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I done seen better days, but I'm putting up with these - Richard Rabbit Brown, James Alley Blues

Author Topic: The thumb F chord  (Read 2453 times)

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Offline Annabel

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The thumb F chord
« on: July 31, 2014, 11:11:50 AM »
Hello everyone!

I've been playing the guitar for quite a while but I'm new to acoustic fingerpicking and I'm finding that thumb F chord to be a challenge as far as getting a clear bass note. Even tougher is flattening my finger to get that high F note on the 1st string while playing that F on the 6th. I noticed in John Miller's videos that his thumb seems to be at a sort of angle. I'm experimenting, but so far haven't been very successful. I can fret a D/F# chord with the thumb just fine. It's just getting it down to the 1st fret for that F note that's a problem. Can anyone share any tips for someone who has fairly small hands? Is it just something that will get easier over time?

Offline Kokomo O

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Re: The thumb F chord
« Reply #1 on: July 31, 2014, 02:05:52 PM »
It will get easier with time, but as our famous friend Frankie told me many years ago on another forum, the key for the thumb-over F chord shape is to hold your palm flat on the back of the neck. That way, you somehow get the geometry right for both the thumb and the index finger to hold their respective strings. It still won't be easy at first, and some people find it easier to start out a few frets up the neck where they're closer together, even though the neck is wider. But rest assured that anyone, no matter how large or small their hands, can do it.

Remember too that you don't need to hold down that low E string all that firmly. You just need to catch it with a little bit of skin above the thumb knuckle, sort of on the inside surface of the thumb.

Offline Norfolk Slim

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Re: The thumb F chord
« Reply #2 on: July 31, 2014, 02:21:59 PM »
Agreed.  Everyone can do it with time and it does get easier.  You need only just wedge that string lightly against the fret with the inside of that thumb, and you have it.  Dont worry about getting a lovely clean flat contact behind the fret. Try it with just the thumb (no chord)and get a feel for just how little contact and how close to the fret you can get away with being, to make it work.

Cant speak for others, but my thumb is almost on top of the fret when I do it.

Offline ScottN

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Re: The thumb F chord
« Reply #3 on: July 31, 2014, 03:54:30 PM »
One thing to consider if you're having trouble and fingerpicking is whether you need to hold down both strings 1 and 2 at the same time as some times you need to sound only one of the strings and can move your index between the two.

Alternately you may be able to fret only the 2nd string "regularly" and be able to "flatten out" / "collapse" the chord shape and / or index finger to get the first string to sound - don't worry about how cleanly you are holding strings 2/3/4/5 if you aren't sounding them.

Depending on your hand's anatomy, experiment with your index finger angle - some people have it straight up and down parallel with the frets but I have seen some people almost have the index finger 90 degrees to the frets and pointing down the fretboard towards the body of the guitar.

Also experiment with how much of the index finger you use. Some people can fret strings one and two with the tip of the index finger. Other people lay the index finger flatter and can bar strings 1, 2 AND 3 and find that easier.  Also consider the contact point on the index finger. Most people use the fleshy "pad" side but some successfully twist / rotate the finger to use more of the edge / side.

I personally struggle with the ring finger muffling the third string sometimes and have found that trying to fret the 3rd fret of both the 5th and 4th strings helps with that. Also concentrating on getting maximum rounding of the middle and ring fingers by bending each knuckle and getting more of the tip of the finger involved (vs more towards the pad and straighter fingers).

I definitely want to echo the earlier points about the minimal amount of force you need to use on the sixth string.

Good luck with your experimentation. I'm sure you will eventually come up with a combination that works for you.

