Hello all,

I am still pretty new to Guitar (8 months in), and as far as I can understand, using your thumb over the neck to fret strings is a big "no no" when it comes to good technique. I am well aware of Hendrix and countless of other guitarists doing this, but this seems always to be the conclusion from threads about thumb placement and from guitar teachers.

I am really into finger picking folk songs, and I very often come across having to fret low the e-string for an F base note (hope that makes sense). So with proper technique I have to do a normal F barre chord, however, the more complex finger picking songs I get into, the more ineffective this seems to be.

Especially if you are finger picking very fast and just have to get that F for one single note, it seems almost impossible to barre it so quickly and return back to the open chord shape.

I would really like your thoughts on this - is this folk style possible with "proper" technique? Here is an example of the style (using the thumb over the neck):

Last edited by dscheche at Jan 28, 2012,
Unlike some others I have no problem with using the thumb over the neck; it has a use and as long as you're not trying to do silly shreddy stretch ideas or wide chords then there's no harm in doing so. It also frees up fingers for the Hendrix style of play so it definitely has a purpose.
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Yeah, there's no problem with using the thumb for bass notes when it makes sense. Each posture has it's advantages and disadvantages. Equally there are some chord forms that are impossible with the thumb over the neck. My views in detail are here - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZcIZaZthqbg

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JfBSIe3SKdE - you can even end up using the thumb on the fretboard.
Thanks Zaphod. Very informative video Freepower, nice to see someone actually explain the strengths and weaknesses, instead of just saying: "it's bad technique, period" or "do whatever feels comfortable". I think too on an acoustic that there are some finger picked songs, like "Don't Think Twice" by Bob Dylan that would be impossible to play properly using the thumb behind the neck.

Can see that you are in Dublin too, may I ask what your experience is and what you base your knowledge on? Just out of curiosity.

Thanks for the help.
Last edited by dscheche at Jan 29, 2012,
I'm a professional guitar teacher, with a wide variety of teaching experience. I have a dipLCM in Electric Guitar teaching and I've studied with world class guitarists.

My knowledge is based off about 8 years of being absolutely obsessed with the guitar, my teacher's research into the correct posture of the hand, a very basic knowledge of anatomy, and my analysis of every really good guitar player I've seen. A few of the specific contrasts between baseball bat/classical are information that Jamie Andreas has on her website, and things I learnt studying with Martin Goulding.

If you're interested in learning to fingerpick really well in Dublin I'd strongly recommend contacting Alan Grundy here - http://www.thedublinschoolofguitar.com/

He's a classical guy but he's not a classical snob - he's an excellent teacher and I study with him myself.
Using your thumb to fret notes is considered verboten in classical style guitar, but when it comes to other genres, it is perfectly acceptable. As you have discovered, it becomes a handy tool to use.

I'm using the following Stephan Grossman version of this song as an example, because there are other videos on Youtube where players like Johnny Winter and RL Burnside also use their thumbs. The low E string bassline can be played using the index finger, but by using the thumb, it makes it quite more efficient.
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