Correct Left thumb position

Hello ! I need a little help . I had played the guitar as a child and now I am getting into the bass but I have a bad habit that i cannot get rid of and that’s is the position of my left thumb . Teachers have told me that the thumb must rest in the neck, not pressure . But I can’t do it! I cannot avoid pressuring, I feel I need to do it in order to press the string hard enough. And specially in the lowest strings in frets 1-5 . And that makes impossible to play a single song without getting cramps in the eminence famous ( that muscle they belongs to the thumb ) . what can I do? Do you guys recommend any exercise or habit?
I will share 3 fotos , 2 are showing how I place the thumb and one is showing how I think and everybody tells it should be done .

Pd ; how do you guys place it ? ( in any position of the neck )

Thank !


glad you are here @emmaconfalonieri
Stop by the Introduce Yourself thread as well, but to answer your question…
Different teachers bring different baggage/learned behavior/myths to the table.

This video has been shared on the forum a few times, and I have never heard any rebuttle to it…


Welcome to the forum @emmaconfalonieri!
@John_E beat me to it, I was going to recommend the same video.

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I too am a former guitarist and know exactly what you are dealing with. It was hard for me to keep my thumb on the backside of the neck - which I do (sometimes)……

Since I play bass a bit like I use to play guitar, I have to be very cognizant as to my fretting thumb position…. When I do have my thumb over the fretboard, I use it ONLY to mute the “E” string.

Having your thumb behind the neck will allow you to have more leverage to fret strings, so as much as you possibly can, keep your fretting thumb behind the fretboard on the neck… Your notes will be much cleaner, and you won’t tire as easily….

Some players like @PamPurrs - Pam, use a floating thumb technique on their plucking hand which works rather well…. For me however having played guitar for many years, this technique was one that I just couldn’t wrap my hands around - especially since I do still play guitar….

Find what works well for you…. We’re all different, and we all play a bit different…. Remember, the only real rule for playing bass is to HAVE FUN, and be the best YOU can be….

As far as “Rules”…… think of that movie “Butch Cassidy And The Sundance Kid”…….

“Rules,…. In a knife fight??”……

Keep On Thumpin’!

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I’ve found these couple of short video very useful to relax the left hand and thumb, and bring consciousness to what it’s doing. Dropping the left hand when you feel tension is especially helpful as it also releases tension from the shoulders and neck. I use these exercises in my warm up to remind me to relax. Hope it helps.

Also, if this is still happening once you make some other changes then might want to check your action is low enough. Just a thought.

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Play some scales or easy bass lines and practice fretting the notes without using the thumb. Make sure you’re fretting the note right behind the fret wire. If you can’t do that, then there’s something else wrong, like how you’re holding the bass or the setup.

Here’s another good video you don’t need to use one finger pre fret, you can use Simandl if you can’t reach four frets.

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That Adam Neely video helped me a lot with my thumb problems.
@emmaconfalonieri I used to place my thumb like you, I even thought that this was the correct position for the thumb, right in the middle of the four fingers, kinda like you would if you pick up a pen.

But when watching the Adam Neely video, I realized that this is not the way to do it. Just relax your hand, see where the thumb will naturally go, leave it there. You might have to consciously do it for some time, but it won’t take long until you just don’t have to think about your thumb anymore, it will just be relaxed behind the neck

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If it is actually true that you cannot fret a note without thumb pressure it is highly likely your bass needs a setup. The fact that it is in the lower frets may indicate a problem with nut height.

You would be surprised how little pressure it actually takes to fret a note on a properly set up bass. One exercise I like to do occasionally is to very slowly fret a note, applying very light pressure, first to where it will buzz, until it stops buzzing and the note rings normally. This should require very little actual pressure. Do this a few times around the fretboard.

Next, practice playing notes, maybe a scale, without your thumb on the back of the neck at all. Use your right forearm against the bass body to provide any needed counterpressure. Keep your thumb folded down by your index finger. If your bass is properly set up, you should be able to do this without too much problem. Try it for five minutes a day or something.

If you can’t do that, then your bass likely needs a setup and lower action badly.

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Ideally you should be able to play without your thumb even touching the neck. It’s possible, but it’s much better to have your thumb as a light anchor. The minimum pressure should be applied by both thumb and fingers when fretting.

As other people have mentioned, I think the issue is that the strings are far too high. They should be as close to the fretboard without creating any buzzing when played in your usual way.

There is nothing wrong with the actual position of your thumb, being in the centre of the neck, around midway between your index and little finger. That’s just a rough guide.

Another thing to watch for keeping your hand open so that the muscles of the palm of your hand aren’t under stress as if you’re holding something heavy and thin. You don’t want that. And keep your palm away from the neck.

And always avoid having your wrist bent while you’re playing. Not doing so will encourage carpel tunnel.

What everyone else said.

Can you show us a picture of the bass side on, so we can see how high the strings are from the fretboard?

Wow. Never done that before. That feels weird, LOL.

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Totally! But it’s a neat exercise to train yourself how little the thumb actually matters there.

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Thanks you !!

Thanks ! It’s set up , it’s just an acoustic bass which makes the fretting harder I suppose . But thanks for the advise !

Great video thanks !

Sure !

I appreciate the help !

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Hello and thanks ! I think the bass is properly set up I show you a pic