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Old 11-21-2017, 03:32 AM
Martie Martie is offline
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Default Fingerstyle thumb position problems

I've been playing about 30 yrs but have decided to really improve my fingerstyle playing. My problem is that my thumb bends forward (towards the palm) at the middle joint when I'm playing with my nail (and there's just no stopping it!), but not when I play with a thumb pick. The thing is, the bent joint nail position seems so natural to me and I can really dig into the strings, but the straight thumb pick position feels more versatile, especially when I want to palm mute, as my hand is in a much better position.

I guess my problem is that I would much rather just use my thumb and fingers, with no thumb pick (as it just feels more natural and I just don't like the feel of thumb picks) yet have the advantages of playing parallel to the strings that I gain when using a thumb pick, which obviously means playing with a straight thumb, parallel to the strings. Having said that, when the thumb is parallel I can't make proper contact with the full nail, only the outside, although that doesn't seem to be a problem for those who use their thumb (?)

I've watched most (non-thumb pick) players and their thumbs seem to arch back and lock into place but my thumb just isn't interested and I wondered if anyone had any tips because this is really bugging me?

Thanks
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Old 11-21-2017, 03:53 AM
Aping Leo Aping Leo is offline
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Just speculating, and I haven't seen you play but from your description, especially when you say "dig in" it could be that you are too focused on the "nail". For me, only a small portion of my thumb nail comes into play. Its more flesh and nail. Your thumb should move at the joint when picking. Not at the knuckle.
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Old 11-21-2017, 04:00 AM
Martie Martie is offline
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Thanks Leo, yes, I think I got into the habit of going for the whole nail. I do prefer the sound of half-skin, half-nail, but it's just getting that angle right. I've read/seen several things that say it's better to move from the knuckle joint and not the one half way up the thumb? Just to clarify, which joint do you bend?
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Old 11-21-2017, 05:14 AM
JonPR JonPR is offline
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I play with thumbnail, and it still reaches the string even when I play with my wrist on the bridge for damping. The flesh contacts the string first of course, but the nail is long enough to pick the string. With my wrist anchored, the thumb starts straight, and then bends inward (the middle joint more than the knuckle) as it picks.
If I play in "classical" position - wrist arched over the strings - the thumb doesn't bend as much; but that seems to apply to all my fingers: they remain straighter when picking in classical position (unanchored), but bend more when I anchor the wrist.
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Old 11-21-2017, 05:37 AM
51 Relic 51 Relic is offline
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I had the same issue I solved this by using a FredKelly Speedpick ( light gauge ) now I don't notice that im using them
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Old 11-21-2017, 05:42 AM
frankhond frankhond is offline
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There are a lot of people with bent back thumbs, which creates a completely different angle to that of a straight thumb, like mine. I spent many years on this issue, and the only way to get a good nail/flesh combo is in classical position. In “parallel” position it’s either thumbpick or flesh only. That’s life.

It’s still possible to do thumb muting in classical position, through the use of planting, double thumbing or using thumb rest strokes.
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Old 11-21-2017, 05:49 AM
Matt G Matt G is offline
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I've found that I can usually solve these types of technique difficulties by playing very slowly using the desired technique.

I settle down with a bit of a tune or an exercise where the technique will shine, and I play slow enough to get it right and keep everything relaxed. It takes a lot of this slow repetition before I can play it fast, relaxed, and using the right technique

I bet $3.72, or your favorite 100‰ water beverage, that going super slowly will work for you.
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Old 11-21-2017, 09:58 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Martie View Post

I've watched most (non-thumb pick) players and their thumbs seem to arch back and lock into place but my thumb just isn't interested and I wondered if anyone had any tips because this is really bugging me?

Thanks
For some people playing with an arched thumb will feel more natural. Based on your description, my right hand position is like yours with my thumb curving in a bit rather than arching back. And like you that changes when I'm using a thumbpick. I've given the same topic consideration, but I feel that I can get what I want the way I'm doing it so there is no reason to change. Here is a simile/metaphor...

I play (and teach) trumpet and have a buddy who is an outstanding player by any account. He has the most screwed up embouchure (facial position) of anyone I've seen ever. I can't even describe it. His trumpet professor in college thought that, as screwed up as his embouchure was, he could work with what he had. The professor was right. By listening to the guy you'd never know there was anything odd.

Bottom line: If there is no sonic/aural/playability reason to change what you're doing why bother and why worry about it?
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Old 11-21-2017, 10:47 AM
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I shudder when "teachers" tell people about things like mandatory neck grips, required posture, proper body position.

