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Where's your thumb?

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Margo 31 Dec 00 - 02:18 PM
Matt_R 31 Dec 00 - 02:28 PM
Jon Freeman 31 Dec 00 - 02:41 PM
Allan C. 31 Dec 00 - 02:53 PM
joshleik 31 Dec 00 - 03:11 PM
Little Hawk 31 Dec 00 - 04:40 PM
Banjer 31 Dec 00 - 04:52 PM
McGrath of Harlow 31 Dec 00 - 05:04 PM
Clinton Hammond2 31 Dec 00 - 05:07 PM
Bernard 31 Dec 00 - 05:15 PM
Matt_R 31 Dec 00 - 05:22 PM
Mark Clark 31 Dec 00 - 05:27 PM
Bernard 31 Dec 00 - 05:30 PM
Amergin 31 Dec 00 - 08:08 PM
catspaw49 31 Dec 00 - 08:12 PM
McGrath of Harlow 31 Dec 00 - 08:22 PM
Mark Clark 31 Dec 00 - 08:28 PM
catspaw49 31 Dec 00 - 08:33 PM
Amos 31 Dec 00 - 08:41 PM
catspaw49 31 Dec 00 - 08:44 PM
Mooh 31 Dec 00 - 08:59 PM
Mooh 31 Dec 00 - 09:04 PM
Jon Freeman 31 Dec 00 - 09:12 PM
Jon Freeman 31 Dec 00 - 09:26 PM
John Hardly 31 Dec 00 - 10:00 PM
catspaw49 31 Dec 00 - 10:33 PM
GUEST,Margo at my dad's 01 Jan 01 - 12:28 AM
blt 01 Jan 01 - 12:47 AM
Margo 01 Jan 01 - 04:38 AM
Bernard 01 Jan 01 - 05:43 AM
Mooh 01 Jan 01 - 07:11 AM
Mark Clark 04 Jan 01 - 09:39 PM
Murray MacLeod 04 Jan 01 - 10:05 PM
Murray MacLeod 04 Jan 01 - 10:07 PM
Matt_R 04 Jan 01 - 10:19 PM
Murray MacLeod 04 Jan 01 - 10:44 PM
Matt_R 04 Jan 01 - 11:49 PM
catspaw49 04 Jan 01 - 11:58 PM
Murray MacLeod 04 Jan 01 - 11:59 PM
Mark Clark 05 Jan 01 - 12:09 AM
Matt_R 05 Jan 01 - 12:10 AM
catspaw49 05 Jan 01 - 12:14 AM
Melani 05 Jan 01 - 12:15 AM
catspaw49 05 Jan 01 - 12:17 AM
Melani 05 Jan 01 - 12:18 AM
Murray MacLeod 05 Jan 01 - 12:20 AM
Firecat 05 Jan 01 - 04:53 AM
kimmers 06 Jan 01 - 01:09 AM
wysiwyg 06 Jan 01 - 03:00 AM
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Subject: Where's your thumb?
From: Margo
Date: 31 Dec 00 - 02:18 PM

Duh, on my hand.

No, actually, I've been chided by my guitar/banjo teacher about hand position. I tend to want to cradle the instrument in the web of my thumb. Instead, he wants me to place the ball of my thumb on the back of the neck. Lo and behold, I play better! I don't have my thumb down there all the time, but I was wondering how much of the time you all play with your thumb in that position... Margo


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Subject: RE: Where's your thumb?
From: Matt_R
Date: 31 Dec 00 - 02:28 PM

Margo, that's the tradition thumb placement for playing classical guitar as well. A lot people think it's stupid, but I does make you play better. A lot of regular acoustic guitarist will say cradle it. But I think a lot of people would find playing barre chords a lot easier when using the "thumb on the back of the neck" method, because it gives you the necessary back pressure to execute the barres.


