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Author Topic: The Thumb Has It  (Read 3739 times)

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Offline Johnm

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Re: The Thumb Has It
« Reply #15 on: July 04, 2017, 06:19:00 AM »
Hi all,
I thought of a couple of more performances in which the player used the picking thumb on all six strings, to play melodic passages, keep time, and handle chordal accompaniment with brush strokes.  On his duet with Annie McDowell, "I'm Goin' Over The Hill", Fred McDowell plays virtually the entire song using his thumb, only occasionally interjecting the index finger of the right hand.  And Rube Lacy, in his "Mississippi Jail House Groan", uses the thumb to snap lead lines on the third string, play descending bass runs, and keep time, relegating the index finger to snapping the open first string and occasional brush strokes.
All best
Johnm

Offline Johnm

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Re: The Thumb Has It
« Reply #16 on: September 11, 2017, 11:58:38 AM »
Hi all,
I was recently hired to transcribe and teach Pink Anderson's version of "Baby, Please Don't Go", and upon listening to it I was struck by the weight and power with which Pink played his lead lines in the treble.  I'm reasonably certain he used his thumb to play those lines.  Here is his recording--listen and see what you think:



All best,
Johnm

Offline Johnm

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Re: The Thumb Has It
« Reply #17 on: October 28, 2017, 10:12:14 AM »
Hi all,
Here is a piece from Memphis Willie B, working in Vestapol, that certainly fits the description of this thread for the picking hand.  Boy, is this strong!



All best,
Johnm

Offline Gmaj7

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Re: The Thumb Has It
« Reply #18 on: November 12, 2017, 08:52:15 PM »
Hi John,

I'm trying to figure out where the technique of an upwards-pick with the thumb on a bass string originated. It only really works when wearing a thumbpick. Which country blues players used this technique?

Offline Johnm

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Re: The Thumb Has It
« Reply #19 on: November 12, 2017, 09:31:45 PM »
Hi Gmaj7,
I do down-up picking with the thumb all the time when I am improvising melodic lines and never wear a thumbpick.  John Jackson also did down-up picking quite often without using a thumbpick.  It's really not needed at all to employ that technique.  Watch footage of the Jazz guitarist Wes Montgomery, who did everything in his picking hand with a bare thumb.  As to other Country Blues players who employed the down-up picking with the thumb, Lemon Jefferson and Leadbelly certainly did it (and both of them did use a thumbpick).  I'm sure there are others who did it, but those two come to mind first for me.
All best,
Johnm

Offline big joe weems

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Re: The Thumb Has It
« Reply #20 on: November 13, 2017, 06:44:07 AM »
Please correct me if I'm wrong, but it sounds to me like many (if not most) players who use the thumb a lot for melodic lines, etc., employ exclusively down strokes--but just get really fast at them.  Thoughts?

Offline Johnm

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Re: The Thumb Has It
« Reply #21 on: November 13, 2017, 07:51:57 AM »
Hi big joe,
I think people are all over the map in the techniques they employ.
All best,
Johnm

Offline Gmaj7

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Re: The Thumb Has It
« Reply #22 on: November 13, 2017, 10:35:53 PM »
Hi Gmaj7,
I do down-up picking with the thumb all the time when I am improvising melodic lines and never wear a thumbpick.  John Jackson also did down-up picking quite often without using a thumbpick.  It's really not needed at all to employ that technique.  Watch footage of the Jazz guitarist Wes Montgomery, who did everything in his picking hand with a bare thumb.  As to other Country Blues players who employed the down-up picking with the thumb, Lemon Jefferson and Leadbelly certainly did it (and both of them did use a thumbpick).  I'm sure there are others who did it, but those two come to mind first for me.
All best,
Johnm

Hi John,

Thanks for the reply. I think the reasoning behind my "only works with a thumbpick" is down to my shonky technique. It seems like to do it without a pick, you need to make sure the thumb remains in extension, rather than flexion, otherwise it won't work. That's a weakness of mine for sure.

Offline Johnm

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Re: The Thumb Has It
« Reply #23 on: November 14, 2017, 06:19:03 AM »
Hi Gmaj7,
I think you're right in your technical assessment, and with that in mind, I think the only time I take the picking thumb out of extension is when I'm getting it under a string to snap it against the fingerboard, a la Scrapper Blackwell.  Many players I know who have a habit of bending the thumb at the last knuckle have ended up having problems with it.
All best,
Johnm

Offline WillMo

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Re: The Thumb Has It
« Reply #24 on: November 14, 2017, 02:34:32 PM »
I played around on the treble strings with my thumb last night, the fat of the meat there does give a nice rich sound.  I could also make an improvement in strength of strike and tone by using two fingers ( index and middle ) held together but the thumb thumps better I think partially because the nail never hits the string. I got a speedy up / down thumb and two fingers stroke going. 

I have noticed that relative to many others I have a hyper-extensive outermost thumb joint.  I'm thinking it may be easier for some to get a lot of thumb along various strings.  My current callous is pretty small and toward the end of my thumb but perhaps it will broaden out if I start playing the treble strings with my thumb.

Offline WillMo

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Re: The Thumb Has It
« Reply #25 on: November 20, 2017, 08:29:50 PM »
It looks to me like Boyd Rivers plays thumb lead..



Offline Johnm

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Re: The Thumb Has It
« Reply #26 on: November 21, 2017, 06:02:23 PM »
Good find, Will, Boyd Rivers certainly does do some thumb lead on that song.  It's interesting that he sometimes plays that melodic line on the third string with his index finger in the right hand, and other times plays the very same line with his thumb.  It's the kind of technical differentiation that would be next to impossible to pick up without having seen him play.  Thanks for posting that.
All best,
John

Offline Johnm

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Re: The Thumb Has It
« Reply #27 on: February 08, 2018, 11:44:56 AM »
Hi all,
Here is a good example of a guitarist using his picking thumb on all six strings:  Connie Williams playing Thomas Dorsey's "Precious Lord".  He is so varied with his thumb, keeping time in the bass, popping bass lines, and he always uses it to articulate slide phrases he plays in the treble.  And what a singer!  His chordal vocabulary in Vestapol is unrivaled among earlyish players for sophistication, too.  Here is "Precious Lord":



All best,
Johnm
« Last Edit: March 24, 2019, 10:53:00 AM by Johnm »

Offline Johnm

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Re: The Thumb Has It
« Reply #28 on: March 24, 2019, 10:46:26 AM »
Hi all,
I have just had occasion to transcribe Lemon Jefferson's "Piney Woods Money Mama", which Lemon played out of E position in standard tuning, and it and the various tunes Lemon recorded that share many of the same licks in that playing position sound as though they were played using the thumb almost exclusively in the right hand, just interjecting the index finger in the treble here and there.
All best,
Johnm

Offline Johnm

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Re: The Thumb Has It
« Reply #29 on: February 09, 2020, 01:33:16 PM »
Hi all,
Here is another prime example of a player employing thumb leads all over the guitar--Clifford Gibson accompanying Sluefoot Joe (Barefoot Bill) on "House Top Blues".  Whew, what spectacular playing!



All best,
Johnm

 


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