View Full Version : where do you put your thumb?

05-25-2003, 11:02 PM
I was taught the fingers of the fretting hand should be perpendicular to the strings therefore my thumb is always behind the neck. However when watching other players, i.e. paul gilbert SRV and others, I notice their thumb is on top of the neck or even on the fretboard. Is one way better than the other?

05-26-2003, 02:18 AM
well it depends really...

Most professionals and teachers will recommend you keep your thumb on the back of the neck with very little pressure as this is generally the position that allows the fingers to move more freely and reduces tension.. However, you will notice that there are alot of great players who deviate from this, basically because everyone is different.. But I really recommend you stick with the thumb on the back of the neck while you are developing clean and tension free technique.. if you can wrap your thumb around the neck and still achieve free finger movement with little tension then great! I think most people will find the thumb on the back of the neck most beneficial in the long run though..

As for my own technique (not that this would be any good for you but it works for me..)

When playing metal riffs, general rhythm, and jazz and bluegrass lead I use the thumb on the back of the neck..

When playing bluegrass and gypsy jazz, and swing rhythm my thumb wraps around the neck some for leverage but I still strive for low tension, this does reduce stretching range though..

When playing shred lead and most of my compositions my thumb pad touches the neck on the treble side only, this is similar to the way Shawn Lane plays and I directly copied my left hand lead technique from Lane and some of his disciples who I took lessons/jammed with.. this allows the left hand far more stretching range but can reduce strength when hitting the bass strings.. while this works for Lane, some shredders in this area, myself. and I'm sure many others I generally don't recomend it since it can be BAD for cetain styles and cause injury.. but give it a try.. I also wear the guitar high up on my chest for further left hand range... my right hand doesn't really like to switch between standard picking and tapping so this left hand stretching allows me to accomplish similar things.. my brain has never worked in the tap, pick, tap, pick switching licks.. so I had to make up for that weakness..

take all of this with a grain of salt.. this works for me and may be completely wrong for you...


05-26-2003, 07:15 AM
Generally from what I've heard and experienced if you are playing stuff that requires bending and/or vibratto you probably want to keep the thumb wrapped around the top as this gives better leverage. If you are playing stuff that doesn't then it is beneficial to keep the thumb behind the neck ala classical guitarists to maximize the range of motion for your fretting fingers. For a lot of bar shaped chords you want the thumb behind the neck as well.

05-26-2003, 09:46 AM
With me when im playing chords and rhythm stuff i keep my thumb behind the neck. Also i keep it there most of the time when im doing stuff on the lower frets (usially about 1-12). I tend to bring my thumb over the top of the guitar when im using the higher frets (12 and upwards). Generally its there where i do most bending n stuff like that anyways.

yeh though like u said i usially do bring my thumb over to do bends n stuff to get better leverage etc.

05-26-2003, 09:49 AM
Lol thats a bit general though - basically there are certain situations where its easier/feels more comfortable to bring the thumb to/over the top of the guitar. as with most stuff (i've found) its all about finding the best way for yourself. Basically try different things n see how u feel, if u dont like it, try summat else!

05-26-2003, 11:38 AM
Thanks I guess I am doing okay:)