Right hand placement

So I luckily have never had the issue that @JoshFossgreen always warns about where beginners pull up and away from the body. The “right” way to do it was the natural thing I did when I first picked up a bass with absolutely zero experience (the salesman even commented on in in the store). But one thing I am wondering about is where to place my hand/fingers.

—I am only talking about “standard” plucking right now. Not slapping or any other alternative style—

I notice that @JoshFossgreen usually* has his thumb anchored about on the center of the pickup and his fingers travel across the pickup in the appropriate fashion, regardless of which string he is playing.

I have noticed that anytime I am hot on a string instead of directly on the pickup, unless I am paying attention to my hand placement, my right hand tends to drift…I suppose ‘down’ would be the proper musical term…it drifts towards the neck and my thumb usually ends up just on the neck side of the pickup.

I can take some pics if it would help, but essentially, when I anchor on the E or A string, the pad of my thumb is on the string like it should be, but the tip of my thumb is against the bass body (no pick guard) and the side of my thumb (what would normally be the outside edge of you hold your right hand out in front of you, palm forward) is against the neck side of the neck pickup. Geez, that was confusing.

Is this a bad habit I need to break or just a part of my unique style?


I do a similar thing, I move around a lot for the different tones available. The only reason you should have to worry is if you’re stopping any free movement of your hand by being anchored this way, or if you’re bumming out some of the notes you’re trying to produce. I must say, I anchor on the edge of the neck itself if I’m going for a really bassy, plummier tone.
Also, it really depends on the style you may want to play. A great lesson here:

edit: I can’t do some of this stuff, especially to speed! But the thumb thing applies as a basic element.
Also something I can’t play which shows a totally different style but you can see the process of technique, from one of my favourite bassists, Kev Hopper.

@muff thanks for the input! I don’t think it is stopping any free movement, however, I also have not yet tried to play any songs that really require right hand movement, so it is tough to say what impact it will have later, which is why I was wanting to change it now if I need to. It just feels more natural to me this way for some reason.

Just in case my description above wasn’t enough, I grabbed a screenshot from the video you linked. This is pretty close to what I do with my thumb. However, mine is on the neck pickup instead of the bridge pickup and my thumb is slightly more perpendicular to the body and not as much at an angle.

I went ahead and made a little graphic as well. I am not for sure if the pickup types I have matter much, so I got a picture of my bass (well, not MINE…but the kind I play) The dots represent where I put my thumb when I play each string and the arrow is my finger movement direction (which is always right down the center of the pickup, even if my thumb is offset).

I feel like I get a better anchor here because i can get the center of my thumb pad on the string as opposed to just the top 1/4 if I put my thumb on top of the pickup.

So. Assuming that I am not hindering my movement (to be seen, I suppose) what tone effect will this have? I have really bad ears (as in, permanent hearing damage. A post for another time…) so I can’t hear too much of a difference on my own. I have experimented with going WAY to the other side and plucking very close to the bridge itself to try and figure out what the opposite sound would be on an extreme, but other than to say it does not sound good, I don’t know how to describe it. Thin maybe? it just sounds like I am not doing much. I assume because the strings are not ringing as well.

FWIW: My bass has a knob that allows me to adjust the pickups. I am not sure what the technical term is (gain maybe?), but turned all the way one way is Neck all the way the other is Bridge and then there is a soft stop in the middle for (I assume) a blend. I have mine set for about 3/4 Neck and 1/4 Bridge. Not sure how much this affects me right now, I don’t hear a ton of difference TBH.

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As you saw in the vids, rules are hard to apply. One can only generalise around a theme. If your thumb is where it needs to be when you play the music you wish to create, it’s not wrong. If it is, adapt that process. No two players are alike. You can probably hear the tone difference in the playing of Kev Hopper where he uses placement as a way of making those harmonic slides pop out from the thumb notes.
To break it down in sound is very difficult. That knob is a blend. The centre detent is equal output for both pickups. 75% Neck pup will be “bassier” generally. All this will also be going through your tone controls, and whatever amp/cab or listening device you use. If you can’t hear a lot of difference, don’t worry about it so much.

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Awesome! Seems like it will be something that I will adjust as I learn more if I need or want to. I’m just glad you didn’t scream that I was ruining my playing or developing any horrible habits that I would need to break later!

Also, in that first video, does his fretboard have actual grooves in it? At first I thought the black bars were just a cool looking replacement for the dots most basses have (don’t know the actual name of them) but when it zooms in, it looks like there are actual grooves cutout even on some frets with no black. Is this just a cool aesthetics thing or does it serve a purpose in sound/play-ability?

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I hope there’s more input here as I am by no means a teacher/expert. Having watched @JoshFossgreen and @Gio play too, the same differences apply! The grooves are called “scallops”. Doesn’t change the sound as far as I know, does change the way you play on a guitar but I haven’t tried a Billy Sheehan Bass yet. I did try a WAL fretless and found that it changes the sound and playability. I wasn’t practiced enough to play it! I sounded terrible!

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Yes. This. Based on your descriptions and pictures, you’re right where you need to be.


Like others have said I don’t think there’s a hard and fast rule on where to anchor your thumb. I often just place my thumb against the body of the bass between the pickups on my Jazz bass because I like the tone I get from that position.


Hey @brandoncmurphy, based on this graphic:

I think you’re all good! That’s a pretty small difference in thumb placement along the string, I don’t imagine it will result in an audible change in tone. And like others have said in this thread, there’s no “right” position to be in, different positions give you different tones. Keep on chuggin’. :sunglasses: