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  1. #1

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    Regarding the left hand:

    Ideally, is the left thumb positioned the same in both practices?
    And are left hand the fingers curled in the same shape?
    Studied privately with Mark Levine from 1986-1989. I also studied under Barry Harris, Joe Henderson, Art Lande, and Mark Isham.

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    The Jazz Guitar Chord Dictionary
     
  3. #2

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    Classical guitar has a formal "right way" and "wrong way" for the left hand. In part that comes from mimicking other string instruments like violin and cello in an effort to formalize and thus legitimize the instrument. There is a specific way to hold the instrument which goes along with the left hand technique. Watch Segovia, Bream, Noad, etc., and their left hand technique is similar. Compare it to, say, flamenco or Brazilian bossa nova players who old the instrument differently and use a different left hand position as a result.

    Jazz guitar technique is much more fluid and the "right" way is "the way that works for you." Watch videos of Tal Farlow, Pat Martino, Pat Metheny, Joe Pass, Wes Montgomery, Johnny Smith and John Stowell to see some of the wide range of differences in left hand technique that can work in jazz. Also watch their right hand techniques, which are also unique, and observe how they position the guitar as part of this. Re: Johnny Smith- he also played classical repertoire pieces with a plectrum (reading from the grand staff in actual pitch instead of the tradition of being transposed an octave). Tal Farlow tended to fret the top for strings with his fingers and the two bass strings with his thumb.

    You can certainly play jazz with classical technique. Check out Gene Bertoncini, for example.
    Beauty is as close to terror as we can well endure. -Rainer Maria Rilke

  4. #3

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    Left hand technique is no concern for jazz. You can do it however you want, or able to. Django would confirm that!

  5. #4

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    Quote Originally Posted by rintincop View Post
    Regarding the left hand:

    Ideally, is the left thumb positioned the same in both practices?
    And are left hand the fingers curled in the same shape?

    Answering your specific questions directly, and without other considerations or implied situations:

    1. Thumb position the same? - yes, generally speaking.

    2. Fingers curled in the same shape? Well, the neck is wider on the classical. Take the same general approach but adjust it for the narrower neck width on your "jazz guitar".

  6. #5

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    In the 19th century, the left-hand thumb was often employed on the sixth string. There are passages by Giuliani which are VERY difficult without this technique. His go-to F Major chord, for instance, was 103211. But they had smaller guitars, with narrower necks, not unlike an archtop or electric guitar neck. With the modern classical neck, it's more difficult to bring the thumb over.

    One question is what angle the neck is at. The more parallel to the floor, the more you'll feel inclined to employ the thumb, and vice versa.

  7. #6

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    I do not think that jazz guitar has conventional technique...

    eficiency of the technique is realted to the music and its style. It's about finding what works best for the purposes.

    In classical it is more limited because it is technically more demanding to control all the nuances required on acoustic classical guitar playing classical repertory. You just cannot get away without it, you will have to do some basic things propeerly otherwise you just won't be able to play well in the future.

    in jazz guitar it is not always that important, so you choose what you feel more efficient and how different techniques used by jazz guitarists affect phrasing.

  8. #7

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    Quote Originally Posted by Rob MacKillop View Post
    In the 19th century, the left-hand thumb was often employed on the sixth string. There are passages by Giuliani which are VERY difficult without this technique. His go-to F Major chord, for instance, was 103211. But they had smaller guitars, with narrower necks, not unlike an archtop or electric guitar neck. With the modern classical neck, it's more difficult to bring the thumb over.

    One question is what angle the neck is at. The more parallel to the floor, the more you'll feel inclined to employ the thumb, and vice versa.
    Fascinating stuff....

  9. #8

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    Here's video with thumb from below (at about 01:00) on classical guitar though with the technique more like lute or romantic guitar

    Last edited by Jonah; 09-20-2018 at 02:43 AM.

