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Thumb vs. Fingers Question


Chad Thorne

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Usually when I play, I use the index and middle fingers of my left hand (I play lefty, remember) to pluck strings with. If I need to play a fast line, though, I'll switch to plucking with my thumb; all downstrokes, but because it's such a similar action to my guitar thumbpicking I can execute faster lines more cleanly than with my fingers (which, because of the nerve deficit, just don't move as fast).

 

I notice than when I switch to thumb from fingers, the tone produced is automatically darker and "bassier" than when I pluck with fingers, that tone tends to be just a bit brighter. Anybody have any ideas - or even facts - to explain why that might be? Just curious.

 

 

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Yup, thumb is more fleshy than the fingers. A lot of us use that to get warmer, rounder tone when we want it. If you want thumbplucking to be a little brighter, try moving your plucking hand more toward the bridge...that will help a little. If you can, try to get the hang of doing an up-stroke on the thumb-plucking as well.

 

You could also sort of psuedo-slap...hit the string downward and let your thumb come to rest on the next lower string, then pull your thumb back up and hook the string on the way up. If you do this softly (and maybe with the action a little higher than a typical slap-daddy), you'll get a brighter tone that isn't quite slap-sounding...it'll be brigher than fingerstyle, so you could cut some highs from your signal to compensate. Slapping perpendicular won't give you nearly as much meat to the tone, but down-slapping and up-plucking with your thumb will. Most folks (including me) have difficulty initially putting your thumb too far under the string on the downslap (getting it "hooked"), but you could add a thin "ramp" (flat square piece of wood or other material...maybe 1/4" - 1/2" thick or so, depending on how low your action is) between the end of the neck and neck pickup to limit how far your thumb can go through the plane of the strings. I did this on one of my basses, and I love having that ramp!

 

Anyway, give it a try and see if it works for you.

 

Dave

Old bass players never die, they just buy lighter rigs.

- Tom Capasso, 11/9/2006

 

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Yeah, I figured something like that. I have already been experimenting with closer to/farther from the bridge; and that thumbplucking near the neck kinda says "instant reggae" to me.

 

I saw that Victor Wooten vid about up-and-down thumbplucking; "All in good time, my pretty!"

 

Thanks, guys!

 

 

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Cool. Victor Wooten does it more as a slap technique (double-thumps + double-pops), but you don't have to. The thumb up/down technique is quite useful in and of itself. It can take a while to get the hang of it...but you've probably got a head-start since you already play with a pick and presumably do up and down strokes. The hand motion is almost the same...in fact, Wooten essentially says he's just using his thumb as if it were a pick.

 

Regardless, good luck with all of it!

 

Dave

 

Old bass players never die, they just buy lighter rigs.

- Tom Capasso, 11/9/2006

 

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