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  1. #1

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    Thumbs vary. For our purposes (at least to get started) let's go with two main types: 1) Straight and 2) Not (or Crooked).

    Attachment 51234


    Do you think your thumb is straight or crooked?

    (Or do you think there is another common type of thumb best described by another term? If so, what?)

    Do you think that thumb "type" makes any difference to how you hold / move a pick?

    If you are a guitar teacher, is this something you notice in your students?

    What made me think about this was that I was trying to play with a thumb pick (again) recently and I noticed that when I wore it over the nail, that my crooked thumb gave the pick blade an odd angle toward the strings, sort of a backwards rake. Didn't care for that, so I moved pick further down my thumb. (There are disadvantages to that but it gave me a better attack on the strings.)

    I wonder if this is why I had trouble keeping a flat pick in place. (No matter how I hold a pick to start with, it wants to move back toward the center of my thumb, as that's a fairly flat spot. Unless I'm doing Benson picking, which was easy for me so far as the "banana thumb" goes----I had that already, so it was easy to do---but I gave up that approach for other reasons.)

    Just wondering if anyone else ever wonders about their thumb..... (Twiddling counts, I guess, but not for much. ;o)
    "Learn the repertoire. It’s all in the songs. If you learn 200 songs, you will have no problem improvising."
    Frank Vignola

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    The Jazz Guitar Chord Dictionary
     
  3. #2

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    Quote Originally Posted by MarkRhodes View Post
    Just wondering if anyone else ever wonders about their thumb..... (Twiddling counts, I guess, but not for much. ;o)
    I've thought about the crooked vs straight thumb before, but in terms of fingerpicking, not holding a pick.
    I seem to notice a lot of crooked thumb fingerpickers. Mine is straight.
    Not sure if one is better than the other, but I'm stuck with what I have, so I don't worry about it too much.
    Has 'Crooked Thumb' been used as a jazz nickname yet? It should. Crooked Thumb McGee and Bleeding Gums Murphy- Live at Moe's?

  4. #3
    I've got a mildly crooked thumb. Not to the extent of Benson, but it does bend back.

    Because I try to use a relaxed thumb while using a pick, I bend my thumb at the joint, which I use to help me getting over the strings.

  5. #4

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    I can bend mine back about 90 degrees, more if I push on it with something. I thought all thumbs did that.

  6. #5

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    Mine is as crooked as a politician. Fortunately it can't talk.

  7. #6

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    Quote Originally Posted by morroben View Post
    I've thought about the crooked vs straight thumb before, but in terms of fingerpicking, not holding a pick.
    This is a good look at that, I think. I don't know whose thumb that is but it looks like mine! ;o)

    Attachment 51239
    "Learn the repertoire. It’s all in the songs. If you learn 200 songs, you will have no problem improvising."
    Frank Vignola

  8. #7

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    Quote Originally Posted by sgosnell View Post
    I can bend mine back about 90 degrees, more if I push on it with something. I thought all thumbs did that.

    I think all thumbs bend back some. (Some may go further than others.) But here the issue is about where the thumb tends to be naturally. (When you're not pressing against something or trying to bend it back.)

    Hhmm. I'll make a short video with my phone. But it could take a long time to upload, so I'll post this now and and the video later.
    "Learn the repertoire. It’s all in the songs. If you learn 200 songs, you will have no problem improvising."
    Frank Vignola

  9. #8

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    Ladies and gentlemen, meet my thumb....

    "Learn the repertoire. It’s all in the songs. If you learn 200 songs, you will have no problem improvising."
    Frank Vignola

  10. #9

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    Mine is sort of like yours, but bent back more. At rest, my thumb is bent back somewhere between 45 and 60 degrees. When I hold a pick, it's probably somewhere in the vicinity of 75-80 degrees. I hold the pick with my index finger and thumb pretty much directly opposed, with both flat on the pick. That's the only way I know how to hold it, and trying to change is not at all easy, and I've just given up trying.

  11. #10

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    [QUOTE=MarkRhodes;851891


    Do you think your thumb is straight or crooked?

    (Or do you think there is another common type of thumb best described by another term? If so, what?)

    Do you think that thumb "type" makes any difference to how you hold / move a pick?

    )[/QUOTE]

    Hi, Mark and guys.