  10. #9

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    Quote Originally Posted by Rob MacKillop View Post
    In the 19th century, the left-hand thumb was often employed on the sixth string. There are passages by Giuliani which are VERY difficult without this technique. His go-to F Major chord, for instance, was 103211. But they had smaller guitars, with narrower necks, not unlike an archtop or electric guitar neck. With the modern classical neck, it's more difficult to bring the thumb over.

    One question is what angle the neck is at. The more parallel to the floor, the more you'll feel inclined to employ the thumb, and vice versa.
    That's interesting! I played some Giuliani pieces and never encountered that. I closely studied Carcassi method and got the impression that using left hand thumb over the neck is kinda taboo. I guess I was wrong!

    Not that I really care, mind you. Classical technique is more important for me in right hand posture. I think they got it right!

    Also, regarding the left hand in jazz, or blues, I know some blues players don't curve their fingers, and basically put their fingertips flat on the strings. I wonder if anyone here is doing it?

  11. #10

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    You have to work from facsimile editions, the original publications. Almost all the editions that were published in the 20th century were edited for a post-Segovia technique, and in order for editors to justify their edition they would change things, modernise the fingering, and even change notes. The only publisher I recommend for 19th-century repertoire is Tecla, who offer photocopies of the originals, or newly-engraved editions which 100% reflect the originals, but are easier to read.

    I don't have time to detail where and when, but have a look at the slow movement of Giuliani's opus 15, or his opus 1 studies. He even had a sign for using the left-hand thumb on the sixth string.

    Fernando Sor, in his Method, railed against using the use of the thumb for fretting - obliquely acknowledging that is was common practice.

    I have a few essays regarding 19th-century guitar on my classical website: 19th Century | rmclassicalguitar including a discussion on and examples of improvisation.

  12. #11

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    I just cannot resist from quoting the Sor's method. It's really fun and pleasure to read

    "Then it was that; astonished that performers had not availed themselves of allthese "advantages, I inquired the reason of a guitarist of some celebrity, who replied, that the hand placed m the waythat I indicated, was deprived of the use of the thumb for the sixth string, and, taking up the guitar, he played thephrase shewn in the second example, saying! "how would you do this, without using the thumb for thefirst two notes of the base ?" " I would not play it in any way,' I replied; " first, because I would never make the baseand the upper part proceed by direct octaves; secondly, because I should never termínate a perfect cadenee by aninversión, instead of the direct chord," as he had done; " and thirdly, because I could not press a string with thethumb without contracting my shoulder, without bringing my hand behind the neck (and consequently annulling ina gfeat meásüre the play of the fingers shortened by one half), and putting the wrist into a position far from easy,in order thai the tendons which should actúate the joints may have the ro'om and direction suited to the liberty oftheir action,"He answered niy fourth reason only, and stilí in á manner which could by no means rectify my ideas, ifwrong. " This is quite indiffereñt to tííé," áaid he; u every one has his own way, and provided he plays well, it isno matter how he may set about it." " It appéats to me, however," I replied, " that if my setting about it in the bestmanner should influence the facility of my play, that would be worth the trouble of finding out. I am almost persuadedthat I have found it; but not presuming to be infallible, I earnestly seek for well-founded objections."—" Sir,"added he, " I give lessons only to my scholars. Your knowledge of the scientific part of music, leads yóü to disdainsubmitting to the precepts of a guitar-master. Besides, you are but an amateur, and whafever yoii riíay do will bethought charming in society, and genteel among artists; but if you had in view to become a professor, you shouldtake a fnaster; and, if I had the honour of being selected, I should set you to practise the scale, requesting you tomake no remarks to me on the rules established by men whose knowledge of the subject far exceeded yours, as wellon account of their long study, as of their experience " and he laid great stress on the last word. I perceived, withregret, that my first two reasons had excited his displeasure, much moré than if he had comprehended them, and thathe could not forgive my sixteen years, for having allowed me time to oceupy myself with a thing to which he was astranger at forty. I added,again,- that, persuaded the gentlemen of whom he had spoken had not established theirrules blindly, the best way of paying respect tú their rriérit would be to prove its superiority. Containing himself nolonger, he said, " It is not at my age that one can be examhied by a boy." The persons present blamed his precipitaney.He felt the reflections made to him in support of what I had said. He was convinced that he had been inthe wrong, and he held out his hand tó me. My tears flowed for joy. Returned home, I endeavoured to correct thephrase which he had played to me, and I discovered the method of doing so without the assistanee of the thumb, inthe manner exhibited in the third example."

