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Why rest your thumb on a pickup?

Discussion in 'Technique [BG]' started by WarMan, Mar 8, 2008.

  1. WarMan


    Feb 18, 2008
    Plano, Texas
    When I started playing bass I was convinced like many that you are supposed to rest your thumb on the pickup. I had a Warwick Corvette. I always found it hard to reach the G string. My fingers had to cover a lot of space. When I first got a Sterling I got stressed out because my first one didn't have a neck pickup and trying to play the strings between the bridge pickup and the bridge were like plucking piano strings. Someone suggested resting my thumb on the E string and moving it up when I needed to play the E string. It sounded difficult, but it took me minutes to learn and became natural very quickly. When you test your thumb on the E string you only have to stretch three strings to the G string. You have to stretch four strings when you rest on the pickup. In addition, you automatically mute the E string when you rest your thumb on it.

    In the past I didn't like playing a P Base because the adjusting screw was on the top of the pickup where I thought I had to rest my thumb. I ended up returning the single pickup Sterling for the Sterling HS. But I kept using a floating thumb technique. I now find it very easy to shift between basses regardless of the pickup placement. A Stingray and P Bass are no more difficult than my Sterling HS and Warwick Thumb.

    I highly suggest transitioning to this technique if you are currently using the pickup as a thumb rest. It makes things easier.
  2. Nick Kay

    Nick Kay

    Jul 26, 2007
    Toronto, Ontario
    Or you could go a step further and use the completely floating thumb technique. Check out the thread in the Technique forum.
  3. I'm pretty sure there's no rules as to where you rest your thumb (especially when it come to the floating thumb technique).

    I rest my thumb everywhere: E string; B string on a 5; top of a J pickup; to the side of the mounting screws on P and MM pickups or sometimes on the mounting screws of said pickups; pick guard between the front pickup and neck; on the neck...etc.

  4. mongo2


    Feb 17, 2008
    Da Shaw
    I float across and along the length of the string depending on the tone I want, but I will rest my thumb on the neck when plucking up there for certain tones.
  5. Baird6869

    Baird6869 RIP Gord Downey. A True Canadian Icon.


    I rest my thumb on the neck pickup on a Jazz but with other basses, I am all over the place. Top edge of the pickguard, E string, edge of the neck, you name it.

  6. UncleBalsamic


    Jul 8, 2007
    I rest my thumb on the pickup or a string normally.
  7. Alvaro Martín Gómez A.

    Alvaro Martín Gómez A. TalkBass' resident Bongo + cowbell player

    As I tell to my students: If ALL basses were EXACTLY the same, I'd agree on resting the thumb on a pickup. That's why I never (or hardly) do it.
  8. TrevorOfDoom


    Jun 17, 2007
    Austin, TX
    i rest my thumb on the top of the pickup with my Jazz or fretless P, and when i need to play the D or G string, i drop my thumb to the E string. then when i need to play the A or E string, i put my thumb back on the pickup.

    in all honesty (IMO) i find it a little absurd to think that you couldn't figure out to move your thumb when you had to play the G string. was there a little man in the back of your head saying "If you move your thumb from the pickup, it'll fall off! don't do it! a secret squad of ninjas will jump out from behind the couch and beat you with sacks of doorknobs!!!"
    it's common sense.
    thumb holding you back? move it.

  9. grace & groove

    grace & groove

    Nov 30, 2005
    Self-Appointed Ambassador to the Dragonfly
  10. thebassguy


    Mar 21, 2004
    I find it much more versatile to rest my thumb against the body of he bass, right above the E string. Instead of pressing down against something, I press into the bass, anchoring my pivot point against the wood. This gives me the ability to move freely when I need to stretch to the G string (or C string on my 5-string) and also doesn't limit my ability to play the E.

  11. MichaelScott


    Jul 27, 2004
    Moorpark CA
    I have big hands and have never had a problem resting said thumb on the pickup.

    This should probably be in the technique forum.
  12. tplyons


    Apr 6, 2003
    Madison, NJ
    Different strokes for different folks. I wouldn't recommend anyone particularly CHANGE their technique, but I would recommend everyone learn the floating thumb technique so that one might have another tool in his arsenal.
  13. dreadheadbass


    Dec 17, 2007
    i had the same problem i was TOLD to rest on the pickup but then i saw people like jaco resting on the E string and i thought "hey that looks easyer"
    after a week or so of practicing i was back up to speed with my new tech and more i found i could get different tones by playing near the bridge or near the neck
    it also made annoyin pickups like P bass pickups and soapbars a thing of the past as i no longer needed the anchor
  14. syciprider

    syciprider Banned

    May 27, 2005
    Inland Empire
    Playing a Ric fingerstyle forced me to change my technique.
  15. Guess where I rest my thumb?


  16. ModuMan

    ModuMan How many is too many? Supporting Member

    Feb 23, 2007
    Bristol, CT #19
    I find that for the most part I rest my thumb on the lowest string (in my case usually the B) and then it's a "ramp" in any position and as a by-product mutes the string. When I'm playing the lowest string (depending on the attack I want) I either use the thumb or if I'm using my fingers then the thumb will usually rest on a pickup but it could just as easily be pressed against the body. I like having it be an anchor somewhere. Also, I play pretty much anywhere between the bridge and the neck depending on the sound I want so resting it on a pickup all the time doesn't really work for me.

    I'll have to check out this "floating thumb" business though.

    EDIT: Okay, read the link... turns out I do something like that anyway! So when I'm playing on the D or G my thumb is on the E. Anything lower then it's on the B.
  17. Jeff K

    Jeff K Supporting Member

    Jul 9, 2005
    Memphis, TN
    This is just another way to say some of the things that have already been said:

    On a 4-string, when I'm playing the E string, I rest my thumb on the pickup. When I'm playing the A string, I rest my thumb on the E string. When playing the D, I rest the thumb on the A; and when playing the G, it's on the D. Works for me.
  18. chaunceytoben


    May 29, 2007
    Detroit, MI
    The only problem with the 'floating thumb technique' is when you have to move between strings quickly. Its easy to get confused on which string your thumb is resting on. I find anchoring my thumb on the p/u acts as an anchor, so i stay more organized. but to each his own.
  19. I also discovered the moving thumb technique on my j bass... I have a question regarding pup wresting... Can long term resting damage the pups?

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