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Thumb Over Grip

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(@rsadler)
Reputable Member
Joined: 20 years ago
Posts: 210
Topic starter  

I'm currently working on my E-Shape and A-Shape bar cords. Normally I keep my thumb completely behind the neck and bar with my index finger only. I've seen videos of people (SRV, Hendrix) that use a thumb over the top and bar the low E and A strings with the thumb, and index finger for the rest. I'm just curious if it's a common technique used by many players, or one of those bad habits that just works for some. Is it ok to do it this way?


   
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(@trguitar)
Famed Member
Joined: 18 years ago
Posts: 3709
 

Yes .... yes ...... and it depends upon who here you ask ..... In that order. :lol:

Seriously though, alot of players do it, no I don't think its correct but some have no issue doing it and depending, you may get endorsements for it and cautions against it on this forum.

"Work hard, rock hard, eat hard, sleep hard,
grow big, wear glasses if you need 'em."
-- The Webb Wilder Credo --


   
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(@alangreen)
Member
Joined: 22 years ago
Posts: 5342
 

I find the problem with having the thumb over the top of the neck is that you have to reach a heck of a long way round the neck to get your fingers onto the strings, and as as result it really screws up your playing. The finger bends at the middle knuckle, limiting finger movement.

The thinner neck of an electric guitar means the problem is reduced somewhat, but, as you say, the second you go for a fully barred E or A-shape chord the thumb dives round the back of the neck to get that shape down properly.

"Be good at what you can do" - Fingerbanger"
I have always felt that it is better to do what is beautiful than what is 'right'" - Eliot Fisk
Wedding music and guitar lessons in Essex. Listen at: http://www.rollmopmusic.co.uk


   
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(@fleaaaaaa)
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Joined: 21 years ago
Posts: 680
 

I use it...... but I am a massive Hendrix fan and I wanted to play his stuff and some of what he does only really works with the thumb over the top. It's not a bad technique or bad habit and I don't do it all the time but I also use my thumb to mute the low E string a lot of the time and if you are bending.... you're going to stick your thumb over the top for that grip and push.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=e-OK7sS855M&feature=related

Above is a video of Satriani doing surfing with the alien live and when he starts the main melody..... which involves a lot of bending, guess where his thumb goes.

together we stand, divided we fall..........


   
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(@notes_norton)
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Joined: 16 years ago
Posts: 1497
 

I tried it and it didn't work for me. It slowed down my changes to some other chords. YMMV

Bob "Notes" Norton

Owner, Norton Music http://www.nortonmusic.com Add-on Styles for Band-in-a-Box and Microsoft SongSmith

The Sophisticats http://www.s-cats.com >^. .^< >^. .^<


   
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 Crow
(@crow)
Honorable Member
Joined: 15 years ago
Posts: 549
 

If you have Satriani's chops, you can put your thumb wherever you want.

I'd say make it a habit of keeping the thumb in its "proper" position, on the back of the neck, then learn when & how to use the thumb the "improper" way when it's needed.

"You can't write a chord ugly enough to say what you want to say sometimes, so you have to rely on a giraffe filled with whipped cream." - Frank Zappa


   
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(@fleaaaaaa)
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Joined: 21 years ago
Posts: 680
 

What if I have Hendrix's chops down? Then am I allowed to put my thumb where I want?

Oh what the heck, I will grant it for myself

- ta da -

I now have permission to put my thumb where wherever I want.

together we stand, divided we fall..........


   
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(@rsadler)
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Joined: 20 years ago
Posts: 210
Topic starter  

I guess it wouldn't hurt to learn both ways. The reason I asked is I was checking out the guy's lessons at Steviesnacks.com and that's the way he teaches, but then again all his focus is geared towards doing things exactly as Stevie Ray Vaughn did.


   
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(@trguitar)
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Joined: 18 years ago
Posts: 3709
 

If you have Satriani's chops, you can put your thumb wherever you want.