    My thumb bends a lot almost like JAco Pastorius. I fell some pain using the "standard" way if picking. I tried to change to Benson picking, but I don't know with I will have the patient to do it. Here are some pics that I uploaded: 1- the way I thinking changing to
    2- My thumb without forcing anything
    3- The way I've been doing since I started
    Attached Images Attached Images About the Thumb: right (picking) hand (and using a pick)-img_20180302_111513-jpg About the Thumb: right (picking) hand (and using a pick)-img_20180302_111423-jpg About the Thumb: right (picking) hand (and using a pick)-img_20180302_110921-jpg About the Thumb: right (picking) hand (and using a pick)-img_20180302_111526-jpg 

  12. #11

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    Quote Originally Posted by Tales View Post
    Hi, Mark and guys.

    My thumb bends a lot almost like Jaco Pastorius. I feel some pain using the "standard" way of picking. I tried to change to Benson picking, but I don't know with I will have the patience to do it. Here are some pics that I uploaded:
    So I'm not alone... ;o)
    I can hold it the Benson way (-as I understand the Benson way) but I don't like the position that puts my hand in. It's inconvenient for some of the things I do.

    I often wish I could stop experimenting with my picking but I don't seem to be able to...
    "Learn the repertoire. It’s all in the songs. If you learn 200 songs, you will have no problem improvising."
    Frank Vignola

  13. #12

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    Hi Mark,

    Hope you are enjoying life in sunny Florida!

    Aaron Shearer, when I was studying classical guitar with him at Peabody Conservatory Of Music, told me to always keep my right hand thumb tip straight and to move my thumb only from the wrist joint.

    Think about it, if your thumb tip is bent backwards it's only because YOU are bending it backwards - which is a tension problem. The next time you are sitting there watching TV look down at your thumb and I'll bet it's straight because that is its' natural posture when you aren't tensing it up.

    The same can be applied to playing with a pick. Keep your thumb tip perfectly straight when you are holding your pick and your hand will feel more relaxed.

    Also, remember that relaxation has to be trained since most people tense up when they are trying to do something that is hard or new to them.

    Hope this helps!
    Steven Herron
    Learn To Play Chord Melody Guitar

  14. #13

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    I usually pick without moving my hand much, if any. The movement is mostly just my thumb and index finger, and most of that is from bending the endmost joints. That's the most relaxed way for me. If I try to keep my thumb and forefinger straight and move from the wrist, that's when the tension starts. I don't believe that there is One Way Of Picking that should be required of everyone. I know it's easier for teachers to use just one, but being easy for teachers is not the most important, or even a mildly important, issue.

  15. #14

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    Quote Originally Posted by sgosnell View Post
    I don't believe that there is One Way Of Picking that should be required of everyone. I know it's easier for teachers to use just one, but being easy for teachers is not the most important, or even a mildly important, issue.
    I agree there is more than one way. (This is why some guitar teachers don't give picking advice, period.) And I don't think picking is something one should be thinking about much at all, UNLESS IT'S A PROBLEM.

    Once upon a time, I had a problem (other hand) of fretting notes without getting a buzz. That ended decades ago. It worked itself out. I don't think about that at all anymore. Once upon a time, certain chord grips were hard for me to grab but they aren't a problem anymore. Moving from chord to chord was a problem, but it isn't anymore. But picking, it's still a problem. It hasn't "worked itself out." And it may never...
    "Learn the repertoire. It’s all in the songs. If you learn 200 songs, you will have no problem improvising."
    Frank Vignola

  16. #15

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    Quote Originally Posted by Steven Herron View Post

    Aaron Shearer, when I was studying classical guitar with him at Peabody Conservatory Of Music, told me to always keep my right hand thumb tip straight and to move my thumb only from the wrist joint.

    Think about it, if your thumb tip is bent backwards it's only because YOU are bending it backwards - which is a tension problem. The next time you are sitting there watching TV look down at your thumb and I'll bet it's straight because that is its' natural posture when you aren't tensing it up.

    The same can be applied to playing with a pick. Keep your thumb tip perfectly straight when you are holding your pick and your hand will feel more relaxed.
    When my thumb is straight, the tip bends back. Put another way, that IS my thumb straight.

    If I want to, say, touch my computer screen with my thumbnail, I have to cock the thumb. (Pull in toward my palm.) Whereas, if I want to touch the computer screen with my thumbprint (-the way one presses a doorbell), I extend my thumb straight and that's what touches the screen. My thumb is like this all the time, not just when I hold a pick. (My left thumb is this way too.)

    Here is another picture (but not of my thumb). Apparently, thumbs being straight or curved is a genetic trait.

