The Jazz Guitar Chord Dictionary
  1. #1

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    Any thumb players have any good exercises or drills for picking ?

    Thank you!!!!


    The Jazz Guitar Chord Dictionary
  3. #2

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    Short answer:
    Just playing exercises or drills (which might be great for plectrum picking) may be of little value for thumb playing unless you include a sense of mapping out the vocabulary/execution relationships.

    Long answer:
    In the plectrum pick world, the general idea seems like developing an "everything anywhere, anything everywhere" kind of technique of fingering the left hand, with development of the right hand mechanics as an eventual potentially universal solution of a transparent facility that will satisfy whatever the left hand might request. At least I play like that with a pick; I drive my playing from the left hand and my right hand picking does what's required without any thought about it.

    The source of all thumb playing technique is probably Wes for jazz guitarists. For most of us that use our thumb (sometimes) the octaves and the chords are pretty straight forward. It is the single note lines and double stops that really need to be investigated.

    Wes' solution is more like an optimization strategy, and an experienced guitarist can hear something of it in his playing, and can verify it watching how he plays. With the guitar offering multiple places to produce the same pitches, he is staging his left hand fingering on the finger board so that phrases, licks, lines, and motifs are best fingered for the thumb and they end with left hand placement best set up for starting the next thing. One of the results of this strategy is an apparent abundance of movement up and down the neck, but he is saving precious time and preserving speed by always using the particular fingerings and position shifts that best suit the movement of the thumb.

    That approach would tend to make musical ideas have to include their best way to express them with the thumb, and if so, then the finger board might be viewed not just the set of possible pitches, but thumb friendly left hand fingering connections between those pitches. I imagine when practicing he spent countless hours mapping out the relationships between jazz vocabulary and the mechanics of where and how to execute best for favoring the thumb.

  4. #3

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    Thank you and I see that as great advice down the line and a bit past the level I'm at (beginner).

    I was looking for drills, exercises, etc to try and build up speed, upstroke technique, etc. Really don't seem to see much on the topic.

    Thank you for your insight!

  5. #4

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    I was too young to see Wes live, but 2 of my mentors, Carmen Caramanica and John Abercrombie, did. They both told me that it was all downstrokes on the single note lines. Maybe an occasional upstroke triplet flourish, but nothing at all like Pat Martino style alternate picking.

    I don't know if there's a particular method book or anything geared toward playing with the thumb. I made the switch from pick to thumb maybe 15 years ago, I'd already been playing for a number of years, so it was a matter of just trial and error, certain lines and fingerings sounded better than others , so eventually I learned to avoid the things that didn't lay as well (much like in pauln's detailed explanation)

    I'm not against exploring method books in general, but even as a beginner I think there's value in developing your own exercises. Are there points in your playing where the thumb 'works'? What can you do to bring more of that into your playing? Points where thumb playing falls apart? Can you isolate a technical stumbling block, and devise a 2-3-4 note pattern to slow down and repeat?

    Best wishes for your music!