I'd say make it a habit of keeping the thumb in its "proper" position, on the back of the neck, then learn when & how to use the thumb the "improper" way when it's needed.
Joe's chops? Close but not quite .... :lol:

I get away with it, don't realize I'm doing it, so ....... My opinion/advice? Learn the right way, then when you can play, If you look down and see you are doing it? Don't worry.

"Work hard, rock hard, eat hard, sleep hard,
grow big, wear glasses if you need 'em."
-- The Webb Wilder Credo --


   
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 Cat
(@cat)
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Joined: 16 years ago
Posts: 1224
 

Eventually you'll play your guitar in all unorthodox ways without even thinking about it. Don't sweat WHAT you need to do to your hands to hold a chord...just so long as it sounds right. Geez, Hendrix had the longest "thumb-over" I've ever seen. Don't worry about it, kid. So long as the notes come out right...who cares?

Cat

"Feel what you play...play what you feel!"


   
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(@liontable)
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Joined: 14 years ago
Posts: 146
 

From ,what I see, it's recommended to use it when you're doing heavy bending/vibrato because of the control it gives you. Otherwise it'll limit your reach and speed while playing, but that only really matters if you can't play it while using the thumb over. I alternate between them constantly, depending on what I'm playing. Satch switches quite often too during the clip, when he needs a better reach.

"Correct technique" makes things a lot easier to play for most people, and it'll be needed to do some things (very technical pieces), but aside from that: if it sounds good and you can play it, it's fine.


   
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(@fleaaaaaa)
Prominent Member
Joined: 21 years ago
Posts: 680
 

I have to admit my thumb is over the neck a lot of the time - when playing most open chords it feels less awkward to have it up there, obviously it moves when barre chords and power chords or stretches or faster lines come into play.... but if it feels natural over the top and isn't affecting what I am doing I don't see what it matters.

Remember the people who shaped what guitar "technique" is today were blues guys, who were probably more than a bit unconventional.

together we stand, divided we fall..........


   
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 Cat
(@cat)
Noble Member
Joined: 16 years ago
Posts: 1224
 

Adler...and all. Here's one I use all the time and is IMPOSSIBLE to play right without your thumb hooked over the neck...it's a G5th. If you try to barre it you'll plink out the open G string.

3 5 5 0 3 3

Thumb Over,Ring, Pinky, OPEN, First, First.

Refer to RAIN and PAPERBACK WRITER...that's where I learned it longer ago than I care to admit! :shock:

Cat

"Feel what you play...play what you feel!"


   
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(@fleaaaaaa)
Prominent Member
Joined: 21 years ago
Posts: 680
 

The last time I posted in this thread I went to see who does what I do when playing open chords - which is putting the thumb over the top - not because I am using it to fret a note - but because it''s more comfortable. These people include:

Sir Paul McCartney
Ed Sheeran
Evan Dando (The Lemonheads)
Ray LaMontagne
Bob Dylan
David Gilmour
Eric Clapton

Hmm, seems I'm in good company

together we stand, divided we fall..........


   
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(@liontable)
Estimable Member
Joined: 14 years ago
Posts: 146
 

I wouldn't compare with famous musicians to see which technique is optimal. If it works for you, it obviously works, but that doesn't mean it's the optimal way to do it. Jimmy Hendrix had horrible technique in some ways (and I use him as an example because you love him). Not because he did something "wrong" or because it sucked, but simply because many other people wouldn't be able to do the same things he did. "Correct technique" isn't an absolute standard that the music police will enforce, it's simply the easiest way for most people to do something.

Django managed to play the guitar while using only 2 fingers most of the time, due to his injury. He did it and managed, it isn't impossible, but it simply isn't a good idea for most people or their goals. You can perfectly play the guitar while having a few handicaps, but some people can get away with more than another. Economy of movement and control are central in function of pure technique. Many techniques feel awkward if learned differently, but after practicing them for long enough they start to feel natural too.

It's about choice, however. Do you want, or need, a more efficient technique to play what you want? If what you have is enough, it doesn't really matter. Otherwise, you look for what is optimal in terms of movement, tension and control. Thumb over neck gives a lot of control, but diminishes your freedom of hand movement. I agree with both Cat and Crow on this one.


   
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