    Attachment 51250
    Thumbs:Straight thumb (dominant trait) vs. Curved thumb (recessive trait) When viewed from the side as in the illustration below, curved thumbs can be seen as part of a circle. Genetic traits


    NOTE: I do not wish to argue about the genetics of thumbs. All that I care about (here) is that some thumbs are more curved than others and this is a feature of those thumbs.
    "Learn the repertoire. It’s all in the songs. If you learn 200 songs, you will have no problem improvising."
    Frank Vignola

  17. #16

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    Both of mine curve naturally and easily back at a 45 degree angle.

    Sometimes when I pick, as I go from the heavy sixth-string down, I bend the thumb more and more trying to keep the pick at the same angle in relation to every string.

    It seems to work and I have seen some instructors on Youtube recommend this type of picking attack. I will see if I can find one later.

  18. #17

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  19. #18

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    Quote Originally Posted by christianm77 View Post
    crooked

    Which reminds me. Immanuel Kant, the great German philosopher (and reputed "real pissant who was very rarely stable"), once said, "From the crooked lumber of humanity, no straight thing can be made." Which might not be strictly on point here.... ;o)
    "Learn the repertoire. It’s all in the songs. If you learn 200 songs, you will have no problem improvising."
    Frank Vignola

  20. #19

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    It's not that hard to control the first joint of the thumb, whether crooked or straight. In fact, some of the great classical guitarists actually use the first joint of the thumb for certain tone qualities, flexing it along with the middle and wrist joints. Therefore, it should be fairly easy to hold the plectrum any way you like by adjusting the bend of that first joint. Howard Roberts used a "scalpel" motion, actually involving the first jones of both thumb and index finger, along with the wrist. Study the anatomy of the hand and arms, it's quite amazing.

  21. #20

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    Straight thumbs. I think that some ability to overbend the outer thumb joint would be convenient for barré chords. For the picking hand I don't think the difference means a lot. Maybe more as bass player where the thumb is often used to anchor the hand.

  22. #21

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    Quote Originally Posted by ronjazz View Post
    Therefore, it should be fairly easy to hold the plectrum any way you like by adjusting the bend of that first joint. Howard Roberts used a "scalpel" motion, actually involving the first jones of both thumb and index finger, along with the wrist. Study the anatomy of the hand and arms, it's quite amazing.
    I get this. The scalpel / circle motion, I get that too, but I don't think that's how Howard played all the time, did he? It wouldn't work for chords, would it? It seems like it would be a challenge for string skipping too. For tremolo picking, sure.

    And I agree it's easy to adjust the bend of the first joint. It's perfectly easy. But once one starts playing and no longer is thinking about it, the thumb will revert to its natural position. At least, that's my experience. It's kind of like sitting up straight when a meeting is called to order but, imperceptibly, reverting to your normal seated posture as time passes, wholly unaware of it.
    "Learn the repertoire. It’s all in the songs. If you learn 200 songs, you will have no problem improvising."
    Frank Vignola

  23. #22
    The scalpel or circle picking is actually very good for skipping strings because the pick naturally takes a curved path and escapes the plane of the strings in both phases of the movement while strictly alternating - I'm currently working on using my wrist as the main "motivator" for all the picking motion but getting my thumb and index finger involved if I want to change strings while strictly alternating.

  24. #23

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    Quote Originally Posted by Steven Herron View Post

    Think about it, if your thumb tip is bent backwards it's only because YOU are bending it backwards - which is a tension problem. The next time you are sitting there watching TV look down at your thumb and I'll bet it's straight because that is its' natural posture when you aren't tensing it up.

    The same can be applied to playing with a pick. Keep your thumb tip perfectly straight when you are holding your pick and your hand will feel more relaxed.
    I guess that's your own perspective but it is wrong for me. When I relax my thumbs curve back, I have to make a concious effort (very small effort) to straighten them. My hand relaxed:
    Attached Images Attached Images About the Thumb: right (picking) hand (and using a pick)-5094-jpg 
    B+
    Frank (aka fep)

  25. #24

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    This is an interested thread to me, I didn't know I there was this genetic difference. I guess that's why holding my pick with a curved thumb and fingerpicking with a curved thumb is most comfortable to me.
    B+
    Frank (aka fep)

  26. #25

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    The more I play with thumb the more I realize that it's extremely dependent on my left hand technique. I think with rest stroke, bumblebee and alternate thumb picking most of the stuff can be covered if the left hand fingerings are adjusted.

    Sent from my SM-C7000 using Tapatalk

  27. #26

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    Glad to see this is about thumbs...

  28. #27

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    Mine is angled back too. Besides Benson picking, i think Wes style thumb picking is based a lot on this. The way Wes opens his palm and rests his thumb on the strings, his thumb is definitely angled back