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  1. #1

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    The Jazz Guitar Chord Dictionary
     
  3. #2

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    I'm impressed that he even attempts the upward sweep with the thumb. And he sounds like himself, not a Wes clone.

  4. #3

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    I play with my thumb, and I say phooey about upstrokes.

  5. #4

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    I'm not sure how many upstrokes Wes was meant to have used in single note playing - he certainly used them on chords. That said, listening to the video there is a Wes vibe to how he sounds with the upstrokes, so I don't know. If anyone has any clear evidence either way I would like to know.

    That said learning to do a thumb upstroke would be great. I sometimes play with my thumb on ballad solos - I particularly like the sound you can get if you play strongly with thumb on an acoustic - you get a sort of fat, but sustaining projecting sound.

    Incidentally notice how the GB run in the video is configured around even numbers of notes per string - this would make it more practical for the 'always start a new string with a downstroke' approach used in strict Benson picking. In this case it would end up being alternate picking.

    So if you used the same rule/pattern for thumb strokes with the occasional upstroke and the odd left hand slur, it ought to be fine, right - just like playing Django or Benson style?
    Last edited by christianm77; 11-29-2015 at 04:42 PM.

  6. #5

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    I did a gig today and was thinking of this thread. I use my thumb with mainly downstrokes, and can use alternate picking unless I have to dig in too hard. Was wondering how others approach this with the thumb?

  7. #6

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    Wes also did double picking with his index finger, I posted a link to a video of Wes doing it ages ago.

  8. #7

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    Could you repost it again? Thank you.

  9. #8

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    Quote Originally Posted by docbop
    Wes also did double picking with his index finger, I posted a link to a video of Wes doing it ages ago.
    Can I see this too?

    I've never seen this..

  10. #9

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    how long does it take
    before your thumb stops hurting ?

    seems ages

    I keep having to rest my thumb
    and go back to my standard downstrokes
    with a pick technique ....

  11. #10

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    Quote Originally Posted by pingu
    how long does it take
    before your thumb stops hurting ?

    seems ages

    I keep having to rest my thumb
    and go back to my standard downstrokes
    with a pick technique ....
    Hurting where? On the skin where it contacts, or the muscle/tendons controlling the thumb?

    For some reason I've found it more comfortable to play with my thumb as opposed to holding a pick. The technique has to change quite a bit to get similar results between the two though..

  12. #11

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    Quote Originally Posted by p1p
    Hurting where? On the skin where it contacts, or the muscle/tendons controlling the thumb?

    For some reason I've found it more comfortable to play with my thumb as opposed to holding a pick. The technique has to change quite a bit to get similar results between the two though..
    on the skin contact area only
    need to build up a nice callus i guess

  13. #12

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    Quote Originally Posted by pingu
    on the skin contact area only
    need to build up a nice callus i guess
    The size of the callus relates directly to the gauge of strings you're regularly playing

  14. #13

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    Interesting thread. I play exclusively with my thumb and have never had skin contact pain. I am enduring some shoulder issues and need to switch to playing with a pick to see if that relieves the pain.

    Upstrokes on single note lines are somewhat unconcious for me. I use them for chords all the time and for single notes when it happens but I don't plan them just something you do over the years. As Docbop mentioned it is much easier to use the index finger in place of upstrokes which will eventually lead you into playing with the rest of your fingers.

    However it works for you to sound good works!

  15. #14

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    Just to continue this, has anyone noticed the thread about guitarist Jacques Lesure? He's mainly a thumb player. He was nicknamed Grantgomery because his 2 main influences are Wes and Grant Green.

  16. #15

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    Quote Originally Posted by Larry Feldman
    Just to continue this, has anyone noticed the thread about guitarist Jacques Lesure? He's mainly a thumb player. He was nicknamed Grantgomery because his 2 main influences are Wes and Grant Green.
    Thank you for pointing me to that. He sounds good!

