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  1. #1

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    Hi folks, I am (hopefully) getting back into playing after laying off for about six months on account of doing a number on my left thumb. I do way too much with my hands, and was definitely playing with too much of a squeeze between left fingers and thumb, and wound up with trigger thumb. It's been good for about six months now following a couple of rounds of cortisol shots and generally cleaning up how I use my left hand. (New job with less typing is helping a lot too!) I layed off guitar for a long time and focused on other instruments to make sure it wasn't just a temporary recovery from the cortisol shots, but I've been clear for a long time now and am hopefully going to be able to figure out how to play again.

    I was googling reducing left hand pressure, and found posts on classical guitar boards about playing with a much more upright and high neck position, and learning to play with less pressure on the thumb by actually practising with the thumb right off the guitar, achieving string pressure from the arm weight against the body, and learning to use a minimum of string pressure (and then ultimately letting the thumb rest on the neck but as a guide only). I'm starting to work on this, and it's hard but seems learnable. My question is whether anyone has experience with this for jazz on electric guitars, and if so, could you share any thoughts, tips, war stories, etc. Or anything else on recovering/preventing trigger thumb.



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  3. #2

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    This might help a bit. I recently changed how I attached my strap, and I tie to the headstock (ala Wes Montgomery, look him up and see what I mean). And what this does, is it allows me to fret much more comfortably and give me the more upright position you talk about.

    I guess I don't have any tips other than just playing to make this seem more natural. For me, it was pretty natural right away, and I used to really use my thumb for fretting chords (which I'm trying to break the habit of).

  4. #3
    Thanks Bahnzo. So are you saying you made a change to almost no pressure on the left thumb too? If you don't mind sharing your story, I'm all ears!

  5. #4
    Oh wow, I have looked at pics of Wes so many times and never noticed his unusual strap! What does that subjectively do to the feel?

  6. #5

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    You might want to try a beefier neck profile with a tighter fretboard radius.

  7. #6

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    It's really just a more upright position. I wouldn't say it's no pressure on your thumb, I can't see any ways to fret without putting some pressure on the thumb.

  8. #7

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    I often practice with no thumb pressure on the neck. The advice that helped me was to press the guitar body back with your right forearm thus leveraging the guitar forward and into the fingers of the left hand. Sounds goofy but it works for me. I use this technique often to teach me to keep the absolute minimum pressure on my left thumb. I use the same approach on bass guitars and mandolin family instruments.

    The other part of this is to train yourself to only touch the string and to lightly touch it into the fret. You don't need to press hard to make the string contact the fret. Find the right spot and a light touch is all it takes.

    Years of poor and over-strained technique take time to overcome, but extending your playing lifespan is a worthwhile endeavor. Best of luck to the OP.

  9. #8

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    I can sympathize with this. Some six months ago, my RH index finger was swollen and exhibited a touch of trigger finger syndrome. After x-ray/echography it transpired that I had what the hospital referred to as an 'old injury' within the finger ( not really evident up to that point ). After a cortizone shot in the base of the hand/finger, all was well for some time. Now, I have a stiffening of the finger and some slight discomfort in the interior. Fine for using the pick but scrunched up to play fingerstyle, things can a bit tense. Anyone had anything like this I wonder. No desire to hijack the original thread btw.



  10. #9

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    Float thumb behind neck.

    Anchor fret hand at base of index finger (base of Index right against bottom of neck)- this facilitates Violin/Cello type fretting -fulcrum point is base of index at neck / fingerboard bottom .

    Guys with big hands can achieve this Violin Fingering with thumb UP (Benson/McLaughlin/EJ / etc ).
    Smaller hands like mine need to get thumb off top for the glide /speed/legato-staccatto thing.

    When younger - I never felt like there was enough fret hand support without thumb UP - but figured out late how to do it ...

    There is theoretically NO pressure at thumb to play lines and nearly zero pressure at thumb needed for chords .

    I can play very fluently , professionally ,floating thumb behind neck - it was a 'gateway ' for me to' widen 'my fret hand to 5 fret span rather than a barely 4 fret span .

    But OP can use it for 'Thumb Freedom ' lol.

    Thumb is a reference gauge - NOT 50% of a clamp .

    Just a few % for stability of front of hand which does all the work .

    Hilary Hahn - Historic amazing Violin Virtuoso does not even appear to have big forearm on her left hand -

    But watch - no pressure from thumb - just support .
    Last edited by Robertkoa; 05-10-2019 at 08:47 AM.

  11. #10

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    Quote Originally Posted by Robertkoa
    Float thumb behind neck.

    Anchor fret hand at base of index finger.

    There is theoretically NO pressure at thumb to play lines and nearly zero pressure at thumb needed for chords .

    Thumb is a reference gauge - NOT 50% of a clamp .
    agree with this totally. I used to get terrible cramp in my thumbs (the bit between thumb and palm.) They always felt like they were permanently cold, and id always try and warm them on a cup of tea before playing.

    I saw a specialist who showed me some quite painful massage techniques which helped to get rid of the knots and loosen them up again.

    but yeah it drew my attention to how much pressure I was using and I was surprised that you can play perfectly without any pressure from the thumb, just using the weight of your arm as mention above. (i think double bass players do this? as that requires real force)

    the hardest thing is getting it into your playing, so i tried to practice with my thumb just floating and brushing the neck.

  12. #11
    Thanks everyone, the tips are much appreciated. Hopefully I can figure this out to get playing at least a bit again!

  13. #12

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    Quote Originally Posted by iainduncan
    Thanks everyone, the tips are much appreciated. Hopefully I can figure this out to get playing at least a bit again!
    Ian Duncan - that name sounds like you are already famous - you might even play better than before....

  14. #13
    Nope, I can assure you I'm not famous! Just a sax player in victoria bc who likes to hack on piano and guitar as secondaries. :-)