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Left Hand Hendrix Style (thumb over chording)

Discussion in 'Playing and Technique' started by Sunstone Recordings, Oct 4, 2006.

  1. Sunstone Recordings

    Sunstone Recordings Member

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    I've been using this technique for a while and it's brilliant for rhythms and quick riffs, but I'm slow when it comes to extensive leads. I use the thumb over for leverage when bending/vibrato, but what are some exercises to help me become less dependant on this style? I'd love to continue using it, but for appropriate situations... or is this just one of those things where I should keep practicing?
     
  2. Secret Ingredient

    Secret Ingredient Member

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    Eric Johnson uses his thumb extensively to fret E string notes when skipping strings from the other side of the fretboard. It sounds fantastic for him. I have small hands and have a hard time doing the technique very well. Then again, I have a hard time doing anything on the guitar well!!

    I saw a guitar magazine recently with Jimi on the cover (wow, surprise). He had big mitts. Makes that technique a little easier I think. I'd say if you like the effect then keep with it. It's useful.
     
  3. Sunstone Recordings

    Sunstone Recordings Member

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    yeah, I first got into it back in highschool when I was getting into Frusciante, then I watched the woodstock DVD and saw Jimi rockin it. I have big hands, so its very easy for me to do. I love the feel, and my strat has a nice chunky neck so it fits my palm very well. I'll just keep at it! Anyone else use this style?
     
  4. slhguitar

    slhguitar Member

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    I've tried, but my SG has a big neck, and my hands aren't nearly big enough. I can only reach the first and second string when I have my thumb on the sixth string. FWIW John Mayer also employs this technique, and his hands are also quite large.
     
  5. Texas_Blues

    Texas_Blues Member

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    Yea I use it also for nice jangly chords and for some country blues finger pickin' Love it.
     
  6. MikeP

    MikeP Member

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    your lucky you can do it at all.
    I have been trying for years on & off but to no avail :(
    Either my hands are too small or my thumb just does not work like most ;)
     
  7. SlinkyMan

    SlinkyMan Member

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    I often employ this technique, and quite easily because I have large hands. It does take a bit of practice to sound great though.
     
  8. ChickenLover

    ChickenLover Member

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    It takes some getting used to. One thing that helps is changing the angle of your forearm to the neck. If you think of your forearm as typically perpindicular to the neck of the guitar...change it such that your forearm is more parallel (or closer to it). Also, instead of having your wrist 'underneath' the neck, put your wrist more behind the neck. In other words, grab the neck more like you would a gold club or baseball bat. That helped me get started (watching SRV or Bonamassa helped me more than watching Jimi or EJ, it's easier for me to do it more like SRV/Bonamassa do it).
     
  9. willhutch

    willhutch Supporting Member

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    I say use the thumb. Why not make use of the extra digit? The original post mentioned that using the thumb was great for chording, but made it tough to do extensive leads.

    Any choice of technique makes certain things easy and makes certain other things more difficult. I use my thumb to finger notes on the 6th string frequently when chording. The thumb around the top is also an anchor for bending and digging into single note phrases. But I don't keep it wrapped around the neck all the time. If I want to access 3-note-per-string patterns, for instance, my thumb will drifts toward the middle of the neck.

    My advice is to use the thumb-over approach when it is helpful and use a different approach when needed.
     
  10. Tonefish

    Tonefish Member

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    I've been curious about how he's using his thumb. Is he using it on more than the 6th string? Does he get down to notes on the 5th and 4th string? I noticed on a video that he uses it for muting a lot, maybe even half barres.

    Because all my early guitar training (since I was 8 years old) was classical, I fought to not "corrupt" my left hand technique, but it is nearly impossible to play some of the great modern songs without adopting these other techniques. Its a great horizon expansion thing now !!

    I can handle the 6th string stuff but it's tough below that. I appreciate the ChickenLover points about holding the neck different. That helped a lot.
     
