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Music Theory, Lessons & Techniques Discussions on Theory, member submitted lessons, practice regimens and everything else.

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Unread 05-01-2012, 08:16 PM   #1
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Left hand technique opinions

I've been wondering since i started playing about 3 years ago what the "proper" technique for the fretting hand is. I usually play rhythm and low strings with my thumb on the back of the neck and switch to thumb over the neck for leads. What confused me is seeing a video of Chris Broderick playing for megadeth and he had his thumb on the back of the neck constantly and his technique looks incredibly efficient to me. When i tried this though, my wrist would always come into an odd angle and it was uncomfortable, so i stopped for fear of injury . I eventually want to play 7 or 8 string and it seems like fretting hand technique is alot more important than on a 6.

Please give your insight on what you think is right!
thanks in advance, sorry if this has already been mentioned, i searched it and couldn't find anything.
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Unread 05-01-2012, 10:01 PM   #2
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Chris Broderick has impeccable technique...anything that man does is done for a reason. I was taught to play guitar with my thumb placed on the middle to lower (closer to the floor) of the neck when playing lead. This has always worked for me and has grown to be very comfortable. I like this technique because it allows your fingers to be at the right angle for fretting notes. This especially works for me since I have smaller hands
But on the flip side, Buckethead plays a lotta the time with his thumb hooked over the neck, since he has ginormous hands!
When it comes time to bend strings, there are times when I hook my hand over the top of th neck to really get leverage and shake the shit outta the vibrato.
It just takes some practice...start off slow as with any new technique and remember never, ever play through pain
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Unread 05-01-2012, 10:48 PM   #3
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I do both, even on a 7. I figured i would be behind the neck full-time with the wider neck but it didn't work out that way. I do have pretty large hands. I switch constantly depending on what i'm playing, its all subconscious. As long as it's not sloppy, i think its all good. I'm not sure about health benefits of either, but the poster above gives good advice on that.

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Unread 05-02-2012, 02:02 AM   #4
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I'd say learn to use both. In some situations the more classical position of the left hand works better, and in others the 'thumb-over-top-of-neck' position works better.

I personally use the classical position for something like scale runs, but when I play lots of bends I prefer having my thumb over the neck.

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Unread 05-02-2012, 02:45 AM   #5
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I'm self-taught, and for some reason I started playing in the classical position with my thumb on the back of the neck. I've never changed since. I only have my thumb over the neck if I'm zonked out on the floor, inefficiently fumbling around because I'm a lazy arse and too out of it to bother with proper technique.

So yeah, that's about it. My wrist isn't affected at all, because it's barely bent with the way I play.
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Unread 05-02-2012, 05:50 AM   #6
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If your wrist is at a weird angle, pull your elbow back/push the guitar forward.
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Unread 05-02-2012, 08:33 PM   #7
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Yeah, "proper" technique for fretting would be thumb straight down the back of the neck with a straight wrist. Thumb placement is less important than having your wrist straight as a board. If you bend your wrist it can increase tension on the tendons going through the carpals and it can cause tendonitis and or carpal tunnel syndrome.
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Unread 05-04-2012, 09:34 PM   #8
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Another variable that may come into play is how the guitar is sitting on your lap. I find that using the "classical position" (guitar between the legs) is much more comfortable and allows much easier positioning of the wrist/thumb. I bring my thumb up and around if I have to mute my lowest string. Other than that it pretty much sits behind the neck opposite of my middle finger.
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Unread 05-04-2012, 09:49 PM   #9
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I tend towards having my thumb around the neck, especially when playing a six string, because I have rather large hands and also for when I mess around with hybrid picking or finger picking so I can thumb notes on the lower strings while playing a melody on the higher strings in an amateurish imitation of George Van Eps.

Another technique, I sort of took it after Buckethead, is when tapping moving my hand around the neck and playing with it overhand, as I find it easier, especially on long stretches. I've heard of some people using this style at all times but haven't actually seen it and don't exactly find it comfortable. Also note that some people find tapping overhand to be pretentious, so if you care about that shit, beware.
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Unread 05-07-2012, 04:49 AM   #10
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I'm self taught and came to find a good balance between the 2 ways (thumb behind neck, thumb over neck). I'm not anywhere a great player or anything but I realize that for fast leads it helps me to have the thumb low and behind the neck.. when I do this, the rest of the fingers can rest closer to the strings and therefore it's easier to play precise runs. When having the thumb over the neck the hand angle slight changes and the fingers have to travel more to hit the strings = sloppier playing.

But yeah I also have short hands so helps me reach farther frets with the thumb behind the neck too. It's a matter of getting used to it..

For hard bends with vibrato.. thumb over the neck most of the times!!
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