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  #1  
Old 07-30-2012, 02:22 AM
VinAcGu VinAcGu is offline
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Default Thumb over the neck for F in open position

I'm getting back to fingerpicking after a trip into single line world and this time I've decided to concentrate on real songs rather than patterns.

The first problem I'm facing right off the start is I'm unable to hook my thumb over the neck to fret F(first fret) on the low E. This F-shape seems to be a standard form for the fingerstyle blues and I know many other chords up the neck are fingered this way with the thumb over the neck.

For me it's not a matter of practice and time: I have small hands and if I reach over and fret the low F with my thumb hooked over the neck even on a slim necked guitar like electric all my other fingers just lie flat on the treble strings and I'm physically unable to fret any note.

For example I tried to lean a simple song by M.J Hurt 'My Creole Belle' and immediately stuck at the F chord.

Any suggestions? Should I finger the full bar or maybe alternate between F(root) on the D string and C (5th) on the A string if it will work in the context of this song?
If it should work there will there be songs where I can't get away without thumb fretting?
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Old 07-30-2012, 05:55 AM
JohnnySmash JohnnySmash is offline
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I am an old man with small stiff hands. When I do a thumb over the neck for an F bass note my fingers lie flat as do yours. I read on this forum and followed some suggestions. Now I can play an F barr as easy as any other chord. Keep at it a little every day. Put the guitar in classical position and play the barr on about the 5th or 7th fret. Move the guitar and the fret to where you want, little at a time, as you get where you can play it clean. I keep the guitar in the classical position all of the time now - it is easier to play that way with short fingers. Keep the neck high, face high. Never give up. Johnnysmash
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Old 07-30-2012, 06:17 AM
VinAcGu VinAcGu is offline
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Johnny, thank you for your advice but I really *mean it* - I physically can't fret low E with my thumb and play the treble notes at the same time.
Perhaps different people estimate their hand size differently.

I know it's my limitation and I need to find a workaround.
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Old 07-30-2012, 06:26 AM
Paikon Paikon is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by VinAcGu View Post
Johnny, thank you for your advice but I really *mean it* - I physically can't fret low E with my thumb and play the treble notes at the same time.
Perhaps different people estimate their hand size differently.

I know it's my limitation and I need to find a workaround.
all my teachers have said the same thing : "the goal is to play music"............ so you try to find your own way to play music and invent your own technique that suits your fingers ..
the LEGEND Wes Montgomery was playing using his right hand thumb!!!!!!!!!!

Last edited by Paikon; 07-30-2012 at 06:54 AM.
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Old 07-30-2012, 06:45 AM
JohnnySmash JohnnySmash is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by VinAcGu View Post
Johnny, thank you for your advice but I really *mean it* - I physically can't fret low E with my thumb and play the treble notes at the same time.
Perhaps different people estimate their hand size differently.

I know it's my limitation and I need to find a workaround.
VinAcGu, I think you mis-understood my post. I suggested you learn to play the F barr chord as I said and never give up. Forget about using your left hand thumb to fret notes on the 6th string. Johnnysmash
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Old 07-30-2012, 06:48 AM
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ljguitar ljguitar is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by VinAcGu View Post
...Should I finger the full bar or maybe alternate between F(root) on the D string and C (5th) on the A string if it will work in the context of this song?
If it should work there will there be songs where I can't get away without thumb fretting?
Hi VinAcGu...

First of all, Johnny was suggesting he has learned the F barre (not sure you picked up on that).

I think the barre version of the chord, or the shortened version (playing the root on the 4th string that you suggested) would work just as fine. It's about playing the music and not wrestling with the neck.

You always have the option to capo and change keys, but it could affect that rolling pick that Creole Belle has.

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Old 07-30-2012, 06:54 AM
jwing jwing is offline
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lj beat me to it.
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Old 07-30-2012, 06:55 AM
Paikon Paikon is offline
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............ok

Last edited by Paikon; 07-30-2012 at 07:06 AM.
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Old 07-30-2012, 07:12 AM
VinAcGu VinAcGu is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by JohnnySmash View Post
VinAcGu, I think you mis-understood my post. I suggested you learn to play the F barr chord as I said and never give up. Forget about using your left hand thumb to fret notes on the 6th string. Johnnysmash
Sorry, I didn't notice the barre chord was a solution for you. Missed it.
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Old 07-30-2012, 09:49 AM
slinco slinco is offline
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............

Last edited by slinco; 08-03-2012 at 11:17 AM.
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Old 07-30-2012, 11:01 AM
JanVigne JanVigne is offline
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Thumb-over chords are difficult for most anyone with smaller hands or physical issues which make strength and dexterity in your fretting hand an issue. I had similar problems and still do on some guitars. Different neck widths, string spacing and neck profile make for different results when I play different guitars. I stopped by a large booth at a recent guitar show here in DFW and asked if they had a variety of necks I could try just to see if one style fit the thumb-over style better than another might.

"Know that I do when I have that problem?", asked the vendor.

