I was told it was a bad technique and a bad habit, even though some great guitarists use(d) their thumb when playing. I use it simply because I find it easier to use and it's actually really useful.
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if you find it useful then thats your personal preference, dont change how you feel comfortable playing just because someone says its not "right"
it's personal preferance. my hands are slightly too small to do that, but if yours are big enough, and its comfortable, it's not a bad thing.
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If it feels right for you then do it, I don't do it but it doesn't matter. Whatever helps you play your best.
I would guess the "rule" against fretting with your thumb probably is due to the goal of minimizing hand movement when changing chords. If you play a lot of different chord shapes, you find the SOME of them can be played in "neck strangle" form, and some of them really require the classical form. For example, see where your thumb goes when you play a G major 7th of the form E string-2nd fret, B-3rd fret, G-4th fret, D-5th fret.

So presumably the idea was, you can play every chord without your thumb, but only some of them with your thumb, and it's easiest and most efficient to be consistent. Still, some very good guitarists play a lot of chords and their hand rotates around the neck quickly and accurately. It just takes more practice to get that way.

I know from hard-knocks experience that once a "bad" habit has been thoroughly learned and drilled into muscle memory, it's a lot easier to work around it than change it.
I've been playing for 22 years and I've always fretted with my thumb. It's only a bad habit to fret the low E string with your thumb if it confuses you and slows down your chord changes. If it doesn't affect your fretting overall and you're comfortable with it then it's fine.
Alright, thanks everybody for clearing that up.
You are now using UG Black.
You are now using UG Classic.

Listening to: Coltrane

The apple always falls close to the tree, but the tree always falls on the power lines.
If it doesn't hurt your hands while playing the music notes with your thumb, there's no problem.

If you are in a studied environment like formal classical guitar, some people may wonder what you are doing. But for rock and blues music, etc., there is plenty of room for individual style.

I remember playing some Jimi Hendrix songs where he would use his thumb to hold down some notes. I remember it being more difficult to play the notes *not* using that technique.

I would consider it an option or a "trick" to use in certain isolated circumstances, but not to build an entire playing style around.
Last edited by tmcdaniels at Mar 16, 2011,
I dont think its a bad technique. With some chords, I think it is the easiest to just use your thumb. I do not use it to often but there are some chords that I will use it with.
It's really useful for certain chord forms, but the trouble is that you can't just have your thumb over the neck all the time - you have to be able to barre properly with the thumb behind the neck.


Thumb is useful, but normal fretting more useful.
I do it for a few select chords... for example... in my opinion the standard D chord sounds so much better if you fret an F# on the low E string... and that is much harder without using your thumb... it's all about what you can make work.
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I've seen a load of classical guitarists use their thumb for playing complex things.

no problem with using it. it's probably good to be able to use it effectively.
It's weird because i've never used thumb correctly. I always find easier without using it.