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Subject: RE: Where's your thumb?
From: Jon Freeman
Date: 31 Dec 00 - 02:41 PM

I have just had a look. I seem to use that position to play barre chords but my thumb is normally higher up the neck than that although I never cradle the neck with the web of the guitar. The width of the neck seems to make a big difference to me and I don't seem to be able to play melody comfortably on my tenor banjo with my thumb in that position.

Jon


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Subject: RE: Where's your thumb?
From: Allan C.
Date: 31 Dec 00 - 02:53 PM

It depends upon style. If you are accustomed to partial barring or muting with your thumb, then what you propose is impractical. But for virtually all other styles thumb placement can very much facilitate better finger pressure and longer reaches.


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Subject: RE: Where's your thumb?
From: joshleik
Date: 31 Dec 00 - 03:11 PM

definitely depends on the style. most of the time my thumb is actually hanging over the top of the fret board a la richie havens but moves to the back of the neck when necessary. some people find it very difficult to get comfortable with the thumb in certain places. and unless you're playing classical guitar, you can afford to have it wherever you feel comfortable.


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Subject: RE: Where's your thumb?
From: Little Hawk
Date: 31 Dec 00 - 04:40 PM

Ideally speaking it should be under the neck, classical guitar style, but that would be in a perfect world...point is, anywhere is fine if it works for your style, I guess.

Man, I can't wait till Spaw gets on this thread.

- LH


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Subject: RE: Where's your thumb?
From: Banjer
Date: 31 Dec 00 - 04:52 PM

I too was told that my thumb should be at the back of the neck for proper pressure. I find myself able to play beter when I go back to the basics. (That being with thumb at back of neck as I was taught)


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Subject: RE: Where's your thumb?
From: McGrath of Harlow
Date: 31 Dec 00 - 05:04 PM

If I'm playing barre chords, or planning to play barre chords soon, the thumb's round the back. If I'm playing an F and using my thumb to fret the bass string, it's round the side. Rest of the time it's somewhere in between. Stick in one position and I get cramp anyway.

In fact, when I'm not playing barre chords, most of the pressure, for me, doesn't come from the thumb at all, but from my body pressing on the guitar, and the fingwers pressing down on the strings.

But the size of your hands and the size of the instrument neck also comes into it - classical guitars tend to be built in such a way you really have to do it the official way.


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Subject: RE: Where's your thumb?
From: Clinton Hammond2
Date: 31 Dec 00 - 05:07 PM

I use both positions depending on the chord... and wether or not I wanna use my thumb somewhere along the low E string...

;-)


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Subject: RE: Where's your thumb?
From: Bernard
Date: 31 Dec 00 - 05:15 PM

I'm with you, Mac! 'Horses for Courses' - there's no 'right' or 'wrong'!

As a guitar teacher I encourage my pupils to adopt the classical position, but it doesn't work too well if you play standing up.

My advice to anyone would be 'try different positions until you find one you like'...

That would also apply to your thumb, too...!!

As for the right hand, my advice is 'pretend you are tightening a wing nut' - the thumb and fingers should pass each other, not collide.

I also recommend holding a satsuma (tangerine!) in the palm of your right hand, and trying to play a little - it puts the fingers and thumb into the correct shape, and shows the correct wrist attitude!

Anything silly helps the memory...


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Subject: RE: Where's your thumb?
From: Matt_R
Date: 31 Dec 00 - 05:22 PM

I never got the wrap around thumb to play notes. It sounds like crap. I can't find any way that it WON'T damped strings. The thumb behind works miracles on sliding barre chords. Sometime I think I need to write a guitar method or something. I want to lead the people to the light about the thumb in the back. Lightning Barre Chords!!


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Subject: RE: Where's your thumb?
From: Mark Clark
Date: 31 Dec 00 - 05:27 PM

Margo,

To be a fully rounded guitarist, you need to be able to play both ways with equal facility. Either method, used exclusively, will tend to lock you into certain ways of playing and prevent you from playing a lot of really nice music.

