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 db1
(@db1)
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Joined: 14 years ago
Posts: 10
Topic starter  

Alright i flat out can't figure out where my thumb (fretting hand) should be. I've been playing with my thumb on the fattest part of the neck, perpendicular to the neck, so that the tip of the thumb is just barely visible from the other side - and there's a gap of about half an inch between the bottom of the neck and the kind of webbing between my thumb and index finger like this . But this kind of hurts my muscle at the base of my thumb since i know im pressing too hard, which im trying to avoid. But everyone i see has their thumb up higher, so that the webbing between the thumb and index finger is touching the back of the neck, like this . I find that when i do it this way, the 1st string is usually muted because the very bottom of my index finger is touching it.

so where should my thumb be? in the back like im doing it now or higher up with my thumb grasping the neck like i see everyone else doing? i dont get why i cant avoid muting that first string when im doing it the latter way....

help?
thanks


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(@noteboat)
Famed Member
Joined: 19 years ago
Posts: 4933
 

In the first picture you're in the right place, but using the wrong part of your thumb. Put your thumb FLAT against the neck (but still pointed 'up'). The way you're holding it, using more of the tip of the thumb, you're putting strain on the muscles at the base of your thumb in the palm of your hand.

The people you see holding the guitar as in picture 2, the "baseball bat" grip, are either doing big bends and want the leverage, they have huge hands and are able to arch their fingers properly anyway, or they don't know any better.

Guitar teacher offering lessons in Plainfield IL


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(@dogbite)
Illustrious Member
Joined: 17 years ago
Posts: 6353
 

when I form barre chords my thumb is also flat against the neck. however, I find better leverage and control when my thumb points towards the headstock...sort of parallel with the neck; not pointing up at all.

I have noticed most beginners fret right on top of the fret. fret behind the wire.

http://www.soundclick.com/bands/pagemusic.cfm?bandID=644552
http://www.soundclick.com/couleerockinvaders


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(@noteboat)
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Joined: 19 years ago
Posts: 4933
 

Pointing the thumb towards the peghead also requires large hands. Try it: in any position, plant your first three fingers on the fretboard, and see how far you can reach your pinky... then point your thumb the other way, and try again.

I haven't seen a player yet who could reach farther with the thumb pointed at the peghead. Doing it that way brings the base of your pinky closer to the fretboard, cutting down the available angles for extending.

If you've got big hands it might not make a difference - but average hands (like mine) always benefit from the extra quarter inch or so.

Guitar teacher offering lessons in Plainfield IL


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 db1
(@db1)
Active Member
Joined: 14 years ago
Posts: 10
Topic starter  

Youre totally right about me putting stress on the base of my thumb...but what do you mean by putting my thumb flat against the neck?

-d


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(@dogbite)
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Joined: 17 years ago
Posts: 6353
 

the picture of your thumb shows it touching the neck with the tip. laying flat means that it is not arched, as in our pic, and extemnded flat or touching along the whole length of the thumb.

as for having the thumb aimed at the headstock...you actually have more extention rather than less with the pinky.
here's how I hold my guitar neck when making full barre chords:
stick your left hand out in a fist.
now stick out your thumb like you would when hitching for a ride.
next stand the fingers upwards like a line of soldiers.
place the guitar neck in the hand.
where does your thumb aim? towards the headstock.
where are your fingers?
lying across the strings with good and relaxed extention.
you require less pressure against the neck.
you have better leverage AND the pinky shoots out towards the right.

this is how I was taught. I believe it is the superior method, but then to each their own.

http://www.soundclick.com/bands/pagemusic.cfm?bandID=644552
http://www.soundclick.com/couleerockinvaders


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 db1
(@db1)
Active Member
Joined: 14 years ago
Posts: 10
Topic starter  

so ive been trying to put my whole thumb flat against the back of the neck with the thumb pointed up (as opposed to towards the headstock...i find i get a lot less flexibility that way). but i keep having the 1st string muted because its touching the very base of my index finger (where the finger meets the palm). i dont have fat fingers or anything so i can't figure out why this keeps happening but its ridiclously frustrating.

so if i play my old way with the tip of the thumb in the middle of the back of the neck, then the base of my thumb kills me. if i play this new way, i mute the 1st string.
someone kill me....or give me some advice, or a picture of proper thumb and hand positioning..... either one


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(@davidhodge)
Member Moderator
Joined: 14 years ago
Posts: 4485
 

It's not the whole thumb you want to have flat. It may look like it (and it does vary slightly from chord to chord), but it's just the part between the knuckle to about where the thumbnail starts. The tip of your thumb should then be naturally sitting along the neck.

Try this - take a piece of paper and without thinking about it pick it up with your fretting hand and turn it over so that you can see your thumb. You're not really pressing it flat into the paper, you're simply holding it in place. You should even be able to slide the around, feeling the paper only between the knuckle (actually slightly above)and the base of the thumbnail. You won't be feeling the paper with the tip at all, or even where most of the thumbprint is.