  13. #12
    The no-compromise electric guitar("artsy rock .. something" ) virtuoso players tend to have the left hand more like classical players. Not seen that happening with jazz players very much.

  14. #13

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    Quote Originally Posted by emanresu View Post
    The no-compromise electric guitar("artsy rock .. something" ) virtuoso players tend to have the left hand more like classical players. Not seen that happening with jazz players very much.
    Lage Lund
    Allan Holdsworth
    Adam Rogers
    George Van Eps
    Jim Hall

  15. #14
    When the neck is almost parallel to the floor, then it ain't classical hand anymore. Holdsworth almost passes!

  16. #15

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    Oh OK:

    Nigel Price (UK)
    Pasquale Grasso

  17. #16

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    Obviously Ralph Towner and Charlie Byrd who actually play with classical technique full stop.

  18. #17

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    Tim Miller
    Ben Monder

  19. #18

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    I reckon Charles Altura counts as well.
    And theres Nelson Veras who has a bit of an incline on his guitar neck but it's not 45 degrees - fretting certainly looks very classical. Square on, no pronation - and yes I know some CG's pronate like Ana Vidovic for instance.)

  20. #19

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    Some more thoughts.

    • Guitars don't have technique, humans do.
    • Humans have the same palm, five fingers, upper extremity anatomy, back, etc., regardless of the type of instrument that they play.
    • An ergonomically idealized technique benefits all.


    HOWEVER

    • Jazz music and jazz guitar have a style and sound of their own. The phrasing, expression, accents etc., don't confine themselves to the formal Euro traditions. You will get into all kinds of contortions relative to the classical technique. (Vibrato style, bends, slides, loud horn like accents, finger rolling to accommodate horn style arpeggio running, string muting of an electric guitar, bluesy licks, etc.)
    • If you doubt this, simply play along note-for-note with Charlie Christian, Wes Montgomery, Kenny Burrell, George Benson, etc., while mirroring their sound and expression as closely as possible - and you will appreciate the differences in very short order.
    • But the default left hand starting point can/should be ergonomically advantageous, flexible, relaxed, capable, much like the classical left hand.

  21. #20

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    I'll link to (now the forum's own lol!) Miles Okazaki's thoughts on left hand technique, in reference to Charlie Christian:

    "There is no known video footage of Charlie Christian, but the consensus among players is that he used a majority of downstrokes with the right hand, and mostly three fingers with the left hand. A well-known quote, again from Kessel, describes some important details:He rested his 2nd, 3rd and 4th fingers on the pick-guard. He anchored them there so tensely that it was like there almost wasn’t a break in the joint. He almost never used the 4th finger of his left hand.”
    (Kessel in Guitar Player, Oct ’70)


    This description of the left hand makes sense, given the logical fingerings that can be used to play the solos, and is supported by the few pictures that we have of Christian in the act of playing. In certain circles of guitar playing, tucking away the fourth finger and putting the thumb over the top of the neck is considered improper technique. I would side with the contrary view, that this is an absolutely natural way to approach the guitar when the goal is strong articulation, groove, and rhythm. Using primarily three fingers does not at all limit speed or harmonic options — look at all the stuff drummers can play with two sticks! And the third finger easily spans four frets when the hand is angled towards the guitar’s body. This approach is clear in the video footage that we do have of Wes Montgomery and George Benson, who modeled their styles after Christian. I once had the pleasure of sitting with George Benson in his house and listening to this very solo on the record player, while he pointed out his favorite lines."

    Miles seem to purposefully adopt the same type of left hand for single note stuff.

    For myself, I'm kind of in a slightly crappy halfway world. I think the three fingered, or more accurately put, heavily pronated thumb over technique with lots of shifts is great, and I also think the classical independent stretchy fingers left hand is great.