If your banjo playing includes three-finger bluegrass techniques, you will want to be able to use your thumb to help with some chord patterns above the fifth string peg.

On guitar, if your goal is to play chords as an accompanyment to folk songs, just make them any way that feels comfortable and gives you the necessary speed. If your goal includes some measure instrumental virtuosity then you will want to master both left hand techniques and a number of different right hand techniques as well.

While you are under the guidance of an instructor, don't be too assertive in suggesting appropriate technique. Work to learn everything the instructor has to teach you, then use as much of it as fits with what you want to play. You may eventually outgrow your instructor and want to find one who can expand your vistas even more.

Good pickin',

      - Mark


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Subject: RE: Where's your thumb?
From: Bernard
Date: 31 Dec 00 - 05:30 PM

I've used my thumb to get a low F# in a D chord for as long as I can remember. The trick is to get the joint on the edge of the neck, then bunch up the flesh of the tip to fret the string.

I don't use my thumb to play any other notes, though - I've always managed with my fingers! Yeah, yeah, I know D can be played with fingers only... I've just never bothered, okay? It ain't no big deal!!

Guitarist's Golden Rule - never lift a finger unless you have to! You play quicker if you keep your fingers close to the strings as much as possible...


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Subject: RE: Where's your thumb?
From: Amergin
Date: 31 Dec 00 - 08:08 PM

I'm sitting on mine.....


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Subject: RE: Where's your thumb?
From: catspaw49
Date: 31 Dec 00 - 08:12 PM

Thank you'gin boy. I've been sitting here with my thumb up my ass waiting for somebody else to take this one. Much obliged. Happy New Year!

Spaw


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Subject: RE: Where's your thumb?
From: McGrath of Harlow
Date: 31 Dec 00 - 08:22 PM

Well without your thumb round the back you couldn't very well do sliding barre chords anyway!

With some guitars, and with some hands it's not possible to thumb the 6th string anyway. But it's worth being able to have it available. Without it there are some sounds you just cannot get, no matter how great your guitar technique is.

But equally if you can't do full barre chords you're limiting yourself too. Recently I've been working on strengthening my left hand, using a small foam rubber ball, and it's surprising the difference it's made - I can easily do things I'd struggled to do for years. And I've been able to dispense with putting a strategically placed sticking-plaster on the first joint of my index finger, which was my way of eliminating a buzz on the third string when I was playing barre C shapes.


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Subject: RE: Where's your thumb?
From: Mark Clark
Date: 31 Dec 00 - 08:28 PM

"Well without your thumb round the back you couldn't very well do sliding barre chords anyway!"

McGrath, I'm guessing you never had the chance to watch Blind Gary Davis up close. Too bad, he was fantastic.

      - Mark


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Subject: RE: Where's your thumb?
From: catspaw49
Date: 31 Dec 00 - 08:33 PM

Not exactly your classic barre chords either, but if you watch Ritchie Havens you can see someone bar WITH their thumb. Of course not everyone has 8 inch thumbs either.

Spaw


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Subject: RE: Where's your thumb?
From: Amos
Date: 31 Dec 00 - 08:41 PM

But p'raps Spaw does, which may be the secret to why he keeps it where he does. Of course there's no telling what barring means in this context, but perhaps he could pull it out and explain....


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Subject: RE: Where's your thumb?
From: catspaw49
Date: 31 Dec 00 - 08:44 PM

Are you expecting a plum or what Amos?

