IAN STEPHENSON on Tapping: Lesson #12

Use of the thumb

When we looked at sliding notes, the final example was the arpeggios for Always with me, always with you. The final chord being F# major in root position:

At the time, the point of the exersise was to slide between the two notes on the D string. However its tricky to do this acuratly, and the slide doesn't sound quite right anyway. Ideally we'd like to tap the note, but if you attempt to play the 9-8-11-8 pattern in a "ninth" hand position you'll find that the stretch is too much, and your third finger sort of collapses, and your nail just runs along the string (unless you've got BIG hands).

The trick is to bring your thumb from behind the neck, across your palm, and use it to play the fifth of the chord(11). You'll find that you use the outside edge of you thumb, just to the side of your nail, rather than the tip.

The thumb is useful whenever you need that extra stretch, but you should probably consider it as a last resort, as its more clumsy, and offers less control of the note than fingers do. However its oftern just about the only way to play basic (non-exended) chords.

A number of variations on the above arpeggio show how the thumb can be useful:

 Minor        Scale      Major      Major 
  T  1  2     1  T  2    1  2  T    1  2  T    T  1 T  2 T  2  T
These are all quite easy, as the thumb can be moved across the fretboard far more comfortably than fingers can. In fact you can play some quite ridiculous intervals:
The exact circumstances under which you'd WANT to play such intervals are hard to describe, but once in a while your thumb can bail you out if a really tricky chord. For example, from Tears in the Rain:
   L    T   1   2  1   T   L   T   1   2   1   T
This week/s final example is an arpeggiated accompaniment to the verse of Bryan Adams' One Night Love Affair (Reckless). This part was written to replace the accoustic guitar part found on the album, when I was playing it in a 3 piece band.
   L  1  2  1  L  2  1  2     L  1  2  1  3   2  1  2

   L  1  2  1  L  2  1  2     L  1  2  1  T   1  2  1

   L  1  2  1  3   2  1  2    P  1  2  1  3   2  1  2
The first couple of bars are a good illustration of how both hands can be used together to create complex arpeggiated patterns. However by bar four the left hand bass line requires that only the right hand is available for the Ab minor chord. At this point the thumb comes to the rescue, getting you through to the final (ninth position) bars.
End of Lessons. [Ian Stephenson on Tapping: Lesson#11] [BassWork Index]

Previous tapping and slapping lessons are available via FTP from KAPPA.RICE.EDU in the directory /pub/bass/lessons. If you do not have FTP, and wish to retrieve the lessons via email, send mail to with the message "help".