    As my early tuition was more classical, I still tend to use my pinky - but not particularly well.

    So I've been doing some exercises to address that - particularly left hand ligado stuff. TBH I'm not sure it's made much difference.

  22. #21
    Thanks for listing them, Christian. There is also Lenny Breau but he has his own thing going mostly.

  23. #22

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    Quote Originally Posted by emanresu View Post
    Thanks for listing them, Christian. There is also Lenny Breau but he has his own thing going mostly.
    Martin Taylor too....

    It's an obvious choice if you play solo guitar a lot because it's more demanding on the left hand in terms of stretches. Needless to say that's one of the main things classical technique is designed to facilitate.

    People who play rock lead guitar with classical technique are fucking stupid.

    Ahem - sorry, have missed an essential trick regarding single note playing that Marty Freidman really exemplifies along with Django and the gypsy players. But I suppose they think it sounds cleaner that way. I don't really know. I think there's a limit to how fast arpeggios can go without stretching (but there's also a limit to how fast arpeggios can go without sounding stupid.)

  24. #23

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    Or their necks are so WIDE from all those MOAR STRINGZ that they have no choice. A bit like the lute players of old....

  25. #24

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    Yes as Cunamara and other said, "classical" has a specific pedagogy, in general, for teaching fretting hand. The material and technical challenges within "jazz" vary quite a lot, so optimal technique and position also vary with lots of factors.

    Quote Originally Posted by Hep To The Jive View Post
    Left hand technique is no concern for jazz. You can do it however you want, or able to. Django would confirm that!
    Rory Hoffman a great example of VERY unorthodox left hand technique.

    However, injury prevention and strain is ALWAYS a concern, no matter what style of music.

    Important things: for full barres or any big reaches either for melodic lines or for chords, thumb on back of the neck rather than wrapped over (hendrix style) makes things a lot safer, generally speaking. If there aren't full barres or big reaches, the difference is less consequential, IMO.

    Quote Originally Posted by Rob MacKillop View Post
    One question is what angle the neck is at. The more parallel to the floor, the more you'll feel inclined to employ the thumb, and vice versa.
    Yes. Vertical makes easier for thumb on back, full barres, and larger reaches. horizontal neck makes easier for fretting and muting notes intentionally with the thumb wrapped over.

    Quote Originally Posted by Hep To The Jive View Post

    Also, regarding the left hand in jazz, or blues, I know some blues players don't curve their fingers, and basically put their fingertips flat on the strings. I wonder if anyone here is doing it?
    If it's not super important in the music to get trickier chords to ring out properly, it's less important. At an extreme some chord like 14 12 11 13 0 0 requires very curved fingers and precision about some technical things. A chord like (Eb9) x x 5 6 6 x ...much less important.


    Quote Originally Posted by emanresu View Post
    The no-compromise electric guitar("artsy rock .. something" ) virtuoso players tend to have the left hand more like classical players. Not seen that happening with jazz players very much.
    I feel like most modern players get more of the classical left hand going, just less so the old bluesy guys and bebop. Lots of examples in every camp though as well as in between.


    Quote Originally Posted by christianm77 View Post
    I'll link to (now the forum's own lol!) Miles Okazaki's thoughts on left hand technique, in reference to Charlie Christian:

    "There is no known video footage of Charlie Christian, but the consensus among players is that he used a majority of downstrokes with the right hand, and mostly three fingers with the left hand. A well-known quote, again from Kessel, describes some important details:He rested his 2nd, 3rd and 4th fingers on the pick-guard. He anchored them there so tensely that it was like there almost wasn’t a break in the joint. He almost never used the 4th finger of his left hand.”
    (Kessel in Guitar Player, Oct ’70)


    This description of the left hand makes sense, given the logical fingerings that can be used to play the solos, and is supported by the few pictures that we have of Christian in the act of playing. In certain circles of guitar playing, tucking away the fourth finger and putting the thumb over the top of the neck is considered improper technique. I would side with the contrary view, that this is an absolutely natural way to approach the guitar when the goal is strong articulation, groove, and rhythm. Using primarily three fingers does not at all limit speed or harmonic options — look at all the stuff drummers can play with two sticks! And the third finger easily spans four frets when the hand is angled towards the guitar’s body. This approach is clear in the video footage that we do have of Wes Montgomery and George Benson, who modeled their styles after Christian. I once had the pleasure of sitting with George Benson in his house and listening to this very solo on the record player, while he pointed out his favorite lines."