Spaw


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Subject: RE: Where's your thumb?
From: Mooh
Date: 31 Dec 00 - 08:59 PM

Most of the guitar students I get who have studied with someone else or on their own subscribe to the idea that it's an either/or situation. Truth is that it needs to be neither or both. In other words, thumb position depends not on an adopted style, but on playing requirements. Use your thumb to dampen the low string(s) or fret the sixth at the second fret for the D chord for example, which will enclose the neck more closely with your hand. Also use your thumb in the more traditional classical style for barre chords. Also, bring you thumb out front of the fingerboard when playing way beyond the edge of the guitar body. Letting your thumb dictate your style is restrictive. A fluid relaxed left hand position is liberating and releases the tension from the hand which increases dexterity and agility. Allowing the thumb to be positioned at approximately the centre of the neck usually means that strings can be fingered without accidentally touching (muting) a neighbouring string, and reduces the likelihood of cramping. I also prefer this positioning for single-note (lead) playing.

Btw, when standing you still shouldn't cradle the neck as the guitar should be balanced from the strap, not on your hand.

Happy New Year, I'm staying in. Mooh.


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Subject: RE: Where's your thumb?
From: Mooh
Date: 31 Dec 00 - 09:04 PM

One caveat, the neck is not a baseball bat or a pipe-wrench and shouldn't be held as such. A piano isn't gripped and neither should a guitar be gripped, they're instruments.

Rant over, thanks. Mooh.


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Subject: RE: Where's your thumb?
From: Jon Freeman
Date: 31 Dec 00 - 09:12 PM

OK, I am still confused here: lets say the width of banjo neck is 1" narrower than th width of my guitar, is it reasonable to suggest that the thumb should sit say 1/2 way up the neck when 1/2 way up obviously varies in distance and how about size of hands?

Jon


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Subject: RE: Where's your thumb?
From: Jon Freeman
Date: 31 Dec 00 - 09:26 PM

PS, I am not knowledgeable on this but I am struggling to work out how, say my mum, who can span 2 inches less than me sould be looking for the thumb in the same position in terms of position high or low on the neck.

Jon


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Subject: RE: Where's your thumb?
From: John Hardly
Date: 31 Dec 00 - 10:00 PM

A piano isn't gripped and neither should a guitar be gripped, they're instruments.

And an apple isn't peeled and neither should an orange be peeled, they're fruits.

And a jockstrap isn't worn by women and neither should a bra be worn by women, they're underwear.

And a blah, blah, blah, blah...

tweek, tweek Mr. Mooh *BG* JH


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Subject: RE: Where's your thumb?
From: catspaw49
Date: 31 Dec 00 - 10:33 PM

And if any of y'all are playin' real expensive guitars like I know Mooh does, be sure you ain't "grippin'" it as I walk past. Those of you with expensive pianos need not worry.

Spaw


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Subject: RE: Where's your thumb?
From: GUEST,Margo at my dad's
Date: 01 Jan 01 - 12:28 AM

Gee thanks, folks! I suppose I ought to have mentioned I'm learning to flatpick. I have a Martin 00018, and my hands aren't that big.

Bernard, What style of playing is referred to when you said "As for the right hand, my advice is 'pretend you are tightening a wing nut' - the thumb and fingers should pass each other, not collide. Would that be fingerstyle? I'm going to learn that next.

'Spaw, if you wanna master those barre chords, you're going to have to put your thumb in a different place, er, ah, position, that is! :o) Margo


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Subject: RE: Where's your thumb?
From: blt
Date: 01 Jan 01 - 12:47 AM

Margo - I agree with the flexible perspective, or being able to place your thumb on the neck to suit what you're playing. One thing I didn't see mentioned is the idea of paying attention to the amount of tension created between your thumb and your fingers as you're chording or playing notes. It's very possible to injure muscles by using too much tension, and tension prevents you from being able to move quickly or gracefully around on the fingerboard. Some of the tension is just there at the beginning because it's a new position for your hand to take and somewhat unnatural. However, if you notice pain in your wrist or the thumb joint and you've been playing for a while, check to see how hard you're pressing on the fingerboard and if the energy of the fingers is opposite the energy coming from the thumb (if that makes sense). One other thing I notice is that if I'm playing single notes on the high e and b strings, my thumb is usually more on that side of neck. If I'm fingerpicking, my thumb tends to be in the middle of the neck.