  11. Secret Ingredient

    Secret Ingredient Member

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    That whole classical thumb-behind-the-neck vs the blues thumb-grip issue can get so crazy. The guitar is a tool; an apparatus to make sounds. It's not a religious symbol, yet some act like using the thumb high on the neck is akin to holding a cross upside down.

    I figure bringing the thumb over the neck is used for two things:

    a. Fretting notes: Classical guitars tend to have fairly wide necks. Bringing the thumb up would not be practical for many people. Only those with the biggest grippers would find it very useful.

    b. Using the thumb to provide an opposing force when applying pressure sideways to the string(s): Classical vibrato is mainly parallel to the string. No need to apply sideways force. Also, nylon strings have lower tension (at least it feels that way to me) and so less force would be needed to bend strings. Lastly, bent notes on nylon strings tend to sound like garbage anyway.
     
  12. rgsss14

    rgsss14 Gold Supporting Member

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    I have medium sized hands and can do the thumb over the neck chords, but the thing that I wish I could do and for the life of me I can't are those EJ chords where he frets 2 strings with the tip of 1 finger (almost always the middle). My fingertip just isn't wide enough.

    I definitely think that people with large hands and fingers are at a distinct advantage when it comes to playing the guitar.
     
  13. klatuu

    klatuu Member

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    \

    not necessarily......my hands are very large (ring finger is a 14.25 ring size) and have no problems with the thumbover, but sometimes my fingertips get in the way, I have to be very careful when chording.
     
  14. ChickenLover

    ChickenLover Member

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    The EJ technique for using one finger for two notes is also easier if you change the 'angle'. Your finger (or fingernail) needs to be perpindicular to the string...or at least mine does, I have fairly skinny fingers. That way you can use the entire width of your finger to span the two strings.

    For me, when doing a full 'barre' chord but instead using the thumb for the bass note makes it difficult to get all the notes to ring out cleanly unless I use the 'one-finger-for-two-notes' technique on the high E and B strings. Just that one change makes it much, much easier for me.
     
  15. nixo_billy

    nixo_billy Member

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    A good tune to work with is Cold Shot. SRV used this technique to cover the low-end bass notes. The low figure acts as a pedal for the upper triads. It's not too difficult to figure out, but the trick is getting the rythym right. Practicing this has helped me using the 'thumb over' in other tunes...
     
  16. ChickenLover

    ChickenLover Member

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    A good way to get more used to it (or any technique) is to find parts of songs your band plays...the real easy/simple parts or maybe a background part or a rhythm while someone else is soloing and conciously incorporate that technique. I started out just picking some simple rhythm parts where the other guy was soloing and used the 'thumb-over' technique throughout his solo (if I screw up it goes virtually un-noticed :rolleyes:). After a few months I had incorporated more and more and it felt pretty natural.

    I have average size hands but I still find that a fatter neck makes it easier to wrap the thumb over. I would have intuitively thought the opposite but...not the case for me.
     
  17. Guinness Lad

    Guinness Lad Silver Supporting Member

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    I think the guy you need to focus on is Merle Travis, I don't know the first thumb player was but this guy pretty much always did it.
     
  18. countandduke

    countandduke Member

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    Jake E. Lee has an interesting thumb technique.......

    Chris
     
  19. sampleinajar

    sampleinajar Member

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    Let me add a third, which is how I ended up doing this naturally. It became a necessity for me to start playing that way when I was gigging in a cover band playing 4hrs a night essentially straight through. Being able to effortlessly change to thumb over chording DRASTICALLY decreased my hand fatigue during certain songs. It is much easier, and more natural, to do this when standing with the guitar, I find. And, again, for me it just came naturally out of necessity. I can't do it as well as Jimi and EJ mostly because my hands aren't super big, but I think all players should look into this technique.

    Steve
     
  20. Tonefish

    Tonefish Member

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    Good points...both of you!!! I have been playing this way a lot more and really enjoying it...Thanks!
     

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