    Miles seem to purposefully adopt the same type of left hand for single note stuff.

    For myself, I'm kind of in a slightly crappy halfway world. I think the three fingered, or more accurately put, heavily pronated thumb over technique with lots of shifts is great, and I also think the classical independent stretchy fingers left hand is great.

    As my early tuition was more classical, I still tend to use my pinky - but not particularly well.

    So I've been doing some exercises to address that - particularly left hand ligado stuff. TBH I'm not sure it's made much difference.
    It's interesting stuff and as much of a left hand technique snob and stickler I can be, I do tell my students that there are advantages to that 'wrong' way (charlie christian etc.) if you're not doing full barres or any big reaches, it can work out just fine, be more comfortable, and you don't have to spend all this time training your pinky to do what you want it to do.

    But what the hell would I play without my big stupid stretchy chords and legato fourths?!?!?! Half kidding I guess...the music I like to play definitely requires me to do all the classical-ish things
    Oh, hi - if interested, I post a lot of playing/practice clips at www.instagram.com/JakeEstner

  26. #25

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    Legato fourths is a good reason to stretch. Fair point.

    One can always move into the requisite stretch positions.

  27. #26

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    Quote Originally Posted by Hep To The Jive View Post
    That's interesting! I played some Giuliani pieces and never encountered that. I closely studied Carcassi method and got the impression that using left hand thumb over the neck is kinda taboo. I guess I was wrong!

    Not that I really care, mind you. Classical technique is more important for me in right hand posture. I think they got it right!

    Also, regarding the left hand in jazz, or blues, I know some blues players don't curve their fingers, and basically put their fingertips flat on the strings. I wonder if anyone here is doing it?
    Actually one of the biggest flaws in my own LH technique is that, coming from folk and blues, I do tend to press the strings more on the flat of my finger than on the very tip. It worked fine in acoustic folk and folky-blues, but in jazz, playing electric, the flatter finger often frets the adjacent string, and playing fast, that other string makes a kind of ghost sound that is most unpleasant. You can listen to any of my posts in the Jimmy Raney study groups, especially at the end where we're all getting the tempos up, and I get these periodic "dank/gank/plank" noises-results from the finger fretting the right note and slapping down the adjacent string.

    Worst problem of my technique, and one I"m having a lot of trouble addressing since I've been doing it for over 55 years!
    - Lawson
    "Whenever you come near the human race, there's layers and layers of nonsense." - Thornton Wilder, Our Town

  28. #27

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    Quote Originally Posted by christianm77 View Post
    I'll link to (now the forum's own lol!) Miles Okazaki's thoughts on left hand technique, in reference to Charlie Christian:

    "There is no known video footage of Charlie Christian, but the consensus among players is that he used a majority of downstrokes with the right hand, and mostly three fingers with the left hand. A well-known quote, again from Kessel, describes some important details:He rested his 2nd, 3rd and 4th fingers on the pick-guard. He anchored them there so tensely that it was like there almost wasn’t a break in the joint. He almost never used the 4th finger of his left hand.”
    (Kessel in Guitar Player, Oct ’70)


    This description of the left hand makes sense, given the logical fingerings that can be used to play the solos, and is supported by the few pictures that we have of Christian in the act of playing. In certain circles of guitar playing, tucking away the fourth finger and putting the thumb over the top of the neck is considered improper technique. I would side with the contrary view, that this is an absolutely natural way to approach the guitar when the goal is strong articulation, groove, and rhythm. Using primarily three fingers does not at all limit speed or harmonic options — look at all the stuff drummers can play with two sticks! And the third finger easily spans four frets when the hand is angled towards the guitar’s body. This approach is clear in the video footage that we do have of Wes Montgomery and George Benson, who modeled their styles after Christian. I once had the pleasure of sitting with George Benson in his house and listening to this very solo on the record player, while he pointed out his favorite lines."

