View Poll Results: Thumb over neck?

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111. You may not vote on this poll
  • Yeah, why not?

    68 61.26%
  • No, it stays behind the neck

    43 38.74%
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  1. #1

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    Just wondering how many of you use your thumb over the neck for bass notes in chords.

    I've been told it's not ideal technique, but it's what I'm used to and is most comfortable for me. It's also allowed me to play a lot of chords that I might not be able to otherwise. That argument could prob go both ways though.

    Cheers

  2.  

    The Jazz Guitar Chord Dictionary
     
  3. #2

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    I have small hands and the guitars i use have classical neck width (pretty wide) so no thumb over neck for me. I have attempted that a few times but my hand always comes out sore after a while. I'm comfortable with the way I play anyways lol. Maybe I'll experiment with the thumb-over technique if when I get an electric. Anywho to each their own

  4. #3

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    I am pretty much a thumb behind the neck player relying also a lot on my pinky while playing.
    My hand size is average so thumb over is limiting my stretching, can't do the Tal thing thumbing over while spanning 6 frets...
    However, I wish I could thumb over once in a while, unfortunately I broke my left hand thumb 20 years ago and since then, I lost flexibility and can hardly fret with it. Being a fan of slim '60s neck is not helping maybe...
    ...every note has an origin and a destination...
    - Tal Farlow

  5. #4

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    Yes but only on electric. If I play jazz on the classical guitar it's tempting to do it, but I have to make a conscious effort not to, because it hurts my thumb joints due to the wider neck and flat fingerboard.

    When playing classical guitar pieces I put the thumb behind the neck (I was taught classical guitar before I got into rock and jazz).

  6. #5
    I use the thumb a lot but for muting rather than fretting

  7. #6

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    All the time. I was blessed with long, proof of de-evolution thumbs.
    Jeff Matz, Jazz Guitar:
    http://www.youtube.com/user/jeffreymatz

    "Jazz is like life...it goes on longer than you think, and as soon as you're like 'oh, I get it,' it ends."

    --The Ghost of Duke Ellington

  8. #7

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    Only for chords? No good reason not to. I have small hands so I have to play thumb behind the neck. I cant stretch more than 1 1/2 steps like that. But I still use the thumb for a G chord...

  9. #8

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    For chords with an E-string root, no other way I can sound 5 notes in many chords.

  10. #9

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    I only use thumb as needed... once per solo guitar arrangment or so
    White belt
    My Youtube

  11. #10
    Thanks for the replies so far

  12. #11

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    When playing an electric or a steel string acoustic (not a classical) I will have my thumb over the neck in 2 specific situations:

    1 - If I am bending strings in a blues, country, or rock song.

    2 - If I am playing a particular jazz chord voicing where all 4 of my fingers are already being used and I need to add a bass note on the 5th or 6th strings - sometimes on both.

    Otherwise I always keep my thumb in the middle of the back of the neck pointing towards the ceiling and my thumb is always straight and relaxed.

    Regards,
    Steven Herron
    Learn To Play Chord Melody Guitar

  13. #12

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    Can't do the thumb over to save my life. Hands just aren't built for it I guess. I am envious of players that can, however I have been playing long enough to know that (short of not having limbs at all) there are very few physical limitations that would prevent someone from playing well enough to be respected for it. That is one of the greatest things about playing an instrument. Compensating and figuring out ways to play what you want are always possible. Kinda a mind over matter thing IMHO. You may get the snooty reaction for your method of fingering, or how a differently fingered chord shape should be better than others, but most times I don't buy the criticisms. There is a ton of latitude in what we do and how we do it.

    Now if I could get my thumb to do this I probably wouldn't have any excuses for not going all reverse thumb over 24/7.
    Attached Images Attached Images Thumb over neck?-85672708-jpg 
    Last edited by lammie200; 06-03-2018 at 11:38 AM.

  14. #13

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    Yes indeed. And in particular, I love the way Barney Kessel plays a lot of chordal stuff that can’t be done without the thumb over the neck. Holding that stationary bass note while the fingers go jumping.


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  15. #14

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    My thumb won't bend that way any more, but I used to use it on the low E string.

    On the other hand, there are a few things I do with the thumb all the way in front of the neck, mostly coming around to get a note on the high E string, usually a fret or two lower than my other fingers.

    There are some players, for example, Guinga and Marcus Tardelli, who will "thumb" any string. They get sounds that you don't usually hear from guitar.

  16. #15

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    Keeping the thumb over the neck gives you a kind of Hendrixian flow and groove that's impossible to replicate with thumb behind the back.
    I used to do thumb over neck more. Not anymore except when bending. Otherwise last resort. I kind of feel smug when I managed to do something with thumb behind the neck that's typically typically done with thumb over neck.
    The reason I gave up is because when I use thumb over neck, it seems to gradually start to take over more in my playing even in cases the thumb behind the neck is viable. It changes what I'm inclined to play when I'm doodling and such and makes thumb behind the neck feel more foreign in time. I feared that it could be limiting me as the conventional wisdom seems to frown upon it. I mean you do get much better stretch with thumb behind the neck. But if you're switching between the two positions smoothly, I'm not sure if it's limiting in anyway for playing jazz.
    Last edited by Tal_175; 06-01-2018 at 02:19 PM.

