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Asher Guitars WD Music Products Amplified Parts Mod Kits DIY Nordstarnd Pickups
Asher Guitars WD Music Products Amplified Parts Mod Kits DIY Nordstarnd Pickups

Fingers and Thumbs

Discussion in 'Bad Dog Cafe' started by esseff, Nov 14, 2017.

  1. esseff

    esseff Tele-Meister

    Mar 25, 2014
    East Midlands, UK
    Who's going to fess up that they always play thumb over the neck and never use the pinky for lead. Errm - guilty on both counts. :oops:
    But... Eric Clapton, David Gilmour, Michael Schenker etc seem to rip it up just fine using 'bad' technique.
    Getting by satisfactorily with three fingers depends on the type of music you play? Or not?
    brookdalebill and RetroTeleRod like this.

  2. Dismalhead

    Dismalhead Poster Extraordinaire

    Feb 16, 2014
    Auburn, California
    Not guilty on both counts. Pretty sure I don't have good technique though. I'm not relaxed at all when I play.
    nojazzhere likes this.

  3. RetroTeleRod

    RetroTeleRod Poster Extraordinaire

    Oct 24, 2012
    Oklahoma, USA
    Whatever produces good music is good technique I reckon. :)

  4. nojazzhere

    nojazzhere Friend of Leo's

    Feb 3, 2017
    Foat Wuth, Texas
    I came to guitar only after playing piano and violin for many years. (formal lessons) I naturally used my pinky on guitar chords and leads. Also will admit that sometimes thumb comes around on bass side when necessary, but usually stays behind the neck.....not that I have textbook technique....but at my age, I just try to do what works..

  5. moosie

    moosie Doctor of Teleocity Silver Supporter

    Jul 18, 2010
    Western Connecticut
    Depends on the genre (is it blooz), the shape of the neck, etc etc.

    I'm right there with the thumb when it doesn't limit other moves. But yeah, when I pick up a guitar my hand automatically forms an E-shape chord, probably 5th position A or so, using the thumb-over grip.

    Pinky, though? Of course I use it. It's right there! Very handy, so to speak. But honestly I don't spend much time in "box 1".

  6. Obsessed

    Obsessed Doctor of Teleocity Silver Supporter

    Nov 21, 2012
    Classic violinist trained as well. Gotta be able to do hammer ons and pull offs with the pinky IMO. That said though, in a pinch I'll cheat if I can't get there in time. Thumb around the neck seems to me to be a very appropriate technique for the open F chord and fingerpicking with a bassline.
    nojazzhere likes this.

  7. Rich_S

    Rich_S Friend of Leo's

    Dec 29, 2006
    Potsdam, NY
    Often guilty of the thumb thing, but I ALWAYS use my pinky, even if it makes the fingering weak and sloppy.

  8. raito

    raito Friend of Leo's Silver Supporter

    Nov 22, 2010
    Madison, WI
    Never thumb over neck, use the pinky when I should.

  9. kingvox

    kingvox Tele-Meister

    Mar 23, 2017
    I use thumb over neck most of the time, but am perfectly comfortable using thumb behind the neck for certain things. I don't like thumb behind neck for soloing because it completely throws off my vibrato, which I rely on "pivoting" to do, which requires me to have my thumb around the neck.

    That "rule" never made sense to me. Electric guitar necks are MUCH narrower than classical necks. Using thumb behind neck is far easier and far more practical on a classical guitar. On electric, not so much. IMHO of course.

    Pretty much 100% of the time, if I have my thumb behind the neck I'm doing chords and chord melodies. I have a congenital thumb disorder which limits the mobility in my thumb about 75 or 80% so I also don't have the luxury of using my thumb to fret bass notes that most people do (I can just barely do basic major and minor chords with the side of my thumb fretting the low E but it's pretty hard for me).

    So in one sense I have been forced to learn more chord positions with my thumb behind the neck in order to compensate.

    And then I feel better about thumb behind the neck being "proper" anyway :p I have a book called 7,488 Guitar Chords by Jay Arnold and there is not a single chord in the entire book that requires you to use the thumb to play. I'm okay with thumb behind the neck being "proper" as long as it makes me feel like I'm not missing out on being able to play stuff I'd rather be able to play because of my thumb ;) Double standards much? Sure. I'm as bitter as the next guy!

    Of course, it's all about what you're comfortable with.

    Still, when people talk about whether it's "proper" or not, I'm reminded of a forum post back when I was 14. They had a vibrato contest online, to see who could do the best straight vibrato, vibrato added to a bend, etc.

    All I remember is mine was clearly the best, but I lost because I used light gauge strings, which meant I was "cheating." They then changed the rules that you had to at least be using a set of .010's or higher. Lol :p

    Translation (in my mind) to thumb behind the neck being the "only proper way" to play:

    "Yeah man, like, if you're playing that E chord without your thumb behind the neck, it's like, not a real E chord, brah."