Thos can be suggestions but every single human body is dimensioned differently and the only rule that's real is that there are no absolute rules.

So......

Take advice and suggestions as just that. The most important thing you can do (especially after cementing your own body's technique) is to stop fighting your body. Play the way that works for you.

No one told Django he had to have five fingers !
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Old 11-23-2017, 07:08 AM
Aping Leo Aping Leo is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Martie View Post
Thanks Leo, yes, I think I got into the habit of going for the whole nail. I do prefer the sound of half-skin, half-nail, but it's just getting that angle right. I've read/seen several things that say it's better to move from the knuckle joint and not the one half way up the thumb? Just to clarify, which joint do you bend?
Where your thumb meets your hand. I can however arch my thumb backwards. It never occurred to me that some people cant so maybe that's whats hindering you.
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Old 11-23-2017, 07:38 AM
srick srick is online now
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Martie - I just saw something this week that might interest you. I was watching a video of the Reverend Gary Davis and noted that he put his thumb pick past the knuckle and closer to the hand. Try this and see what you think. I'm not sure at this point if I will convert to that style, but man, it sure makes the bass line pop.

Best,

Rick
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Old 11-23-2017, 08:50 AM
Ozzy the dog Ozzy the dog is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by fazool View Post
I shudder when "teachers" tell people about things like mandatory neck grips, required posture, proper body position.

Thos can be suggestions but every single human body is dimensioned differently and the only rule that's real is that there are no absolute rules.

So......

Take advice and suggestions as just that. The most important thing you can do (especially after cementing your own body's technique) is to stop fighting your body. Play the way that works for you.

No one told Django he had to have five fingers !
Thanks so much for that. After developing my 'style' for over 40 years I started to get a bit paranoid. I never thought there might be a correct way to hold my thumb and rushed off to play and look at what I do. I ended up filming my thumb and to my horror I discovered it doesn't move at the 'hand joint' at all. It doesn't arch back but it does bend forward at the knuckle.

I have followed this thread thinking I was going to have to learn again. Then you said I can play the way that works for me so I'm happy again.

But seriously, with regard to pick or nail, I have always favoured the nail simply because I always have them with me just in case I get the chance to play a guitar. However, on occasion I break my thumb nail and (after crying like a baby) I wish I'd perfected the thumb pick.

Unfortunately, laziness prevents me from learning a new 'tool' so for the time my thumb is out I got over to the dark side and play electric for a bit.
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Old 11-23-2017, 12:08 PM
Martie Martie is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by srick View Post
Martie - I just saw something this week that might interest you. I was watching a video of the Reverend Gary Davis and noted that he put his thumb pick past the knuckle and closer to the hand. Try this and see what you think. I'm not sure at this point if I will convert to that style, but man, it sure makes the bass line pop.

Best,

Rick
Ah yes, I've noticed Johnny Marr also doing that (there a YouTube video where he discusses Bert Jansch). I might give that another whirl too (as I did try it once) and see how it works for me. Now. Cheers
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Old 11-23-2017, 12:10 PM
Martie Martie is offline
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Thanks for the suggestions folks. I'm really not interested in 'correct' positions etc., just the way that works for me. And by that I mean the method that enables me to do what I'd like to with the maximum effectiveness and minimum discomfort. The reason I'm uncomfortable with the method that comes naturally (the bent middle joint) is because it restricts my flexibility as a player. Conversely, when I play with a thumbpick I am able to use a straight thumb, which affords me more versatility (mainly to dampen the strings occasionally).

I stumbled into a music shop yesterday and got chatting with the guy there. I tried on one of those white Jim Dunlop thumb picks. It was a large but he told me that referred to the pick size rather than the loop, which surprised me as I always thought it was the loop, but he was right as the small ones had smaller tips. He told me to put it in hot water to adjust the size, which I have done before with mixed results, but this one is perfect and so I've decided to buy a few of those, make the necessary adjustments and then see how I get on with them.

I've settled on this route because it gives the flexibility of a personaly preferred hand position (thumb parallel to the strings), which I am willing to 'trade' for the naturalness of no pick etc. as it feels like a fair exchange to me.

Fingers (and thumbs!) crossed
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Old 11-23-2017, 02:58 PM
JimCA JimCA is online now
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Laurence Juber claims to play flesh-only. Must be thicker skinned than me -- I'd be bleeding.

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