#1
My guitar teacher talked about not having to use your thumb on the back of the neck, putting it on the neck because it exists and to kinda anchor if standing up and moving, but not HAVING to have it on the back of the neck to play. I want to do everything I can to avoid tendinitis.
#2
Personally, I think your thumb should always be on the back of the neck except in these circumstances:
1. Vibrato (over the neck helps for stability and consistency)
2. Bending (over the neck provides more leverage)
3. A few certain chords where your thumb is required to fret the low E string.
4. You have monstrously huge hands, and playing with your thumb behind the neck is practically impossible.
Quote by Geldin
Junior's usually at least a little terse, but he knows his stuff. I've always read his posts in a grouchy grandfather voice, a grouchy grandfather with a huge stiffy for alternate picking.
Besides that, he's right this time. As usual.
#3
My teacher taght me to getmy hand like all the way aroundthe neck, get the back of the neck right in the palm of your hand. Not super great for some chord shapes but awesome for lead work.
#4
Quote by Junior#1

3. A few certain chords where your thumb is required to fret the low E string.


I know this is just subjective, but there are no chords that require this. If you want to play some this way, it's all right, but it's never required.

Quote by kid meatball
My teacher taght me to getmy hand like all the way aroundthe neck, get the back of the neck right in the palm of your hand. Not super great for some chord shapes but awesome for lead work.


I think it's the worst grip you can have for lead work. Completely cripples your reach and causes tension.

Quote by Nerdbiscuit
My guitar teacher talked about not having to use your thumb on the back of the neck, putting it on the neck because it exists and to kinda anchor if standing up and moving, but not HAVING to have it on the back of the neck to play. I want to do everything I can to avoid tendinitis.


I think in 99% of the cases having your thumb planted on the back of the neck is simply better in terms of technique and ergonomy. Keep your wrist straight and your muscles relaxed to minimize the risk of injury.
Quote by Jet Penguin
Theory: Not rules, just tools.

Quote by Hail
*note that by fan i mean that guy who wants his friends to know he knows this totally obscure hip band that only he knows about with 236 views on youtube. lookin' at Kev here
#5
Quote by Kevätuhri
I know this is just subjective, but there are no chords that require this. If you want to play some this way, it's all right, but it's never required.

I think you're wrong. How about an Fmaj7 across all 6 strings?
133210 , fingering T 3 4 2 1 0
How can you play that without using your thumb? ok, I guess you'll say you leave a note out, use a different voicing, but I think Junior#1 meant chords using a specific voicing like that.

Apart from that I agree with you and him about having your thumb on the back of the neck, it's definitely better in most instances, vibrato and bending being good examples of exceptions.
#6
NSpen1

To be honest I've never seen that Fmaj7 shape and personally use 132211 or simply 1x221x. I'm sure you can come up with shapes that require the thumb, but I don't think there is ever a situation where you absolutely need to do that, you can always play a voicing that sounds similar but does not use the thumb. None of the "standard" chord shapes need the thumb on the low E.
Quote by Jet Penguin
Theory: Not rules, just tools.

Quote by Hail
*note that by fan i mean that guy who wants his friends to know he knows this totally obscure hip band that only he knows about with 236 views on youtube. lookin' at Kev here
#7
Ah, but it sounds much nicer with the E played at the top of the voicing with the open string
You can also move the shape up like 355430 , 577650 etc and get some cool voicings you wouldn't be able to play without using your thumb.
And, no it's not required but a full D/F# 200232 - way easier to play using the thumb than not. Funnily enough I never used to like using my thumb for fretting chords, but more recently have got a bit into doing it.
#8
But you could just play it like 1x3210 or 13x210 easily, and if you're bothered by the missing extra 5th or the octave, I'd say we're delving into nitpickery And those other voicings sound nice in certain contexts but they're hardly a reason to start using thumb over neck - if you want to use them anyway, that is fine, but that's why I said it's subjective. Not to even mention that you could just play 5x7650 as well

As to that D shape, it's so, so much easier to play without the thumb, at least to me. And if you want a full D (you can quote me on this) you could just play 557775, sounds as full and rich as the open position if you practice your barre chords properly.
Quote by Jet Penguin
Theory: Not rules, just tools.

Quote by Hail
*note that by fan i mean that guy who wants his friends to know he knows this totally obscure hip band that only he knows about with 236 views on youtube. lookin' at Kev here
#10
Quote by Kevätuhri
But you could just play it like 1x3210 or 13x210 easily, and if you're bothered by the missing extra 5th or the octave, I'd say we're delving into nitpickery And those other voicings sound nice in certain contexts but they're hardly a reason to start using thumb over neck - if you want to use them anyway, that is fine, but that's why I said it's subjective. Not to even mention that you could just play 5x7650 as well

As to that D shape, it's so, so much easier to play without the thumb, at least to me. And if you want a full D (you can quote me on this) you could just play 557775, sounds as full and rich as the open position if you practice your barre chords properly.