  17. #16

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    Seen enough of people wayyyy better than I use it, so I figure it's a legitimate technique although my short stubby thumbs are long enough to wrap around the neck to hit the E string.

  18. #17

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    I don't play bass notes with my thumb very much. If I'm making a 7th chord on the top 3 or 4 strings, I might use the thumb for the bass, but it's not a habit.

    That said, my thumb is often peeping out over the top of the neck. I think keeping it behind the neck is a good idea, I just don't do it all the time. But even though the thumb is over the neck, I rarely play bass notes with it. (The only time I ever really tried that was when I was Travis picking, but that never really panned out...)
    "Learn the repertoire. It’s all in the songs. If you learn 200 songs, you will have no problem improvising."
    Frank Vignola

  19. #18

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    richie havens (rip) style




    cheers

  20. #19

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    I normally would never use it and it does not work for the way I play. Maybe on a solo arrangement I might do it to cover some odd thing but basically to use the thumb never enters my mind. I must note I have very large hands and my left hand in particular is over 1/4 of an inch longer than the right when I hold them together. I attribute this to years of using Johnny Smith voices and the stretch needed. I constantly still stretch my finger daily and I have been playing 45 year.
    specializing in repair and setup, does your guitar play like it should?

  21. #20

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    Very infrequently. When I started playing, I was either taught it was a no-no or the technique was not acknowledged. I envy folks like Metheny who uses his left thumb regularly and to great advantage.

    The only time I use my thumb is when I consciously do so in very specific instances. For example, there are a couple of places in Chet Atkin's tune Borsalino where you have to use the thumb to do it "right".

    But if I could go back and train only one other finger it would without a doubt be my pinky on the right hand...

  22. #21
    Surprised to see the poll so close

  23. #22
    Quote Originally Posted by neatomic View Post
    richie havens (rip) style




    cheers
    Just a little extreme

  24. #23

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    Quote Originally Posted by p1p View Post
    Just a little extreme
    Not saying much, but pretty sure that I could pull that move off.

  25. #24

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    I use the thumb quite a lot. I started after watching a Jimi Hendrix video. Then I could figure out how to play the Foxy Lady riff with the F#7#9 chord.

    However it's just a few weeks now that I am studying a Ted Greene book which has chords with the tip of one finger pressing 2 strings. By incorporating those in my playing i feel less the need of playing the thumb chords. And it's not that bad because switching quickly between 'thumb' chords and 'normal' chords can be tricky.

    Envoyé de mon SM-G930F en utilisant Tapatalk

  26. #25

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    I'm a hillbilly! I do and have always done it. Lot of 'Chet' and 'Merle' stuff, you can't do any other way. I used to tell my students that I didn't care how they did it if they got the required result. Not convinced there is such a thing as 'proper' technique unless you're playing classical. You do what you gotta do to get through the tune - that's really the only requirement in my opinion. I haven't seen any 'technique police' around lately so I'm not too worried about keeping my thumbs.

  27. #26

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    Quote Originally Posted by Skip Ellis View Post
    I'm a hillbilly! I do and have always done it. Lot of 'Chet' and 'Merle' stuff, you can't do any other way. I used to tell my students that I didn't care how they did it if they got the required result. Not convinced there is such a thing as 'proper' technique unless you're playing classical. You do what you gotta do to get through the tune - that's really the only requirement in my opinion. I haven't seen any 'technique police' around lately so I'm not too worried about keeping my thumbs.
    Amen, Skip ! If the "technique police" had been around when Merle and Chet stated , not only would we have been deprived of their talents, but the legions who were inspired by them. Many jazz guitarists use the thumb over, along with the bar method when they feel it expedient and convenient. So do I !

  28. #27

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    Quote Originally Posted by neatomic View Post
    richie havens (rip) style




    cheers
    Richie Havens' thumb is the proportional equivalent of Gene Simmons' tongue.

    Good God Almighty!

  29. #28
    To be fair, Richie Havens played in an Open tuning and used his thumb to barre the strings and then use his fingers to change the chord type etc.

    He's a special case.

  30. #29

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    Almost never...except for 8 X 8 9 10 9 !

