Hello everyone for my first post in years on UGF I would like to ask a serious question. But first I will describe the problem.

My thumbs are very double jointed, or as some may call it "Hitchiker's Thumb", where my thumbs (from the knuckle closest to the fingernail) bend backwards to exactly 90 degrees in relation to the base of my thumb. I have been playing guitar for over 13 years now and I have been aware of the problems that my thumbs pose or at least how I have compensated in ways that normal-thumbed folks don't have to do. But I have never been so curious as to ask professional or a forum or anyone about what these double jointed thumbs really mean.

My problem, unlike the few posts i searched and read about thumbs, arises not in the neck-hand thumb, but my pick-hand thumb. Imagine holding the pick gently between the index/middle fingers and the thumb, with no pressure. Now as I grasp the pick tighter, instead of my thumb being able to stay approximately straightish, it bends back and back and back untill it is 90 degrees backwards. Maybe I should submit some pictures just to show how intense this is so it can be more clearly seen how many problems arise from this condition.

When I am alternate picking like a madman for solos, or chugging on some low chords, or just about any situation, my strumming hand cannot be positioned like normal and the angle that the pick strikes the strings is less square. By this, i mean that the pick does not strike with the surface close to parallel to the strings, but closer to perpendicular so that the 'blade' of the pick is striking the strings mostly. I guess it comes in at closer to a 30 degree angle perhaps. But when my grip is tight and im tearing up a scale, that pick gets REALLY close to striking the strings perpendicularly.

Anyway, I really am starting to realize now that I am thinking about this thumb, that it is going to be a huge problem that will be slowing down my progression towards being a better guitarist. Alternate picking ridiculously fast becomes difficult because no physical effort can force my thumb to not angle stupidly, and even if i could straighten my thumb somehow with a splint or whatever the heck, I wouldnt be able to play guitar at all probably because I would be holding the pick in a completely new way and I would be learning how to do everything with the picking hand all over! Well maybe not that bad but who knows. Also my thumb can get really sore from being cocked backwards for 8 hours straight practicing arpeggios and scales hah!

Oh I have to mention that there is one fantastically good thing about this 'tard thumb... and that is magical ability that it grants me to perform pinch harmonics extremely well! This is due to the fact that, whilst bent back, the other side of the knuckle (which is now sticking outward) rests on the string i am picking. Thusly, all i have to do is press down on the string a bit and pick and I get a beautiful clear pinch harmonic, and i can play scales all pinch harmonics since they are so readily available to dispatch.

Now to the question, to any of you who either have this problem and have ideas or tips of any fashion, or any of you that are perhaps guitar instructors that may have some further knowledge of such physical anomalies:
How can I overcome the ever-increasing problematic nature of this thumb so that I may continue to progress technically as a player? Is there a specific picking technique documented for double jointed thumb strumming/picking? Are there any ways to remedy or better accommodate the problems caused by this? Any insight or experience is much appreciated, thank you!
i have the same problem in both thumbs

for alternate picking fast the side does hit more like you said but then i just angle my whole hand so its straight
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i don't have the same problem as you, ...but i read "But when my grip is tight and im tearing up a scale" and the only advice i have regarding that is to loosen up. pick like yngwie malmsteen!

the problem i don't see a solution to is when you're doing heavy palm-muted riffs, cuz that requires much more force
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my thumb is normal.. i still come at the string at a 30 degree angle.. is your open part of your angle towards the bridge or is it towards the headstock?
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I have the same problem, except mine goes way past 90 degrees, like 80ish. It's a bitch, my solution is to keep my thumb tense whilst keeping the rest of my hand loose. It slows me down, but it's all I can do.

You're right though, my friends are amazed by my pinch harmonics. It's God's way of saying "Hey, I'm not gonna let you pick fast, but I will make you the coolest thing since Billy Gibbons."
There's no such thing as double-jointedness. It's just really flexible.
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Quote by vIsIbleNoIsE
i don't have the same problem as you, ...but i read "But when my grip is tight and im tearing up a scale" and the only advice i have regarding that is to loosen up. pick like yngwie malmsteen!

the problem i don't see a solution to is when you're doing heavy palm-muted riffs, cuz that requires much more force

I want to thank everyone for their input in such a quick fashion!

Visible, I just want to say that I wouldn't need to grip so hard if it weren't for the thumb, you see if i dont squeeze the pick tightly, my thumb wont be back in its most-bent position, and if it isnt at this point, it will flop around and such and pick dropping becomes common. Even besides this, it is hard to explain if you can't see or experience it but you can't play unless your thumb is in its solid position because then the knuckle just snaps in-out-in-out-in-out, ya have to keep that from happening because its quite impossible to play with that going on and the only way to keep the thumb stable is to put enough pressure to get it all the way back to its stopping point at circa 90 degrees.
It actually requires much more tenseness and grip on the pick for me to be able to altpick fast than it does for heavy chord riffing because i can let the pick deflect off of the strings as it passes along in one direction, leaving little work for my thumb, but to secure the pick and keep it steady whilst alt picking very fast requires an immensely tight secure grip on the pick with a wildly bent thumb.

Again I thank you all and all future posters for your input.
Last edited by Iron Tusk at Oct 10, 2007,
You pick with your thumb? wierd. I also have those thumbs you talk about, but since i don't pick with my thumb it isn't a problem really >.>
Quote by Crepe
You pick with your thumb? wierd. I also have those thumbs you talk about, but since i don't pick with my thumb it isn't a problem really >.>

Hehe Crepe, if you read any of my post you would know that I am talking about the problems that arise with my pick-hand while using a pick, not finger plucking. Plus, whilst strumming or plucking without a pick, of course you use your thumb a lot! But I don't have any problems with that, just while grasping a pick. So for anyone else that might be confused or didn't catch what I am talking about in the original post, it is while using a pick.

To address some earlier posts:
Gir, that is probably what i have always done, my wrist has to be bent at a crazy angle as well to compensate but having my wrist and thumb at crazy angles all tensed up will obviously only let me play so fast before I hit a wall. At this point I feel I am at a wall where I cannot improve certain techniques much further with my forced hand positioning

antigoth, yeah the angle would be opening outward towards the headstock due the fact that i bend my wrist toward me a lot to compensate for the position of the pick when it is held firmly.

daddytwofoot, yeah i know, but people recognize the terms 'doublejointed' and 'hitchiker's thumb' more than 'really bendy thumb'. Besides, I believe the term double jointed just refers to the dual action of the joint, or the abnormal increased dual action of a joint compared to normal.

Wish i could make myself purchase a digital cam so i could visually demonstrate how problematic it can be. I will reiterate though that for any beginner-intermediate technique, this bendy thumb is not a problem, it is only when doing more intense chugging/shredding of some sort. I find myself enjoying soloing with tapping techniques a lot more often since that way my thumb is out of the equation! =)
Last edited by Iron Tusk at Oct 11, 2007,