In this post, I will show you the basics of thumb & finger interaction…That said, there is always more than one way to attack a problem. Currently (2018) I am experimenting with the opposite of what I say here – more like a Larry Graham bass technique.
Here are the basics as they are taught to guitarists 95% of the time, so start here. Enjoy!
I got a question from a blog reader recently that said:
How, in your mind, can you coordinate both a bass line with your thumb and a melody line with your fingers? I can’t seem to divide my mind that way. What can I do to gain finger independence?
There is a 2 part answer!
The Physical Answer
Off the bat, you need to have a few “basics” in place with hand position. You probably know this, but it’s always good to re-visit basics.
(This is a starting point, and remember there are exceptions to every rule!)
- Your thumb should be OUT past the fingers
- Your thumb should NOT hide behind the fingers
- Your thumb should move from the big back joint, not the tip!
Try to place all the right hand fingers on strings and
- Play the thumb WITHOUT letting the fingers move
- Play fingers without moving the thumb
Let’s take a look at these options.
Assuming you have no physical problems with this, let’s move on to the spiritual answer.
The Musical (Spiritual) Answer
You are probably rolling your eyes at me calling this “spiritual”, but the way I see it is that a “musical, soulful” intention can get us to do things with our bodies that “conscious will” can’t.
If you are playing any type of music that requires you to play the thumb of the right hand with the fingers – whether it’s a simple “boom chick” Chet idea, or a full bassline…
- Isolate the “musical idea” of what’s happening in the thumb
- What is the groove of the thumb? Sing it!
- Play the thumb part all by itself – a few times
Don’t gloss over this – as you will see it puts the finger RIGHT on the nerve. It is much trickier than it seems.
- Next, can you play thumb and fingers – but KEEP YOUR MUSICAL MIND on the thumb?
- Lastly, can you HEAR the blend of the two?
If you focus on the “musical / spiritual” idea, the “physical” will miraculously fall into place. Voila! You have achieved “thumb and finger independence.”
LISTEN rather than watch.
Blog “guitar technique” reading time – 10 minutes.Actual practice guitar time – a little longer 🙂