Thumb Placement

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Thumb Placement

Post by gkoserjr » January 25th, 2007, 5:52 pm

Am new to the guitar and just learning some chords , is there a certain placement for the thumb on the neck or is this just a matter of preference? Any help would be greatly apreciated.

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Post by Vic Lewis VL » January 25th, 2007, 6:03 pm

middle of the neck is good for absolute beginners....later on, you might want to try experimenting....but for now, get it right plumb smack in the middle of the neck......

Don't worry if it happens to drift up towards the bottom E string - the top of the fretboard as you're looking at it - that happens, just try and concentrate for now on the "correct" placement....

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Post by Nexion » January 25th, 2007, 6:18 pm

You want your thumb to be behind the neck (not hanging over) going parallel to the frets (up and down). It should probably be opposite of your middle finger, to give you the best position for maximum pressure.
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Post by gkoserjr » January 25th, 2007, 6:20 pm

Thanks for the info Guys. will try to keep in the middle and parallel to the frets..sounds like a plan. thanks again

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Post by dogbite » January 25th, 2007, 7:39 pm

yup. hold your hand out as in hitchhiking. instead of a fist with thumb out cup your hand with thumb out.
now grab the guitar. that is the hold. great for those upcoming barre chords.
keep relaxed. let your hand slide along the neck; your fingers should be free to hit the notes and not grip the neck so much.
have at it.

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Post by clockworked » January 25th, 2007, 7:44 pm

The barre chords, as dogbite mentioned, are really the only things I've found that benefit from having your thumb placed directly behind the neck.

Teachers love to harp on having your finger directly behind the neck, but teachers have years of experience and expertise and so it's easy to ignore them.

Personally, I think it's kind of a personal preference thing.. being able to hit notes on the bottom E string with your thumb gives you one more fretting finger, so there are advantages to having your thumb hang over the top of the fretboard.
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Post by NoteBoat » January 25th, 2007, 8:50 pm

Nah, it's not just barre chords. Yeah, I'm a teacher with years of experience, so feel free to ignore me :)

The reason the 'rules' of fingering developed is because that's what works best for the average Joe. 90% of guitarists (or more) would benefit from keeping the thumb behind the neck most of the time.

For barre chords it gives you definate leverage. For bent notes it doesn't - so if you're doing only blues, thumb over can make sense.

But the real benefit isn't leverage - it's reach. With my thumb behind the neck, I can extend my pinky two more frets than when I have thumb over. That puts a lot more notes at your disposal.

One other benefit to keeping the thumb behind the neck is that it gives you an 'anchor point' - something that lets you know exactly what position you're in at any given moment. If I'm playing in an 'easy' position, where all the notes are naturally under my fingers, my thumb is between my index and middle finger, slightly closer to the middle finger. From that point I can easily reach a fret (or even two) towards the peghead without moving my thumb, and I can stretch two frets out of position with the pinky. But whichever way I'm stretching, I know exactly where "home base" is - if I have thumb over, my hand may slide a bit when I stretch, putting me out of position.
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Post by Jay1 » January 26th, 2007, 5:10 am

I was going to post this exact same question. I think i've gotten into bad habits. Mostly my thumb will be over the neck but recently i've often noticed it running along the line of the neck, which i'm sure is not good as I seem to be making no progress whatsoever.

I am now going right back to basics and trying to play with my thumb sqarely behind the neck. It's difficult and I keep drifting back into my bad habits but i'm working on it.

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Post by mordeth » January 26th, 2007, 6:09 am

Personally I use a healthy blend of the two, but thats probally because I never had lessons.
For open chords thumb goes over the neck, for barre chords it goes behind
riffs and bends thumb goes over, for soloing or any scalar type runs (think crazy train intro) it goes behind
this works well for me and i really cant see any advantage in changing it
i guess what im saying is, if it works for you then it's right for you.
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Post by Alan Green » January 26th, 2007, 6:49 am

mordeth wrote:Personally I use a healthy blend of the two...if it works for you then it's right for you.
Fanatical overadherence to either method is not a good idea, but if what you're doing involves any amount of learning then starting that learning with the thumb in the back of the neck will make it easier to get it playing right; then you can drift off into other hand positions depending on what comes before and after and how comfortable it all is.


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Post by racetruck1 » January 26th, 2007, 4:33 pm

When you place your thumb parallel with the frets and in the middle of the neck it really "opens" up your reach, try lining up your thumb parallel with the neck and see how your reach "closes up". Having your thumb parallel with the frets makes it much easier for stretchy chords or runs. Think fifth to sixth progressions. (Born to be Wild, Revolution...etc) It's a good habit to get into, but I also like to sneak my thumb over the top to fret the E string!

This is also the reason I like to wear my guitar higher up on my body, it makes it easier to place my thumb in the right position. Not as cool as it being low slung, but I play better this way! If the guitar is at my knees, my thumb has a tendency to line up with the neck and my playing gets harder.

Also when my thumb is in the back of the neck in the proper place, my fingertips come straight down on the neck and it is easier to get a cleaner sound as versus having them leaning over and possibly touching other strings. Also, I have small hands and it is almost impossible for me to play a thick neck guitar unless I do this.
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