Scale Exercise in Thumb Position

When double bassists put their thumb on top of the fingerboard, rather than behind it, and use it to depress the string (just like the other fingers), we call that “thumb position.”

There are a plethora of etude books and exercises to help us solidify the use of the thumb to press the string, but I’ve found a few particularly good at increasing finger independence. Below is one of them.

I’ve adapted the exercise below for bass from a violin exercise by John Kendall. I find it is not only good for improving our thumb position facility but can also serve as a good, quick warm up for the left hand. It’s a simple, tonal, one 8va exercise that will bring multiple benefits with continued use. I hope you enjoy.

Scale Exercise in Thumb Position Chart

* The “T”/cross symbol indicates the use of the thumb. Roman numerals refer to the string. I=G, II=D, etc.

The exercise above is written in C major and A minor (harmonic). To get the most out of the exercise I would do the following:

  1. Play it in every key. I suggest going around the circle of fourths: C/A-, F/d-, B?/G-, etc.
  2. Play it at three different tempi (Slow, Moderate, Fast)
  3. You will get the most out of this if you use the bow
  4. Play it every day


Dr. Donovan Stokes is on the faculty of Shenandoah University-Conservatory. Visit him online at and check out the Bass Coalition at

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