Well, get ready for nitpickery No, I'll try not to do it too much, different strokes for different folks as they say, but what fingering would you use for the chords 1x3210, 13x210, 5x7650 ?
1 4 3 2 or 2 4 3 1 ?
I can't find anything half as easy as using the thumb. And you should have said just play x07650 for the A chord, that works best

How would you finger 200232? Or do you mean you'd just leave out the bass note? (And I do prefer the open D/F# to the 5th fret D/A that you give.)
#11
Quote by Tony Done
kid meatball

Respectfully that sounds like really, really bad advice to me. There is a good reason while musical genres that utilise lead lines and scales, eg classical, metal, latin, have the thumb on the back of the neck.


All that's great, but there's a ton of good ways to play guitar. I wouldn't be so quick to call it bad advice.

ETA: check out how BB King or Jimi Hendrix grab the neck. Hard to argue with those two.
Last edited by kid meatball at Jan 13, 2017,
#13
Tony Done

He could play Jimi, BB, SRV, all manner of greats. I'll take his advice and pass it on. It worked for me, it might work for you.

Look, there's nothing wrong with the techniques you are taking about. They hve their place. All I'm saying is look at what others do and come to your own decision.
#14
I demonstrated the "no thumb" thing to a student of mine this week, and the purpose is to show how the force comes from leveraging your arm's weight rather than squeezing the neck. The thumb is there for stability, and it provides a small amount of pressure/counterbalance in that capacity, but beyond that it should be all from the fingers.

As for some thumb techniques....

1) thumb-over is fine for some circumstances, but I certainly don't think it's good for general use. It puts pressure on weird places and limits your reach considerably. Keeping the thumb loosely planted on the back of the neck, with the palm beneath the fretboard gives you them most relaxed and useful grip for general playing. Just don't keep your hand entirely in front of the neck. The wrist should be relatively flat.

2) Unless you go out of your way to play a lot of music that requires thumb fretting, it's just not a technique you're going to use often, if ever. There's no point in keeping your thumb draped over the fretboard "just in case"

I frankly don't see why people think they have to use a particular technique all the time and use another never. The entire purpose in developing your technical abilities is to avoid making silly choices like that. You use whatever technique is the most appropriate for the moment it's needed. It's a matter of being effective in your playing. There are any number of ways to make a certain sound, and what you do depends completely on the specific sound you want and the technical demands of the music. Think of challenging music in terms of problem solving - you have a difficult thing and you figure out how to make it easy.
Last edited by cdgraves at Jan 13, 2017,
#15
General use of the thumb.

Any time you are playing chords that have roots on the A or D strings....thumb over to mute the low E. Maybe its a personal tweek but I know that is something that I do pretty much constantly. That being said I switch that around a lot also, there are a number of times (when I need reach or am playing single string) that move the thumb down, but I'm also damping right handed at that point.

There are about 50 ways to the cookie jar, I tend to be flexible to a fault (which is a reason my picking is pretty weak)

Thumb up and around or thumb down is really a style thing, much like how to hold a pick (the open/closed hand debate). Sure make the argument that closed and unanchored is the only way to the cookie jar....then watch John Petrucci rock out 16th sixtuples at two-frigging-TEN on the metronome hand open.

Play around with both and see what works.
#16
Nerdbiscuit

i feel it's more situational. Using the thumb as an anchor like Frusciante is convenient however the other way really helps with fretboard range.
Also its not 'put your thumb on the back of your neck = get guitar aids' - even guitar legends have a lot of room for error.
"ba doo doo ba doo doo ba doo daa"
- earth,wind, and fire
#17
Quote by NSpen1
Well, get ready for nitpickery No, I'll try not to do it too much, different strokes for different folks as they say, but what fingering would you use for the chords 1x3210, 13x210, 5x7650 ?
1 4 3 2 or 2 4 3 1 ?
I can't find anything half as easy as using the thumb. And you should have said just play x07650 for the A chord, that works best

How would you finger 200232? Or do you mean you'd just leave out the bass note? (And I do prefer the open D/F# to the 5th fret D/A that you give.)


Well, here we go. For the 1x3210 shape, obviously 1-4-3-2 (index on the low E, middle finger on the B). For that D-shape, 1-2-4-3. Both are very straightforward to play for me. I guess this really is a case of different strokes It's cool to see how different people play different stuff. Honestly, most of the time nowadays I use the 1x321xx or x5777x shapes since they're a lot easier for jazz but I would still say that there is no open chord shape that absolutely requires the thumb

Quote by tripped1
Any time you are playing chords that have roots on the A or D strings....thumb over to mute the low E.