  17. #16
    Jacques is good but I much prefer jimmy ponder

  18. #17

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    Jim Mullen on his all downstroke thumb style technique:

  19. #18

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    Can't resist posting some early Jim Mullen thumb playing with Brian Auger Oblivion Express. Get ready for the hair:

  20. #19
    Quote Originally Posted by Larry Feldman
    Can't resist posting some early Jim Mullen thumb playing with Brian Auger Oblivion Express. Get ready for the hair:



    Love the fact that people used to dance to this style

  21. #20

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    Haha... vids great... I use to play filmore and the other halls. I had chance to meet Brian at I think it was Winterland, didn't remember Jim... but that was a fun, peace lovin and wild ride.

    Here's a vid of octaves from a tune I wrote a few years ago, posted on forum back in 2011. Funny how much better i think my octave playing is now... I use up and down strokes all the time now for effect, to help create high point both rhythmically and harmonically. I started as a thumb and 1st finger plucker, still do with finger style comping and solo work.


  22. #21

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    Quote Originally Posted by Larry Feldman
    Can't resist posting some early Jim Mullen thumb playing with Brian Auger Oblivion Express. Get ready for the hair:
    holy sh1t batman ....the only thing I can recognise is in fact the thumb !

  23. #22

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    @Reg, nice tune.

  24. #23

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  25. #24

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    That video always amazes me. His ideas come out so musical and soulful. What a great player. Thanks for that post.

  26. #25

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    Quote Originally Posted by Larry Feldman
    That video always amazes me. His ideas come out so musical and soulful. What a great player. Thanks for that post.
    Every time I get stuck for ideas over RC I watch this video.

  27. #26

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    Check out the post about George Benson and Daryl Darden that was just put up under The Players. Benson is doing all downstrokes with his thumb and sounding so casual too.

  28. #27

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    i've avoided this for 25 years - and i've worshiped wes for 23 and a half of those years.

    i started doing it on my gb10 a few nights ago when desperation about how to get my 2 and a half year old off to sleep led me to put the pick down and use my thumb to play summertime to him.

    so i've never practiced it - and i've been practicing gb picking very very seriously for the last 3 years. (and it is very good for just about everything except making the scrambled eggs in the morning)

    but i immediately achieved a level of musicality in the performance that i still struggle to achieve with the pick. the sound is so much better its just not true - and there are no issues with missing strings or transitioning from chords to single notes.

    i'll certainly be telling my 5.5 year old boy to forget about the pick and just play with his thumb.

    and i really think that the thumb player need have no concern about up-strokes. up-strokes shmupp strokes. its facility that matters and that is really not the same thing as speed.

    if you want the upstrokes you do benson picking. the thumb style is a downstroke style - and it does not limit it in any musically important way.

  29. #28

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    i've seen jim mullen a few times

    him and dave cliff are british jazz sensations

    jim's solo on rhythm is just so hamstrung by that all down stroke technique. when is he going to get going?

    (this is sarcastic)

  30. #29

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    Forgive me if I’ve posted something similar before, but here goes…


    I never had the opportunity to see Wes live, but two of my main mentors, Carmen Caramanica and John Abercrombie, spent quality time checking him out. They both tell me it was all downstrokes. I’ve spent a bunch of time transcribing and checking out videos, and tend to agree.


    I’ve seen folks struggle to play with their thumb, and assume there’s some ‘trick’ Wes used. In a way, that’s true, but it’s not alternate picking. It’s his left-hand fingerings that make his speed and articulation possible while using only downstrokes. If you compare Wes’ left hand with Jimmy Raney, Peter Bernstein and Pat Metheney, you can see some common principles at work.


    I gave up the pick close to ten years ago, a careful study of Wes’ left hand was extremely useful in making the transition. I play with a lighter string and touch than Wes, and use John Abercrombie’s trick of setting a boost pedal with the output cranked to fatten things up.