"Nope, what?", I said thinking he, the ol'timer who has been at this for decades and has played hundreds of guitars, would have some zen master-ish deep, consciousness raising insight into how to play thumb-over chords.

"I don't try to play what I can't and I just play what I can."



Pretty good advice actually, but it was a slow time at the show (very early on the first afternoon) and we went ahead and tried a few guitars just to satisfy my curiousity. Yep, some necks are easier to play in that style than others. So, that's my first suggestion - some guitars just aren't friendly to small/stiff hands trying to do stuff that meat hook hands like Merle Travis' can do with ease. On that note, be thankful for small hands, think of the guys with meat hooks trying to fit all those fat fingers into a minor seventh chord on the ninth fret. Everything in life is a trade off, friend, if you think of it that way.



The second suggestion would be the vendor's suggestion. Yes, the style of play you describe is popular with many players and it has its advantages when playing fingerstyle. But only if you can play it clean and fast. If you simply can't do that, then why play bad chords when you surely can come up with a work around? Unless you are dead set on playing exactly as someone else does - MJH in this case - you will find more pleasure and less pain by developing your own style of playing. Must you always play the 6th string bass? Maybe not so, why try? Must you play it with your thumb wrapped over the neck? Or, at that fret position? You figure it out. If you don't need an extra finger for embellishment or you can still play embellishment with a barre or some other chord shape or lifting another finger when you can, then you have another way to play the chord. Just because you see a chord name doesn't mean you need to play a familar chord shape. In fingerstyle you have the opportunity to be more selective about which fingers go where and when they need to go there. So look at what you can do and don't stress about what you can't. Make the playing your own and not a copy of someone else. 99.999% of the folks listening won't know whether you just played an exact copy of MJH or not. The remaining 0.0001% should be happy to hear a new version of the song if its played well rather than muffed for the sake of copying MJH. Anyone else? They probably didn't pay to get in anyway.

Finally, just as when you began playing, some things you do will require constant and lengthy effort. I have found that playing the thumb-over style on those guitars which are easier to reach has, slowly and over time, made it easier to finally play cleanly on those guitars which at first were extremely difficult. So, don't give up and don't look for a magic bullet from anyone else. If it existed, someone - that zen master ol'timer at least - would have explained it long ago. Just keep pushing yourself a bit more each time you play and keep playing what you can until that day comes when suddenly your thumb slides over the neck and you play a clean note with every thumb stroke. Then run and tell everyone you know, "Sixth string with one thumb!!!"
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Old 07-30-2012, 11:11 AM
deltoid deltoid is offline
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Are you able to do a thumb-over on any fret? For example playing an A chord on the 5th fret with a small bar and thumb on the 5th fret.
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Old 07-30-2012, 11:29 AM
Hotspur Hotspur is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by VinAcGu View Post
Johnny, thank you for your advice but I really *mean it* - I physically can't fret low E with my thumb and play the treble notes at the same time.
Perhaps different people estimate their hand size differently.

I know it's my limitation and I need to find a workaround.
I'm honestly skeptical. I know lots of people who had trouble with that particular hand position for a while until they finally were able to get it. If you've only spent an hour or two working on it you're nowhere close to knowing whether or not it's possible for you.

That being said, one of the nice things about fingerpicking is that you often don't need to fret a full chord - you only need to fret the notes you're playing. So experiment with, say, hitting that low bass note and the octave. Then mix it up. You don't need to hit every note all the time. That can help you make playable music while you develop more flexibility.
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Old 07-30-2012, 12:15 PM
VinAcGu VinAcGu is offline
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I see where most of you are coming from. Yes, I agree there are plenty other songs to learn in keys other than C, especially blues so it's pointless to be stuck at the thumb over problem. I should move on especially at my current level and play what I can otherwise I won't learn anything else.
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Old 07-30-2012, 12:58 PM
Misty44 Misty44 is offline
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Been trying for 30 years and still can't barre chords. My son thinks I'm daffy, but my left hand simply won't cooperate. If I lay my index finger across the strings, my other fingers deform into a twisted claw-like thing and won't press squarely down on the notes. I thought of open-tuning and trying Richie's long-thumb over technique, but my goodness, my thumb is no where as big.



And when I thumb over I can only cleanly play the three bass strings (it's either the trebles or the bass, not both), but after all these years I've learned how to work this into my songs.

Quote:
I have large hands and a long thumb so you'd think it would be easy for me. It's not. At least it wasn't easy until I found the reason. If the low E string is too far from the edge of the fretboard I just can't do it, but if it's close enough to the edge I can do it nicely. I experimented with it by breaking the nut free (with the strings loose) and sliding it over a 32nd of an inch at a time until everything felt right. At that point you can take it to a tech and show them what you need and have them make a new nut for you.
Norman Blake (among others) had this problem and solved it by filing a new nut slot closer to the edge, as well as saddle slots at the other end to keep the strings properly aligned along the fretboard. Problem solved.


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