other ways to do it, but this is a good start, IMHO. :D
     

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