Thumb up and around or thumb down is really a style thing, much like how to hold a pick (the open/closed hand debate). Sure make the argument that closed and unanchored is the only way to the cookie jar....then watch John Petrucci rock out 16th sixtuples at two-frigging-TEN on the metronome hand open.


Since comparing our individual styles is actually kind of fun, I have to point out that I mute the low E with my fretting hand index finger if required, but I can strum just fine without hitting the low E if I want to. And to be honest, I just usually play the low E string anyway as the barre shape gives you the fifth in any case except for augmented or diminished chords.

And, I actually play with an open hand, but I don't anchor closed palm makes muting and hybrid picking too awkward for me.
Quote by Jet Penguin
Theory: Not rules, just tools.

Quote by Hail
*note that by fan i mean that guy who wants his friends to know he knows this totally obscure hip band that only he knows about with 236 views on youtube. lookin' at Kev here
#18
Quote by NSpen1
what fingering would you use for the chords 1x3210, 13x210, 5x7650 ?

I'd use 1 4 3 2 for all.

How would you finger 200232?


1 2 4 3

If muting is the problem, there are right hand solutions, too. Separating the bass and chord often works better if you use your fingers instead of strumming.
#19
Thanks for the answers guys.
So I tried these chords again and can still definitely not do the 1x3210 shape with fingers 1 4 3 2, it's just too hard to be able to arch my fingers and get all the notes to sound clearly.
The problem with the D/F# is getting the F# on the highest string to sound, I surprised myself by making some progress with that but still going to stick with using my thumb!
If I'm playing Highway to Hell or Best of Both Worlds I do play a D/F# like 2x023x using fingers 1 2 & 4 but that would work with the thumb as well ...
#21
Quote by NSpen1
Thanks for the answers guys.
So I tried these chords again and can still definitely not do the 1x3210 shape with fingers 1 4 3 2, it's just too hard to be able to arch my fingers and get all the notes to sound clearly.
The problem with the D/F# is getting the F# on the highest string to sound, I surprised myself by making some progress with that but still going to stick with using my thumb!
If I'm playing Highway to Hell or Best of Both Worlds I do play a D/F# like 2x023x using fingers 1 2 & 4 but that would work with the thumb as well ...


This sounds like an overall precision issue, not a thumb placement issue. Make sure to use the tips of the fingers as much as possible, rather than the pads.
#22
Quote by Kevätuhri

Since comparing our individual styles is actually kind of fun, I have to point out that I mute the low E with my fretting hand index finger if required, but I can strum just fine without hitting the low E if I want to. And to be honest, I just usually play the low E string anyway as the barre shape gives you the fifth in any case except for augmented or diminished chords.

And, I actually play with an open hand, but I don't anchor closed palm makes muting and hybrid picking too awkward for me.


I agree on the picking part, I learned the same way hand open so I can use the entire side of the right hand to palm mute. That being said I am a LOT more consistent with the hand closed and unachored at least as long as I am playing something single string that doesn't get into the elbow. My current project is reconciling the two, there HAS to be a middle ground, and I have been making myself crazy with the metronome.

On the left I do use the thumb, particularly when I have the 7-string out both for chord work and muting depending on what I am doing. One of the things that I love with the 7 is that the extra string makes for some really neat chords and stacks of chords.....but there are a few that you need 5 fingers to actually fret. I have been taking it easy there, all of the weird stretching takes a toll on my wrist.
#23
Quote by Kevätuhri
I would still say that there is no open chord shape that absolutely requires the thumb


G7: 323031
D9: 234210

...Yeah, they're pretty fringe examples from folk/country playing. Not really necessary otherwise.

[/tuppence]
#24
I always played with my thumb over until I started taking lessons. I was then taught to try and get into the habit of playing with the pad of my thumb just over half way over the arc of the back of the neck. The best way to visualise it, is to imagine you're holding a slice of pizza. That doesn't make much sense, but in my mind it kind of does.

Adjusting where I put my thumb made certain chords so much easier, and while I agree that putting a thumb over helps with controlling bends, it's not something that should be done too often. I'm always trying to stick to the habit of having all of my fingers as close to the neck as possible (ie. not having any of them "floating" - say, if I'm fretting with my index finger), but it's hard to stick to it. If I played in styles that required fast fretwork, I would probably force myself into it, but as I mostly play riff and groove based stuff, I've fallen into something of a comfort zone.
WHOMP

Think of that next time you are not allowed to laugh.
Last edited by donender at Jan 16, 2017,