First GJ Guitar and thumb technique



  • stuologystuology New
    edited January 2023 Posts: 196

    My hands are too small to use the thumb comfortably but I do sometimes use it to mute the bass strings, e.g. I play the classic Am9/6 as x77577 with the thumb covering but not fretting the 6th string. If there’s a bassist or another guitarist the bass A will be covered anyway.

  • FretbuzzardFretbuzzard Wisconsin, USANew
    Posts: 3

    This is a good reminder. Do you mind sharing what kinds of neck profiles have been most hand-friendly for you? I've had the occasional basal joint soreness myself...

  • Russell LetsonRussell Letson Prodigy
    Posts: 355

    Comfort seems to come from a combination of traits: deepish profile (I think "D" is one of the ways it's described) or even the old soft-V of classic Martins, and a modest fingerboard radius (so no sharp edge). Width can vary--my Dunn Daphne and 1920 0-18 have the same 1-7/8" width, but the Martin's profile is a V and its fingerboard is radiused. The Dunn has a shallow profile and a flat fingerboard, and in thumb-over fingerings, the combination makes for a cramped grip.

    On the other hand, my Cloutier flat-top also has a flat 1-7/8" fingerboard, but its profile is deeper, and I don't get the discomfort I sometimes do with the Dunn. (This bothers me a good bit, because I really like the Dunn's voice.)

    I find what might be called mainstream neck formulas pretty comfortable--1-3/4" Goodall and Eastman 805, my old Guild D-40 (only 1-11/16"). And I got a Shelley Park Elan 12 that has worked out well for my left hand.

  • Posts: 4,713

    I gotta tell you, every time I see your profile thumbnail little pic, I ask myself "why the heck is he raising the question of thumb-over fretting thing...".

    Every note wants to go somewhere-Kurt Rosenwinkel
  • billyshakesbillyshakes NoVA✭✭✭ Park Avance - Dupont Nomade - Dupont DM-50E
    Posts: 1,278

    Sven Jungbeck has this to say about thumb vs. barre chords and what is "proper." I've cued it up to the spot and he touches on the subject for about the first minute afterward, including later some anecdotes of admonishing older teachers and his own sound advice.

    Bottom Line: Both are fine, do what you like.

  • crothcroth ✭✭
    Posts: 107

    Interesting topic, crossing over a couple of areas in one question. Here are my thoughts:

    1. The D500 is a great guitar for the price. When I listen to my group’s lead guitarist use one, in his hands it’s neither wet nor tubby. He does not have big hands but uses thumb wrapping extensively. Though I once owned one, I am not invested in that guitar so I’m not trying to sell you on it.
    2. Nut width is not the only factor effecting thumb wrap. Neck profile is another. I had more trouble wrapping my thumb around a particular Dupont neck than the D500’s because of something about the Dupont’s neck profile. That said, you have to like the D500’s thin neck to play one, and also I’m not saying the D500’s nut width didn’t make it harder than necessary, yet I never thought of that as a complaint about the guitar when I had one.
    3. To Russell: I actually just had basal thumb joint surgery. However, differently than you, the thumb wrap (which I’ve grown up with the guitar using) did not hurt me. It was the pressure of the thumb on the back of the neck when playing solos and standard barre chords that did me in. After a while I had to stop using standard barre chords altogether and played only thumb wrap chords. I guess everyone responds differently to thumb usage, maybe depending on playing style and technique.
    4. To Jason S: I think it might be difficult to play, for example, a G6/9 at 3rd position, a very common (in gypsy jazz) 5 note chord, without using the thumb (or without eliminating the G in the bass). I’m out of town now so can’t experiment. If you have a fingering that works, I’m interested in it. Thanks.
  • BonesBones Moderator
    Posts: 3,318

    I had a D500 once. First GJ guitar. Fine for rhythm but WAY too wet for soloing. Only kept it long enough to get something better. Honestly I would not bother spending money on one you will just need to upgrade sooner than later.

    Thumb wrap chords not necessary unless you just really want to use them. Personally I only use Freddie Green style chords since I have arthritis in my left hand but even before that they are soooo much easier to get thru a long jam or gig and also tend to stay out of the upper register and away from the soloist. A large part of rhythm is percussion anyway and the beats are supposed to be quickly damped which is more about right and left hand technique than how fat of a chord you are playing. If you are having a hard time with big fat chords don't worry about it as long as you get the 3rds and 7ths (or 6ths) in there in the mid/lower range it is fine if not preferrable. Remember to damp the open strings but that just happens automagically if you lay your fretting fingers lighty across them.

  • billyshakesbillyshakes NoVA✭✭✭ Park Avance - Dupont Nomade - Dupont DM-50E
    Posts: 1,278


    I love this word. I need to start using it more in my life.

  • Posts: 4,713

    It's up to the person. It's certainly not a deal breaker in this music. Actually Tcha L. discourages use of maj-min6 chords, he says to just use basic barre chords unless there is a 6 in the melody. But this technique is a versatile guitar technique, used in swing, mainstream jazz, bluegrass...even in Purple Rain. If you wanna play the Purple Rain intro the way Wendy Melvoin does, you gotta use the thumb over the fretboard :)

    Every note wants to go somewhere-Kurt Rosenwinkel
  • Posts: 68

    Perhaps I'm an outlier but I feel like the "thumb chords" are essential, certainly for ballads and slower tunes

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