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Talking Technique: Right Hand Thumbs Up!

When you’re playing fingerstyle, where do you put your right thumb? You can anchor it on the pickup, but that can limit your tonal range. You could anchor on the lower strings, but then where do you put it when you need to play those strings?

That’s precisely the question we got from a reader, so today we’re examining the right thumb. We’ll go through each technique and how and when to apply each one. Of course, we’ve got some musical exercises to give you a workout.

Today’s tip: pluck into the bass!

Austrian-gone-Californian Ariane Cap is a bassist, educator, blogger and author. In her book "Music Theory for the Bass Player” and corresponding 20-week online course, she teaches music theory, bass technique, bass line creation and fretboard fitness in a systematic, practical and experiential way. Contact her via her blog or website.

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Share your thoughts

Mark S B

Ariane really nice 6 string bass , you have pretty hair and voice.
I have ice cold water flowing thru my veins ,
Blisters on my fingers and my brain ,
Here lately things haven’t been quite the same ,

Larry Key

I’m sure I’ll get flogged for saying this, but the floating thumb technique as taught by Todd Johnson is the only way that makes sense to me. Now I know that Ariane is far better player than me, and I’m just some random internet yokel. I played the exact way she is demonstrating for over 30 years and thought it was fine. Until I got older and the effects of having a bent wrist started hurting me. I found Todd’s floating thumb technique and now I wonder how anyone plays with their thumb anchored. But that’s just what works for me. Also, where the pickups are is a non-issue with the floating thumb. YMMV…… Also may I add that you are an amazing musician who deserves respect, and my comments should be taken with that in mind.

    Ariane Cap (Author)

    I’m happy to hear that you find my videos interesting and thx for the nice compliments. Good thing that you found an approach that works for you – may it bring you much joy with your music. In my experience what is important is to think about what you implement and practice it accordingly. Tension is the enemy, whether you use floating thumb (tension can manifest in the shoulder) or whether you play with tension with a bent wrist. Do what works for you, practice it, stick with it. We are all different.

      Ariane Cap (Author)

      PS: May the floaters and wrist-benders co-exist in peace.

        Larry Key

        Yes. I had to find a way to keep playing without pain. I concur with you on tension. I have worked to eliminate all sources of physical discomfort when I play. It really takes a toll on the body over time, as I’m sure you well know. Bottom line is it has to work for you. Thanks for giving your time to help others with their playing.

David Bellizzi

I would love to be able to rest my arm on the bass but that seems to bring me pain. I also like to have the freedom to move where I pick to achieve the sound I want. I used to rest my thumb on the body or pickup and stretch to reach the high C on my six strings but with different basses having different string height that also messed me up. I chose to install ramps on all my basses. Now every plays basically the same since the ramp bridges the two pickups giving me a consistent thumb height over a wide range. So if your a thumb rester like me you might want to consider a ramp.