    I think this video has a few close ups of me picking with the thumb


    Welcome to PaulKogut.com

  31. #30

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    could you give an overview of those 'common principles' - PLEASE!!!

  32. #31

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    You can get quite effective with the thumb if you just keep doing it often enough. I've never really practised it intensively, but I sometimes use the thumb when I can't be bothered to find a pick, or maybe when playing late at night so need to keep it quiet.

    Over a period of many years I have found it has become (relatively) easier, and it's surprising how nimble you can get.

  33. #32

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    I have never actually liked using a pick. My first guitar was a classical guitar and I just continued on playing with only my fingers once I moved onto steel strings. I sometimes pinch my thumb and index finger together as if I were holding a pick and strum up and down. Seems like mostly the same effect as using a pick. I also can single note with my thumb up and down, but sometimes use my thumb for down and my index for up with them pinched together but slightly offset from each other. Like a lot of people I liked using my fingers for the softer touch and lower volume so as to not disturb others. Years ago I had some lessons and the teacher insisted that I use a pick. I never took to it and have periodically (including a few months back) tried using one again. I can do it, but I prefer not to. Going on almost 40 years of playing now.

  34. #33

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    Groyniad,

    Check out which left hand fingers do or don't get used in the course of a line, and compare how much those guys play 'up and down one string" versus "in position"....

    PK

  35. #34

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    Count me in Groyniad as a father who had to ditch a pick because of my little boy. He would get so excited seeing a pick that it would go right into his mouth. Since I don't look forward to doing a Heimlich maneuver I ditched the pick once and for all. I had taken lessons with Ted Greene who encouraged me to use my thumb more. I had gotten scared off because there's so much music played with the pick. Now I don't care as much. I use a pick when it's necessary, but enjoy using my thumb more.

  36. #35

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    Love that Brian Auger clip! The Morrissey (tenor & soprano sax) Mullen band used to play regularly around the London pub club scene in the 70s. At that time Jim played a telecaster (always with his thumb), and I think they'd done some work with the Average White Band, and they played a lot of jazz and jazz funk - fusion if you will, and also Coltrane. I saw them so many times at the Plough in Stockwell / Brixton in South London, because I lived a few doors down from the pub. This was definitely not the peace and love era - Stockwell had a well-deserved reputation for being the most violent area in London at that time - but it was cheap, and near to the West End.

    Anyway, down to the serious business of Wes's thumb. I've got at least 95% of Wes's recorded material, and I've listened to all of it many times, but I'm not an expert on his thumb.

    I think the first time I heard that Wes had a double-jointed thumb was in an interview with Joe Pass. Well looking at the youtube vids it does seem that Wes had a double jointed thumb at the 2nd joint (nearest the nail). I had always assumed he used this for upstrokes, but he doesn't in any of the vids I've checked (except as pointed out earlier for some strumming, including octaves strumming). The clearest shot of this on youtube is on 4-on-6 recorded in London and introduced by Ronny Scott - it's an over the shoulder shot of the fret-board, similar to Morten's in the opening vid on this thread.

    Maybe more importantly, Wes himself said in an interview that he believed by chosing to play without a pick he sacrificed speed. IMHO he definitely sacrificed the ability to play very very very long and fast strings of regular 16th notes a la Pat Martino, John McLaughlin, Tal Farlow, Howard Roberts, Jimmy Bruno, some Joe Pass etc. Listen to the phrasing on Wes's version of Coltrane's Impressions to hear what he's doing with slurs of all sorts, this is definitely not up-and-down thumb-picking; Wes regarded Coltrane as a genius - and I wouldn't argue with him about that!

    He also sacrificed the ability to play the classic archtop plectrum chord melody style of say Johnny Smith, and the fingerstyle contrapuntalism of Joe Pass or Martin Taylor.

    The great Mr Benson has said that the most important thing that Wes gave us was a new approach to jazz harmony, more important than the thumb or the octaves.