  31. #30

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    Thumb over is big and clever

  32. #31

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    My first teacher was of the "thumb stays planted on the back of the neck" school, and I guess I got indoctrinated that way. The only time I hang my thumb over the top is for a big bend.
    "I'm opposed to picketing, but I don't know to show it." --Mitch Hedberg

  33. #32

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    I use the thumb to fret notes on the 6th string when it seems called for. The rest of the time I try to keep it behind the neck after decades of lazily using the thumb as a hanger for the whole arm. Eschewing this has been a long struggle; suffice it to say "proper" thumb-behind-the-neck technique is a whole different ball of wax, ergonomically speaking. I'm still working on it, and as Cassals said, "I think I'm making progress."
    Best regards, k

  34. #33

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    I'm going with Bela Bartok & Lee Konitz

    Thumb Under, a song by Lee Konitz Quintet on Spotify

    Saw Tal Farlow play once, he apologised to the obvious guitarists sitting in the front row for his unorthodox technique...I could never get my thumb to do that anyway.

  35. #34

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    if you thought richie havens was idiosyncratic (he was!)

    what about the legendary thumbs carllile!



    haha

    cheers

  36. #35
    Rory Hoffman plays with the guitar flat on his lap like that, too, and that dude can burn.

  37. #36

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    My thumb is mostly centered on the back of the neck for both chording and soloing -- except when I'm bending, it'll ride up onto the shoulder of the neck for better leverage. I don't use it for thumbing a bass note, it just ain't that big to allow for it fretting a note and extended voicings.

  38. #37

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    I have a few tunes where I do it, however I avoid it when working out new arrangements. I have come to the conclusion at least for me, this is not a good thing to be doing it comes to thumb ergonomics.

  39. #38
    Reminded me of this. Creepy.

    (at 12:06)

  40. #39

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    Actually I was working through another John Mayer acoustic song with a student - can't remember the name - and that had some very difficult thumb fretting in it.

  41. #40

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    This is it.



    I dig this channel. I like the way he demonstrates his process. It's very important for students to see that.

  42. #41

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    That's not THE bit though it's later on, just after that first section... Also I don't think Music is Win guy 100% nails it?



    I'm not a Mayer fan, but this song is nice.

  43. #42
    Quote Originally Posted by christianm77 View Post
    I dig this channel. I like the way he demonstrates his process. It's very important for students to see that.
    Agreed. I like to look at those every now and then, because I always go back to thinking all decent guitarists can just do anything at a whim.

  44. #43

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    I play both.

    At the beginning I was strctly against thumb over the neck as I came from classical and though it was not efficient and unhealthy.

    But when I began to play a lot electric and steel string I began to use it too.

    To me the most important thing is efficiency.

    I do not see any problem in combining techniques.
    I do not have to choose one.

    Some say if you play thumb over your pinky goes out of use... weel first many thumb over player do not use pinky at all...
    And second - actually if you know good left hand position... really good I mean (not every classical player has it too).
    So if you have it - you ca do whatever you want.. use your thuimb, stretch, rotate your wrist - you will always be able to come back to solid ground.

  45. #44

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    Quote Originally Posted by gtrplrfla View Post
    Amen, Skip ! If the "technique police" had been around when Merle and Chet stated , not only would we have been deprived of their talents, but the legions who were inspired by them. Many jazz guitarists use the thumb over, along with the bar method when they feel it expedient and convenient. So do I !

    I didn't do it for a long time, but then I picked it up from a book on Merle Travis' style. It adapted well to certain jazz chords.

  46. #45
    Quote Originally Posted by Jonah View Post

    Some say if you play thumb over your pinky goes out of use... weel first many thumb over player do not use pinky at all...
    What?? The thumb over doesn't stop me from using my pinky at all. I feel like it frees up the extra finger.

    Couple examples off the top of my head:

    3x4435.. Don't even know how I could play this without my thumb. Or another I like, 5x5435.

  47. #46

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    Of course. Thumb over the neck, fretting the 6 the string, the right way to play Hendrix songs.
    Last edited by Johnny_L; 06-24-2018 at 12:03 AM.

  48. #47

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    Quote Originally Posted by p1p View Post
    What?? The thumb over doesn't stop me from using my pinky at all. I feel like it frees up the extra finger.

    Couple examples off the top of my head:

    3x4435.. Don't even know how I could play this without my thumb. Or another I like, 5x5435.
    Me too... but whne one uses thumb over it makes one rotate his hand and pinky goes down.
    Usually my pinky is high above the fretboard - somehweher over 4th string

  49. #48
    The John Mayer video is amusing to me, because although I don't personally use a thumb over neck technique very often (I do a lot of my playing on a nylon strings, and my hands aren't big enough to do it effectively), when I do, I find fretting with the thumb on the same fret as the ring finger easier than fretting with the thumb on the same fret as the index finger.

  50. #49

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    7-string guitar. thumb behind neck, always. besides, the harmonics generated by the bass strings allow one to use fewer notes per chord.

  51. #50

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    I seriously believe that virtually all issues, problems, deficiencies, inabilities, and general "can't playness" stem from ignoring the last few hundred years of development and cultivation of proper form.
    "Bent my ear to hear the tune and closed my eyes to see."