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Subject: RE: Where's your thumb?
From: Margo
Date: 01 Jan 01 - 04:38 AM

Yes blt. I noticed I get a much better F chord if I keep the thumb in the middle of the back. And I did strain a finger in that position. After I put my thumb in the back, I began to play the chord with ease.

Oh, and happy new year!! Thumbs up! Margo


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Subject: RE: Where's your thumb?
From: Bernard
Date: 01 Jan 01 - 05:43 AM

Yes, Margo - sorry! Fingerstyle playing...

My excuse for the faux-pas is that I don't use a plectrum (flatpick or whatever) when I play guitar, even though I started out that way...

As to the comment about balance of a guitar when standing - once a strap has given way whilst you are playing, you never make that mistake again!!

I understand what you are trying to say, Mooh, but you know as well as I do that your playing style evolves around your needs!!

As to not gripping an instrument, tell that to a trumpeter!! Or a flautist!! I was going to say a Bodhran player, but that's not an instrument, is it?!!

;-)

Any road up, there are always exceptions to prove every rule - it would be a dull world if we all did things the same way...

I'm off out to a session, now, with my big piano accordion. Can't grip that! But it has two straps for additional security!!

TTFN

Bernard


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Subject: RE: Where's your thumb?
From: Mooh
Date: 01 Jan 01 - 07:11 AM

Bernard. Agreed, but the original posts sorta indicated a need, I was only trying to suggest a way to accommodate it. As for flute grip, I was taught to let it rest on my thumbs rather than squeeze it in a grip. Btw, you know the difference between pink and purple? The grip. (LOL) Whatever suits.

Spaw and John H. Anal as hell, ain't I...it's probably genetic, though that can't be proved now. Phew.

I guess my underlying point is that if someone is a beginner (I made that assumption, sorry if I missed the mark), now's the time to develop a versatile style. Frankly, if it's not necessary to your needs it's just not necessary. There are legions of rock-steady (um...folk-steady?) guitarists who couldn't care less anyway and still sound super. Sometimes though, there might just be an easier way, that's all.

Geez, advice sure is cheap around here. Mooh.


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Subject: RE: Where's your thumb?
From: Mark Clark
Date: 04 Jan 01 - 09:39 PM

I'm curious to know whether any of the Catters who always keep the pad of their thumb pressed squarely behind the neck have ever tried playing the finger style known as thumb picking or Travis picking? If so, how does it work? Mose, Ike, and Merle are using thumbed chords in every concert or video I've seen.

Thanks,

      - Mark


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Subject: RE: Where's your thumb?
From: Murray MacLeod
Date: 04 Jan 01 - 10:05 PM

Mark, you said it ! Barre chords are for classical guitarists, women, and androgynes lacking the gonads to play a steel string like it should be played. Gary Davis used his thumb, Merle Travis used his thumb, Tony McManus uses his thumb and I use my thumb. What is the common faxtor? We all have man-sized hands. End of story.

Murray


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Subject: RE: Where's your thumb?
From: Murray MacLeod
Date: 04 Jan 01 - 10:07 PM

And we also use it to stir our coffee.

Murray


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Subject: RE: Where's your thumb?
From: Matt_R
Date: 04 Jan 01 - 10:19 PM

Murray, you have a real way of annoying the hell out of me.


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Subject: RE: Where's your thumb?
From: Murray MacLeod
Date: 04 Jan 01 - 10:44 PM

Jeez Matt, just when I thought we were finding common ground, with your tribute to Siog Siberil. (Although you did screw up by spelling his name incorrectly ..... aaah, college students )

Murray


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Subject: RE: Where's your thumb?
From: Matt_R
Date: 04 Jan 01 - 11:49 PM

Murray, I'd advise you to rethink that. It it YOU sir, who have spelled his name wrong. It's Soig Siberil. I had it right.


