Magazine article Guitar Player

Perfecting Your Thumb Technique

Magazine article Guitar Player

Perfecting Your Thumb Technique

Article excerpt

The thumb is not given enough pedagogical emphasis early enough in most players' development. If you consider that your thumb functions in some way similar to a pianist's left hand, it becomes clear that the thumb needs to be well developed.

The thumb works in contrary motion to i, m, and a; it strokes out, while the fingers stroke into the palm of the hand. We play primarily from the first joint of p--that is, from the connecting joint to the wrist. As with i, m, and a, it is essential to know exactly where in the thumbnail you are stroking the string. In general this should be on the side of the nail; you want to stroke down and across the other strings. The downward stroke should not be so extreme that you constantly hit the A string. If this occurs, modify the stroke a bit. After you stroke the string, release the energy and return to the string, avoiding a big, circular motion.

One major pitfall when playing with p alone is the tendency to tense the other fingers. As you play Ex. 1, a simple phrase executed entirely with the thumb, allow i, m, a, and the pinky to be as loose as possible. Feel the stroke occurring from the connecting joint and try not to tense the large muscle underneath p, which can interfere with speed and accuracy.

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Another common problem is the tendency to move the thumb closer into the palm as p ascends to higher strings. Not only does this cause excess tension, but the point of attack changes from string to string and the line becomes uneven. …

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