  37. #36

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    Quote Originally Posted by paulkogut
    Forgive me if I’ve posted something similar before, but here goes…


    I never had the opportunity to see Wes live, but two of my main mentors, Carmen Caramanica and John Abercrombie, spent quality time checking him out. They both tell me it was all downstrokes. I’ve spent a bunch of time transcribing and checking out videos, and tend to agree.


    I’ve seen folks struggle to play with their thumb, and assume there’s some ‘trick’ Wes used. In a way, that’s true, but it’s not alternate picking. It’s his left-hand fingerings that make his speed and articulation possible while using only downstrokes. If you compare Wes’ left hand with Jimmy Raney, Peter Bernstein and Pat Metheney, you can see some common principles at work.


    I gave up the pick close to ten years ago, a careful study of Wes’ left hand was extremely useful in making the transition. I play with a lighter string and touch than Wes, and use John Abercrombie’s trick of setting a boost pedal with the output cranked to fatten things up.

    I think this video has a few close ups of me picking with the thumb


    Welcome to PaulKogut.com
    I agree. I haven't transcribed heaps of Wes, but the stuff I've done works fine with thumb downstrokes and the right left hand fingerings, a long with a few strategic hammer ons from time to time (but not that many....)

    AFAIK Wes used upstrokes more on chords and octaves, which does seem easier somehow.

  38. #37

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    Quote Originally Posted by sunnysideup
    Maybe more importantly, Wes himself said in an interview that he believed by chosing to play without a pick he sacrificed speed. IMHO he definitely sacrificed the ability to play very very very long and fast strings of regular 16th notes a la Pat Martino, John McLaughlin, Tal Farlow, Howard Roberts, Jimmy Bruno, some Joe Pass etc. Listen to the phrasing on Wes's version of Coltrane's Impressions to hear what he's doing with slurs of all sorts, this is definitely not up-and-down thumb-picking; Wes regarded Coltrane as a genius - and I wouldn't argue with him about that!
    I think it was a great trade off. Wes still sounds better to me than all these other players, which is not a diss on them by any means.

    Long strings of 8ths/16ths etc are a occupational hazard when you get your picking chops together. But I think the music is in the short phrases. That is so hard to do.

  39. #38

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    Figured I'd revise this thread as I just discovered this player. Looks like he uses upstrokes. I'm a novice and only use my thumb, so I'm always looking to see folks do it. I wish I could chat with him, but the language barrier might be tough.




  40. #39

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    I've never understood wanting to play or sound just like someone else. Sure, Abercrombie played with his thumb towards the end of the career, but he didn't sound like Wes in timbre, phrasing or note choices. And it's not just Wes- Django, Jerry Garcia, EVH, etc.

    Learning a solo from beginning to end to learn is one thing, but playing it for people to hear?

  41. #40

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    I can sort of do upstrokes with my thumb, I use the edge of the flesh just to the left of my thumbnail, it catches the string quite naturally. But it’s not as clear or as strong as the downstrokes.

    Check out Jim Mullen talking about the thumb etc:


  42. #41

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    Quote Originally Posted by grahambop
    I can sort of do upstrokes with my thumb, I use the edge of the flesh just to the left of my thumbnail, it catches the string quite naturally. But it’s not as clear or as strong as the downstrokes.

    Check out Jim Mullen talking about the thumb etc:

    Thanks Graham, I've watched that video so many times if it was an album I'd be starting to wear it out, ha. I think half the reason I watch it so much is because he is just so likeable and charming. I like when he says he "knocks hell out of the frets".

    Anyway, he sounds great and is always great to watch that video.

  43. #42

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    Here's a small video on my take on the thumb technique. Upstrokes are not so difficult to manage, especially if one has short nails. It does help if you have the thumb a bit open, like Wes does. Then you just hit the upstroke with the side of the thumb.

  44. #43

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    Problem for me with stuff like this has always been that Wes’s thumb is the backbent type. He can keep the hand close to the strings and do the up/down strokes with the flesh. Mine is straight and I get a lot of nail on the upstroke, unless I tilt my hand up and then I lose a lot of other stuff.