This sort of instruction is very difficult to do simply via the written word. Much easier for a teacher or even a friend to show you first hand. But I hope this helps and, if not, we'll just keep trying to come up with a better explanation.

Peace


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(@mercury187)
Eminent Member
Joined: 14 years ago
Posts: 38
 

After reading the original post either way could technically be correct based on what your playing, if I'm playing a d chord I use my thumb to mute the low E and A strings but if I'm playing something that I could mute with a finger I have my thumb farther back like the first picture but maybe not that far back, far enough back/behind on the neck so its not muting strings, its not giving me any stress or anything either, I just kind of do what feels natural to me. Does thumb position affect how fast you can change chords or anything like that?


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(@davidhodge)
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Joined: 14 years ago
Posts: 4485
 

Ideally the thumb follows along with the fingers and, if things are going very well, you're not even thinking twice about where it goes. Again, use the piece of paper example - your thumb just does what it does.

When you're playing it's the fingers that should determine where the thumb falls. When you're starting out and you're worried about everything, this is, pardon the pun, kind of hard to grasp. Get the fingers set first. Let the thumb fall where it does. It's not there to hold the guitar - it's there to keep you from pushing the guitar into your chest.

As you get more comfortable with making chords and your fingers know where they should go, you get to cheat on them a little more. For instance, I'll tell students that they shouldn't feel the edge of the neck of the guitar (closest to the floor) along their palm at all. Why? Because for them it usually means they're not arching their fingers and getting the best part of the tips on the strings. But more experienced players can do this because they've gotten into the habit of good finger position first.

Peace


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(@dogbite)
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Joined: 17 years ago
Posts: 6353
 

Ideally the thumb follows along with the fingers and, if things are going very well, you're not even thinking twice about where it goes. Again, use the piece of paper example - your thumb just does what it does.

When you're playing it's the fingers that should determine where the thumb falls. When you're starting out and you're worried about everything, this is, pardon the pun, kind of hard to grasp. Get the fingers set first. Let the thumb fall where it does. It's not there to hold the guitar - it's there to keep you from pushing the guitar into your chest.

As you get more comfortable with making chords and your fingers know where they should go, you get to cheat on them a little more. For instance, I'll tell students that they shouldn't feel the edge of the neck of the guitar (closest to the floor) along their palm at all. Why? Because for them it usually means they're not arching their fingers and getting the best part of the tips on the strings. But more experienced players can do this because they've gotten into the habit of good finger position first.

Peace
now this is good advice.

http://www.soundclick.com/bands/pagemusic.cfm?bandID=644552
http://www.soundclick.com/couleerockinvaders


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 db1
(@db1)
Active Member
Joined: 14 years ago
Posts: 10
Topic starter  

wow that holding the paper thing is actually really useful. so i'm using that as a reference point, putting my thumb a little more flat against the neck with the very tip (about 1/3 of an inch) of my thumb above the top of the neck. so far the base of my thumb is in a lot less pain and im not muting strings quite as much.

thanks for all your help everyone, now on to working on speeding up my chord changes...

dan


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(@mercury187)
Eminent Member
Joined: 14 years ago
Posts: 38
 

dhodge: when I started playing again after taking a good number of years off I wasn't concerned with where my thumb went at all, I just made the chords and never thought anything about thumb placement until I read this post. When I first started playing with my first teacher, I remember he was pretty picky about thumb placement... Now I just do what feels naturally and only make adjustments when I accidentally mute the high e


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(@wes-inman)
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Joined: 19 years ago
Posts: 5599
 

db1

Not to disagree with anybody here, because there is nothing written in stone for thumb position, but I agree with Dogbite on the "hitchhiking thumb". And the reason I highly recommend that is because you stated you felt some pain in your thumb with the thumb perpendicular to the neck. I can absolutely relate to this, for years I had tremendous pain in my thumb. I had learned to play with the thumb in the perpendicular position. This condition caused me pain even when I wasn't playing. It was when I switched to the hitchhiking thumb that I finally found a way to play without pain. That was quite a few years ago, and I have not had any problems with my thumb since then. But you can cause a real injury with improper thumb position.

Here is a picture I've posted dozens of times, showing the "hitchhiking thumb" Dogbite spoke of:

Now, that said, your thumb will not always be in this position. When I play an open D or G Major chord my thumb comes up perpendicular. But in general, for most chords (especially barre chords), the hitchhiking thumb is best IMHO.

If you know something better than Rock and Roll, I'd like to hear it - Jerry Lee Lewis


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(@dogbite)
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Joined: 17 years ago
Posts: 6353
 

thanks Wes. the picture is perfect, as it shows how I place my hands to form barre chords.
and it is true, that my thumb does shift from that position. I find extreme control and comfort when I play barres this way.
I also employ the thumb over when making open chords, partial chords, and shape moving chords.

http://www.soundclick.com/bands/pagemusic.cfm?bandID=644552
http://www.soundclick.com/couleerockinvaders


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