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Under My Thumb

Discussion in 'Bad Dog Cafe' started by Bill Sheehan, Mar 6, 2021.

  1. Bill Sheehan

    Bill Sheehan Tele-Holic

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    If I had my 'druthers, I'd play strictly with my thumb. Both acoustic and electric. When I sit quietly in my living room I can do it just fine, and my good old thumb has a great sense of rhythm and dexterity and, especially, control, and that's a great feeling. And so liberating not to have to worry about the pick. I can't exactly "shred", but I never could anyway; with my thumb only, I can navigate any rhythm and most lead lines (for the material I usually do) without any problem.

    BUT, when I go to play in any kind of setting where we generally need to project a little better, with or without an amp or mic-up, and it's time to use a little more aggressive attack, it just sounds so darn MUDDY! Especially thumb-strummed chords! I find this to be true, for instance, with the duo I have with a friend of mine. Personal practice is typically thumb-only, and I love it; but when it's time to play together, that just doesn't seem to cut it, and I'm fishing for the pick!

    I often wonder, if I just keep at it, and keep at it, that maybe eventually that sweet spot on my thumb will develop into a rougher surface and start to sound more crisp, and less mushy? Any thumb-only players out there who might have any encouraging thoughts?
     
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  2. Manual Slim

    Manual Slim Friend of Leo's

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    I think you’re on to something with the sweet-spot callus formation but that probably won’t ever sound like a pick. EQ/tone knobs can help make things less muddy.
     
  3. buster poser

    buster poser Friend of Leo's Platinum Supporter

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    My understanding is that Josh Homme didn't even use a pick his first couple of years of playing. Still doesn't sometimes like below, sounds pretty solid to me (esp for that little Gibson parlor box). I think you're always going to have a diminished attack even if your skin toughens up, but whatever you're most comfortable doing is usually always going to produce good sound.

     
  4. ReverendRevolver

    ReverendRevolver Tele-Afflicted

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    I haven't used picks in lots of years. Your hand and playing adapt, if you want to go that route. I can't go back to using a pick.
    Your knobs will be 8n different places without a pick, I've noticed.
     
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  5. fretWalkr

    fretWalkr Tele-Meister

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    Playing with the thumb? Wes does things using his thumb that I can't believe is possible. I'm watching him do it in a live video and would never have guessed that sound could come from just using your thumb. Check out his solo around :40

     
  6. WorkbenchJohnny

    WorkbenchJohnny TDPRI Member

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    Thumb? I think Slim is on to something with the EQ thing. Especially with a +/=7 band EQ pedal to really taper those mids and reduce gassy-woof to cut through a noisy barroom.

    There are pro-level guitarists primarily using a bare thumb in loud live bands, so it’s proven possible without a pick.
     
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  7. _MementoMori_

    _MementoMori_ Tele-Holic

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    This handsome BASTARD.
     
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  8. WorkbenchJohnny

    WorkbenchJohnny TDPRI Member

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    Also, which part of your thumb are you predominantly using?

    If it’s not the flat side / 1st knuckle, but more towards the tip than you could grow your thumb nail out a bit. I used to do that for classical guitar. It does require a different arm position so I’d ignore this option if you don’t play the thumb tip already.

    Another option are über low profile thumb picks. I like the bumblebee ones and similar. They’re just a small jazz pick attached to a thumb mount. There’s also banjo “speed picks” that are merely a slim tang. You could play one as-is or trim the tang shorter so it only sticks out enough to catch the strings
     
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  9. buster poser

    buster poser Friend of Leo's Platinum Supporter

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    Great call on Wes, was watching the below the other night, can't believe I didn't think of it first.



    It's really annoying isn't it? Snapped this about 15 years ago in DC, dude's getting better looking with age.

    upload_2021-3-6_10-59-2.png
     
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  10. burntfrijoles

    burntfrijoles Poster Extraordinaire

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    I thought you were going to talk about one of rock’s most sexist/misogynistic songs ever by none other than the Stones.

    Onto the subject, I play better with my thumb, both rhythm and single note. I can play faster, with better rhythm etc. Yet, I still persist in trying to play well with a pick.

    I’ve developed a technique that works for me to minimize the effect of the thumb on tones.

    I should give up on the pick.
     
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  11. _MementoMori_

    _MementoMori_ Tele-Holic

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    It's just not fair. Dude got all the talent AND all the looks.
     
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