    I’m wondering if Wes, Benson, Leo Kottke et al invented their technique because of the backbent thumb... and what are we straight thumbers supposed to do?

  45. #44

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    Quote Originally Posted by DMgolf66
    Thanks Graham, I've watched that video so many times if it was an album I'd be starting to wear it out, ha. I think half the reason I watch it so much is because he is just so likeable and charming. I like when he says he "knocks hell out of the frets".

    Anyway, he sounds great and is always great to watch that video.
    I videoed Jim Mullen playing a gig some years back, you might enjoy these clips. Unfortunately I was round the side of the stage, so you don’t see his hands much.

    Jim Mullen - YouTube

  46. #45

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    Quote Originally Posted by grahambop
    I videoed Jim Mullen playing a gig some years back, you might enjoy these clips. Unfortunately I was round the side of the stage, so you don’t see his hands much.

    Jim Mullen - YouTube
    Thanks, Graham, I will check it out.
    Always appreciate your posts and contributions.

  47. #46

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    Jimmy Ponder is another great thumb-picker. There are several videos of him on youtube, but all the ones I can find are blurry, and/or his right hand is blocked by something in the shot so you can't see what he's doing. Musically, there's a live video of Autumn leaves at Mikell's that is probably the best of the performances, and really great.

    John

  48. #47

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    Quote Originally Posted by grahambop
    I videoed Jim Mullen playing a gig some years back, you might enjoy these clips. Unfortunately I was round the side of the stage, so you don’t see his hands much.

    Jim Mullen - YouTube
    Sorry for delay, but that's great it was you that filmed those! I've watched them before and had no idea it twas you. You got to see a great show it seems.

    Thanks again, for posting

  49. #48

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    Yes it was at the Pantiles in Tunbridge Wells, there were lots of families there and a couple of young children started dancing to the music (you can see Jim smiling and encouraging them at one point).

    Jim does loads of gigs in the south-east UK at all kinds of venues, so I've been fortunate to see him many times.

    A friend of mine went on one of those tours of a whisky distillery in the Scottish isles somewhere, and Jim Mullen was on the plane! Turned out he was appearing at a jazz festival on the same island.

  50. #49

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    Quote Originally Posted by sunnysideup
    Maybe more importantly, Wes himself said in an interview that he believed by chosing to play without a pick he sacrificed speed. IMHO he definitely sacrificed the ability to play very very very long and fast strings of regular 16th notes a la Pat Martino, John McLaughlin, Tal Farlow, Howard Roberts, Jimmy Bruno, some Joe Pass etc. Listen to the phrasing on Wes's version of Coltrane's Impressions to hear what he's doing with slurs of all sorts, this is definitely not up-and-down thumb-picking; Wes regarded Coltrane as a genius - and I wouldn't argue with him about that!
    .
    I think speed is really overrated, especially in this genre. In your list McLaughlin in not an appropriate example, because in the styles he created incredible music, the speed is the very part of the expressiveness and the content. So it cool I mean. Joe Pass also not an appropriate example here, because his virtuoso lines are based on pulls and hammers, so this example does not back up the up/down strokes vs thumb with intensive pull/hammers. Both are my heros just to be clear.

    Regarding the others listed, Wes always sound more musical to me compared any of them. His "limitation" what btw I never hear, keept him back to invent an endless 16th note line machinery system, that is not a loss. His "limitation" also kept him back to throw out sparkling speedy but shallow embellishment lines and overstuff the music with them.
    Regarding the very fast tempos in bebop and descendants I think no one even Coltrane can not be really creative in real time, I mean, this is the time of using cliches and the time of end of real creation. So I do not miss that at all.

  51. #50

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    Speed is much less important for playing fast tempos than the ability to subdivide and syncopate accurately as we go north of 200bpm. Wes was a wizard at that as his uptempo recordings reveal.....