Thumb position on the upper parts of the neck?

Discussion in 'Music Theory, Lessons & Techniques' started by Velokki, May 8, 2017.

  1. Velokki

    Velokki GAS station

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    Hello guys!

    I have a very specific guitar technique problem. I've been lucky enough to get some lessons from an extremely skilled guitarist, who always keeps his thumb behind the neck. Now I love the approach, since it does give a good ground to build consistency on - I mean, always behind the neck, that's one less problem to worry about, right?

    My problem really arises when playing lead patterns in the higher register, especially stretchy, chordy kind of things. Patterns, where I have to hold two fingers down simultaneously in the upper frets. A really tricky one is one where I have to slide from below, and hold the 17th fret in the G string and 21th fret in the D string simultaneously. The thumb just feels really uncomfortable and I find it hard to have any kind of strength or dexterity there. The thumb just won't bend to be in the place I feel it should be. Definitely it's not straight behind the neck, like in the lower register. Now this is doable on a sitting position, when you can hold the guitar far on the left knee, but when standing up, things get challenging.

    What kinds of tips would you give me regarding the thumb position in the upper fret register?

    Really thankful for any tips. I feel that this is certainly a key roadblock for me at this moment, holding me back.
     
  2. domsch1988

    domsch1988 SS.org Regular

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    Some things:
    - What guitar are you playing? On my Les Paul there is no chance i hell i could maintain a "proper" thumb position beyond the 17th fret because the Neck heal gets in the way.
    - For standing up: strap the guitar higher. Basically strap the guitar so that it's in the same position it's in when you're sitting down.
    - Don't over obsess with the hand position. If certain chords or shapes need a different thumb position to be doable/comfortable i'd just go with whatever works :yesway:
     
  3. Velokki

    Velokki GAS station

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    I'm on an Ibanez RGD2127Z. The neck heel isn't really in the way, it's possible to get there.

    A lot of guitar teachers, including mine, say to wear the guitar low. Paul Gilbert is also a preacher of this approach, saying that it gives a better position to do powerful vibrato. Any opinions on that?

    My whole purpose here, the reason why I started to really learn some proper technique, is to find extreme CONSISTENCY.

    What kind of approach would you suggest here? This is the kind of stuff I find hard to do:
    https://www.instagram.com/p/BTQMgD3l7Fk/?taken-by=weshauch
     
  4. domsch1988

    domsch1988 SS.org Regular

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    Whenever i look for ergonomy or practicallity i look at bass players :lol: Us guitarists are so cought up in looking cool and tradition that it's sometimes hard to find the "truth".
    I won't say having your guitar low doesn't work, but look at most bass players, John Petrucci or any of the "New Kids" doing any kind of technical progressive music. They all strap their guitar up. I found it much easier to play. Just try it out :shrug:

    On the video you posted: I can't see anything crazy here (fret hand wise). It's impressively clean played but the biggest part is left-right hand syncronisation. In the left hand it's basically 4 note per string patterns. No carzy stretches or so. It's normal to change the thumb position a bit when you're moving up the neck...
     
  5. tedtan

    tedtan SS.org Regular

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    When standing, I have my guitar hanging at a level such that the middle of the bridge pickup is at belt buckle level (e.g., not high, but not low). I find that I am able to sit down on the edge of a chair with the guitar strapped on and it hangs at the same level as when standing, so this avoids the difference in guitar position when going between between the two.

    As for the thumb, I find that classical position is a good "home base" to use as a default position, but stretches, bends, vibratos, position shifts, the heel of the guitar, etc. all cause a bit of a different thumb position. In fact, if you looks at those who bend best (most any of the blues players, though I'll single out David Gilmour of Pink Floyd as an example), they tend to wrap their thumb over the top of the neck while bending. Further, classical players are playing in the "normal" part of the neck (e.g., open strings through the 15th fret) most of the time, so the classical technique works for them. But when they have to go higher, they adjust their thumb position, too. I've even seen classical cello players plant their thumb in the middle of the fingerboard so they can access the higher notes on their instruments.

    So in short, use the classical position as your default thumb position, but don't be rigid about it. Feel free to move your thumb as necessary to play the part at hand.
     
  6. domsch1988

    domsch1988 SS.org Regular

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    Also, i have no idea why the "classical" position is relevant to electric guitars. I play both. The classical Guitar is wildly different.
    - The Neck for 6 strings is nearly as wide as most electrical 7 or 8 string guitars
    - The neck meets the body at the 12th fret, an higher is nearly impossible to play
    - You can't really bend nylon strings
    - the things you play on it are wildly different (mostly bass + melody which causes much more stretching and "weird" positions)

    All of these things considered, there is a good reason classical guitarists play their instrument like they do. None of those apply to electric guitars. Therefore they should be tackled as a different instrument.
     
  7. ASoC

    ASoC Downpicker \m/

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    If you're looking for consistency then you should strap your guitar at the exact height it's at when you practice sitting down, that way you don't have to learn two different techniques (especially for your picking hand) when standing or sitting. I never thought about that until I saw a youtube video where Billy Sheehan suggested this and it has helped me immensely.

    Also, re: Thumb Position

    When I'm shredding I usually play with my thumb on the back of the neck and my fingers perpendicular to the fretboard, but when I'm playing something that requires a lot of bending or vibrato I use either a thumb-over or a pinch grip. Basically, don't over think your thumb position, whatever feels natural is best.
     

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