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Thread: pragmatic steps for gaining an autonomous thumb.

  1. #1
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    Default pragmatic steps for gaining an autonomous thumb.

    I've been listening to some John Fahey guitar CD's and watching Justin Johnson on youtube, and I want their ability to play a droning bass line with the thumb whilst picking with the other fingers.

    But how does one go about that?

    I've looked at a few things and the advice is to practice. However that's pointless. It is like saying, "you want to beat Lebron James? Just score more points than him." The goal is obvious but the problem involves how do you achieve that goal? In terms of the droning bass line, the goal is obvious: the player just keeps it going while he or she plays the melody. Easy Peasy, right? However, what steps does one take to approach that goal?

    To that end, has anyone run across a systematic approach to teach the thumb to just keep on keeping on while the other fingers pick the melody?

  2. #2
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    Hate to repeat what "everyone else" has said, but it is all down to practice.

    You're trying to achieve two things here :

    1. Play melody/arpeggio or other accompaniment with your fingers

    2. Accompany that with a drone or bass line.

    So ... learn the finger work then introduce the thumb.

    Do bear in mind that, on a ukulele especially, the thumb will probably end up using some of the strings that the fingers use. That's the nature of the beast.

    Oh, did I mention, it takes a lot of practice
    There are those who will wax lyrical about the ability to play a double shuffle with a split fan and a tight G-string ...
    it just makes me walk funny!

  3. #3
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    Justin Johnson is a great guitar player and very underrated it seems.

    If it were me, I'd send him an email asking what the specific technique is called, and include a link to one or more of his videos with this type of playing, and also ask he if knows of any resources from which to learn, either books or videos....

    Then, once I know the 'official' name of the technique, I'd search online myself for more info.

    Otherwise, it would be just lots of iterative guessing and frustration. Been down that path too many times .

    see: http://www.justinjohnsonlive.com/contact.html
    Just the FAQs _____Less > more._____Serenity now, insanity later._____Live Long and Prosper.

  4. #4
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    okay, that's fair enough. However I have just a procedural question on how to approach this matter: do I try to fit the melody notes in-between the drone notes or should these two things be oblivious to each other and do their own thing?

    My intuition leads me to the latter approach. In lieu of any advice from people who can already do this, my plan is to practice the drone so that it becomes as thoughtless as tapping one's foot. Then I'll just play my melody whilst tapping my foot and droning. At least that's how I think I will approach it. However I am sure there will be some physical or neurological hurdles that trick me up. But I'll deal with that

  5. #5
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    Quote Originally Posted by ripock View Post
    okay, that's fair enough. However I have just a procedural question on how to approach this matter: do I try to fit the melody notes in-between the drone notes or should these two things be oblivious to each other and do their own thing?

    My intuition leads me to the latter approach. In lieu of any advice from people who can already do this, my plan is to practice the drone so that it becomes as thoughtless as tapping one's foot. Then I'll just play my melody whilst tapping my foot and droning. At least that's how I think I will approach it. However I am sure there will be some physical or neurological hurdles that trick me up. But I'll deal with that
    Whatever is the path of least resistance with the highest yield for you...

    If someone else has figured out the mental and physical pathways to success, I prefer not to have to reinvent the wheel when it might take 5-10 mins of thinking about it for me, and then another 2-3 mins to type out the email...

    Maybe I'm just being lazy, but sometimes time is short and I cannot allocate the effort to the task for discovering my own path to the desired result.

    Sorry I cannot offer specific answers as to the 'how to' for this technique. I don't necessarily play this way, nor have an interest or the time myself right now.

    I hope you can figure it out, and if you do, please share with the rest of us mere mortals.
    Just the FAQs _____Less > more._____Serenity now, insanity later._____Live Long and Prosper.

  6. #6
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    It may help if you approach the technique as a roll. Practice a forward roll as thumb, index, middle. Thumb plays 4&3 alternately while index and middle play 2&3. This method is used in blugrass banjo picking. Once you can maintain a consistant rhthym then try tmi, then mix them up to timtmi or some combination. Start by making chords then you can move to picking out melody lines. You can practice your rolls on a table or chair arm.

  7. #7
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    Hello ripock,
    Another alternative to your studies is a look at the many threads on utube for "Travis" picking.
    p i m a with the many alternatives.
    PS: Try "Travis picking for ukulele" into utube.
    Last edited by 1931jim; 10-01-2017 at 04:54 AM.

  8. #8
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    Quote Originally Posted by Barrytone View Post
    It may help if you approach the technique as a roll. Practice a forward roll as thumb, index, middle. Thumb plays 4&3 alternately while index and middle play 2&3. This method is used in blugrass banjo picking. Once you can maintain a consistant rhthym then try tmi, then mix them up to timtmi or some combination. Start by making chords then you can move to picking out melody lines. You can practice your rolls on a table or chair arm.
    I already practice Travis picking. So that puts me in good stead. However, I don't think I understand why standing on furniture will help

  9. #9
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    It will elevate your playing to a higher plane. I meant for you to tap out the rolls on a hard surface, but you knew that, didn't you?

  10. #10
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    Quote Originally Posted by Barrytone View Post
    It will elevate your playing to a higher plane. I meant for you to tap out the rolls on a hard surface, but you knew that, didn't you?
    to be honest, I didn't. I knew you couldn't mean what I thought you did, but I didn't understand. However your response is going to buoy my heart through the drudgery of the workweek.

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