    Miles seem to purposefully adopt the same type of left hand for single note stuff.

    For myself, I'm kind of in a slightly crappy halfway world. I think the three fingered, or more accurately put, heavily pronated thumb over technique with lots of shifts is great, and I also think the classical independent stretchy fingers left hand is great.

    As my early tuition was more classical, I still tend to use my pinky - but not particularly well.

    So I've been doing some exercises to address that - particularly left hand ligado stuff. TBH I'm not sure it's made much difference.
    Every lick I've stolen from Charlie (and I've stolen dozens) confirms this, not only can they all be played with three fingers, they fit naturally and are easier to play that way.

    I've found the same thing for a lot of Grant Green.
    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

  29. #28

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    Quote Originally Posted by mr. beaumont View Post
    Every lick I've stolen from Charlie (and I've stolen dozens) confirms this, not only can they all be played with three fingers, they fit naturally and are easier to play that way.

    I've found the same thing for a lot of Grant Green.
    As chance would have it I've been looking into those guys this week. And yes, it makes it super rewarding in a different way to trying to puzzle out a sax or piano player. It's like 'aha! This MUST be the way he played it.' Fun.

  30. #29

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    No there is not a fundamental difference.
    Classic Guitar Technique is more formalized than Jazz Guitar - obviously .

    So there are pictures and over the shoulder POV pics of Segovia etc BUT most of these are concerned with right hand not fret hand.
    AND the Ètudes force the Student to slightly modify the techniques to his own hands.
    The standards for technique are higher , tighter than Jazz or Rock or Pop - those 3 always use anything that works for either hand ...

    The trick is to get it as stable as you can IF you decide to put the thumb on the back of the neck vs. the Benson/Mclaughlin /Clapton etc etc thumb up or above neck thumb.

    The thumb up above neck is very stable but IF you have small hands -not as fluid.

    Problem is IF you are used to thumb up fret hand - switching feels arbitrary and unstable which it is...lol.

    The trick for me was to get the lower ball of my fret hand index finger touching or very very close to the bottom of the neck to get it to be the SAME every time I pick up the Guitar.

    It is stable ...rather than having an arbitrary place to put the thumb ...the balls of the fret hand fingers [ very upper portion of palm ] are close to the bottom of neck and lightly touching.

    If you are already very stable and like your chops...don't even think about this.

    IF you have large hands or long fingers ..you may not need to use the lowered thumb thing.

    A good test is to play 4 frets chromatically across all 6 strings at the A5th fret then G then F position .

    Most of the top Fusion Guitarists used thumb above top of neck [ Mclaughlin,Dimeola, Stuermer and even Benson...don't need to do the lower thumb thing....really depends on the hand size more than anything- and how far you want to take it.

    But actually no it is not to answer your original question again .
    But 'Jazz Guitar Technique' is really whatever works , just like 'Rock Guitar Technique ' there IS no definitive way to use either hand.

    Classical Guitar and Flamenco have been taught for a few hundred years and in Classical Guitar - Segovia and his Students seemed to provide a quantum leap for Classical - people have refined Classical Technique and are less rigid , generally.

    To go far with left hand ( fret hand ) technique - it really depends upon hand and finger size (finger length)- people with larger hands can put their thumb straight up giving a more secure grip or even wrap top of thumb over top of fingerboard .
    But people who have smaller hands AND /OR do extremely wide stretches 6 frets or more generally HAVE to lower the thumb on back of neck not sticking up like a flagpole.

    I like the 'security ' of a high thumb (see McLaughlin, Benson) especially with position shifts on linear playing - but my hands are too small to be very fluid that way .
    Last edited by Robertkoa; 10-24-2018 at 09:59 AM.