Thanks,
           Scott

Online Johnm

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Re: The thumb F chord
« Reply #4 on: August 01, 2014, 07:32:07 AM »
Hi Annabel,
There have already been a lot of good tips, but one other that occurs to me is that if you don't hold the guitar with its face perpendicular to the floor, but rather, with the treble side of the body tilted away from your body and the bass side snugged up to your torso it can make for an easier position to get the thumb wrap (I guess this advice assumes one is playing sitting down).  The other thing is that if the headstock is tilted up from the body, as you may have seen Rev. Davis holding the guitar in photos, the thumb-wrapped F may be more accessible.  Best of luck getting the consistent sound and hand position you're looking for.
All best,
Johnm

Offline Annabel

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Re: The thumb F chord
« Reply #5 on: August 01, 2014, 10:00:17 AM »
Thanks for these very helpful tips, everyone.  After reading Kokomo's answer, I realized that I had been unconsciously resisting really flattening the guitar neck into my palm, having learned to play with "proper" technique. Really flattening it into the thumb side of the palm, tilting the guitar as John suggests, only using a bit of thumb instead of trying to get my it directly behind the fret as Norfolk Slim and everyone else suggested, and angling my index finger a bit differently as Scott suggested have made a huge difference, even if being able to play it in time (as opposed to in isolation) will still take a lot of practice. Thank you!!
« Last Edit: August 02, 2014, 06:56:45 AM by Annabel »

Offline frailer24

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Re: The thumb F chord
« Reply #6 on: August 03, 2014, 12:27:37 AM »
Be warned, you may find yourself using this F chord exclusively as I have.
That's all she wrote Mabel!

Offline funkapus

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Re: The thumb F chord
« Reply #7 on: August 05, 2014, 09:50:19 AM »
I'm happy to see this thread, because the wrap-around thumb bass is currently the bane of my existence.  I know I don't have to really pull the string down much -- a bare touch against the fret wire seems to get it -- but even with that I find it hard to prevent the finger that frets the third string from touching and thus muting the second.  I needed this F for a song I learned on Thursday at PT, so I spent ~ 45 minutes on it later that day, which turned out to be a really stupid mistake as it left my left hand so sore that I couldn't play much Thursday night thru Saturday.  :(

I'm really grateful for the tips folks have posted here and look forward to trying them and to the day when I can get this.  I've noticed that I've been avoiding tunes in C because of my inability to get this (and how wimpy the bass on a 4-string F chord sounds), which is not good.



Offline Annabel

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Re: The thumb F chord
« Reply #8 on: August 07, 2014, 03:13:04 AM »
It's very frustrating, but I'm convinced it's worth the effort. I can play the F licks in songs like Freight Train with a barre (lifting off to get that g to a hammer on the 3rd string), but it's not the same. The little bend she does on the 2nd string d note is much harder in a barre position and it's less of a smooth switch back to C. In the meantime, I'm contenting myself with avoiding that "poing" sound and getting a muted F-ish bass note at least.

Offline RobBob

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Re: The thumb F chord
« Reply #9 on: August 07, 2014, 10:30:46 AM »
I mashed my left index finger in a flag football game about 45 years or so ago.  I can't bar an F for long anymore as the large knuckle has a resident named Arthur and forbids such behavior.  Imagine what the older folks did who worked on farms and such.

Offline Annabel

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Re: The thumb F chord
« Reply #10 on: August 10, 2014, 07:35:36 AM »
I discovered something today that seems to be helpful: to grab that F chord with my hand closer to the nut than I would have it for a regular thumbless F chord. It's much easier to have my fingers reach down (in space, up in pitch) to get the notes on the higher strings than it is to have my thumb reach up (down in pitch) to grab that F bass note. But again, that's in isolation. The challenge is still getting into and out of that position in time.
« Last Edit: August 10, 2014, 08:11:56 AM by Annabel »

Offline Annabel

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Re: The thumb F chord
« Reply #11 on: August 13, 2014, 05:16:29 AM »
Another discovery, probably the most practical of all (that squeezing my hand up closer to the nut thing didn't work too well): Put a capo on and play in C position up the neck. I started up pretty high, with the capo on the 6th fret and found after all the struggling to do it at the 1st fret, I can do it perfectly and in time with the capo up there. I've been gradually lowering the capo, putting it no lower than where I can still do it relaxed and in time. I'm down to capo on the 2nd fret now and optimistic I'll eventually be able to do it without the capo.

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