  10. kingvox

    kingvox Tele-Meister

    Mar 23, 2017

    This pretty much illustrates the concept. His thumb is behind the neck when he needs it to be, but his thumb is wrapped around when he needs it to be.

    I've learned about half of this so far, and have had to choose different chord voicings because of my thumb. As someone that has thumb hypoplasia, if you can use your thumb, USE IT! Use it for me. And all the other people who can't. Chet would not have used his thumb if it didn't make a lot of things so much easier. You can do chord melodies and maneuvering that is simply not possible with your thumb behind the neck.

    But man. That song, that technique. For my money that is about as good as guitar playing gets. Do whatever is comfortable, but if you have a thumb to use, use it.

    One more note: It did take me a bit of practice to get really comfortable using my pinky, and I even use it a bit with soloing now. It was well worth it. I also practiced my vibrato with my pinky to get it up to par.

    Sometimes I'll use it just because it's more comfortable, not because I have to. I've also found that on certain fast runs/riffs, alternating the pinky and middle/ring finger for certain parts helps make it easier to play.

    The more positions and the more fingers you're comfortable using in every situation, the better. Same for fingerpicking. I never was able to use my pinky for fingerpicking but I know there are guys who do, and it can only expand your playing. My opinion is that there is a time and a place for both positions and all fingers and it's best to get as comfortable as possible with all of them.

  11. Finck

    Finck Tele-Holic

    Oct 11, 2017
    São Paulo - Brazil
    Guilty of the thumb but not of pinky. But it's because my ring finger was paralised since I've broken it a long time ago. So, it's pinky or nothing...
    3fngrs likes this.

  12. 3fngrs

    3fngrs Friend of Leo's

    Oct 30, 2017
    Same here. My ring finger was mashed off in a work accident 20 years ago. They sewed it back on but it's for decorative purposes only. I have to use my pinky (which was also damaged and only has about 50% mobility) as much as possible. I also use my thumb whenever I can. Whatever helps me overcome the handicap.

    I did use my pinky a lot before my hand was disabled too.

    Of course my biggest handicap is an utter lack of talent!
    Obsessed likes this.

  13. Obsessed

    Obsessed Doctor of Teleocity Silver Supporter

    Nov 21, 2012
    I've been trying to do a bend with my pinky on the large E string while holding a chord as a cheat. Uhhh, not there yet.

  14. Steve_U1S

    Steve_U1S Tele-Afflicted Ad Free Member

    Apr 23, 2013
    Toronto, Canada
    Both aspects are vital for me; my hands aren't very large (just thick) so I need that pinky for reach.
    As for thumb... on 6-strings I regularly use my thumb for both low-E and A strings as a matter of course.
    Not sure how that developed; I'm not formally taught.

  15. ac15

    ac15 Poster Extraordinaire Ad Free Member

    May 9, 2005
    I use all four fingers. I not only have my thumb over the neck, but use it to finger notes on the 6th string fairly often. That “ no thumb over the neck” thing is ludicrous for most stuff. I studied classical guitar, and there are certain things that can only be played if your left hand position is “textbook.” Sure, for stuff like that you do what ya gotta do and get your thumb behind the neck. But for most stuff? Irrelevant.
    Thin69 and 6BQ5 like this.

  16. 6BQ5

    6BQ5 Tele-Afflicted Silver Supporter

    May 31, 2010
    Pittsburgh, PA
    I wrap my thumb and occassionally use it on the sixth string, a la Hendrix and @ac15. I also use my pinky pretty extensively. I'd use more fingers if I could get 'em.

  17. joebloggs13

    joebloggs13 Tele-Meister

    Jun 14, 2017
    The backyard
    I also use both techniques. The pinky is an important digit! Very useful.:)

  18. Georox

    Georox Tele-Afflicted

    Oct 30, 2014
    The tan house in AZ
    Django Reinhardt.
    BorderRadio likes this.

  19. JL_LI

    JL_LI Tele-Afflicted

    May 20, 2017
    Long Island, NY
    I never used my pinkie for leads until I started playing country. Using it is now very natural for me. I also play a lot of chords thumb over which allows open strings to sound. Fsus2 with an open G string is a favorite chord. I also play barre chords as the need arises. I'm not a purist in my music or technique and don't consider my playing poor technique. My style and the techniques I use to achieve it evolved together.

  20. codamedia

    codamedia Friend of Leo's

    Apr 4, 2009
    Western Canada
    Sure I use my thumb... Merle, Chet, Jerry, etc...etc... how can it possibly be considered wrong ;)
    As for the pinky - it is always in use... on both hands.

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