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Subject: RE: Where's your thumb?
From: catspaw49
Date: 04 Jan 01 - 11:58 PM

Either way it sounds like a laxative.

Spaw


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Subject: RE: Where's your thumb?
From: Murray MacLeod
Date: 04 Jan 01 - 11:59 PM

Matt, I like you and I am going to give you the chance to retract and admit your mistake. He is one great guitar player, on that we can agree.

Murray


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Subject: RE: Where's your thumb?
From: Mark Clark
Date: 05 Jan 01 - 12:09 AM

Needless to say, Murray, I use my thumb on the bass strings of chords as well. Of course I also use proper barre chords and a lot of patterns with selected damped strings that simply require having the thumb in the classical position. My point is that one needs to develop a good facility with both techniques. There is nothing mutually exclusive about them.

      - Mark


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Subject: RE: Where's your thumb?
From: Matt_R
Date: 05 Jan 01 - 12:10 AM

Oh really?

I ran "Siog Siberil" through a search engine (Metacrawler), and I got 1 result, a badly made page with his name misspelled.

I typed in "Soig Siberil" (which is CORRECT) and got 41 results, which tons of pages about him and his playing.

If you don't believe me, try it yourself.


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Subject: RE: Where's your thumb?
From: catspaw49
Date: 05 Jan 01 - 12:14 AM

I ran them both through Colonblaster.com and got a shitload of (s)hits including 153 at www.castoroil.com

Spaw


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Subject: RE: Where's your thumb?
From: Melani
Date: 05 Jan 01 - 12:15 AM

This has been a really great, useful thread for somebody like me. I taught myself to play guitar out of a book, and have pretty small hands. I've been trying for years to reteach myself to put the thumb in back. Now I can hardly wait to try playing with a tangerine in my palm.


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Subject: RE: Where's your thumb?
From: catspaw49
Date: 05 Jan 01 - 12:17 AM

Oh yeah.....And MURRAY....I got 17 hits at www.burtwardblowsaload.org

Spaw


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Subject: RE: Where's your thumb?
From: Melani
Date: 05 Jan 01 - 12:18 AM

I just realized on rereading it that that last sounded sarcastic. It isn't. I really have been working on hand position for years. Thanks, everybody.


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Subject: RE: Where's your thumb?
From: Murray MacLeod
Date: 05 Jan 01 - 12:20 AM

Matt, you are correct and I apologize. I have just logged on to Tony McManus' website and I see he is playing with Soig Siberil on the 23rd of January 2001 at Celtic Connections in Glasgow.

So you see the lengths to which I will go to get a plug in :) Seriously , you were right and I was wrong.

Murray


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Subject: RE: Where's your thumb?
From: Firecat
Date: 05 Jan 01 - 04:53 AM

I'm not a guitarist but I used to have the same problem when I played cello. I quit it three years ago today!

Basically I putmy thumb on the back of the cello's neck and as a result, and the tendency for the cello to slip, my thumb ended up digging into my shoulder. I also got nagged about the fact that I didn't lift my elbow, but if you watch the film "Hilary and Jackie" about Jacqueline Du Pre, you'll notice that the girl who plays Jackie doesn't lift her elbow either!!

FC


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Subject: RE: Where's your thumb?
From: kimmers
Date: 06 Jan 01 - 01:09 AM

I mostly use the thumb-on-back-of-neck position, if I'm playing "seriously" or classical-style. If I'm just fooling around, I go for comfort and cradle the neck.

I've noticed that since I sprained my thumb about... oh dear, I guess it was about twelve years ago! Aughh! Where does the time go? Anyway, it took a long time to heal, and my barre chords have never been quite as crisp due to some pain limitations. Thankfully, I'm strictly a hobby musician.


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Subject: RE: Where's your thumb?
From: wysiwyg
Date: 06 Jan 01 - 03:00 AM

If you have to ask (and thus can't see where mine is), you shouldn't ask! It's not nice!

~S~


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