Thumb behind vs over the neck

Your thumb should be a guide for the fingers of your left hand. The important thing is to be gentle and always aim for the most economical movement. How little pressure can you exert to get a clean note when you pluck the string?

When you've found the easiest way of doing the thing you do, you'll have your answer.
 
I was thinking about thumb position a few months ago and made this video. The cramping issue you raised is addressed (to some extent) in the video starting somewhere around the 3:26 mark. I am using thumb position to get a more comfortable grip on barre chords (rather than gripping harder with my thumb placed directly behind the barre finger) and to create more space for the hand to finger the chords. See what you think...


Thank you for delineating “grip” from “ “torque”, which is a “light - bulb concept” for me.
 
I used to obsess about keeping my thumb on the back of the neck even though it didn't feel natural. Then I watched this video of Brittni Paiva.

 
I used to obsess about keeping my thumb on the back of the neck even though it didn't feel natural. Then I watched this video of Brittni Paiva.


Thats pretty much a lot of my hand position too, but she plays slightly better than I do. Slightly - HA HA - Thats a Funny !
 
If it works for you put your thumb where ever you like. I do not place mine on the back of the neck very much at all.

I think I need to work on my hand position on a golf club though. Slice, Slice, Slice. Maybe if I shot a golf ball with a ukulele it might fly straight - I don't know.

Mechanics of anything can vary per individual. Sometimes the prescribed method works, sometimes it doesn't.
 
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Sorry for deleting a bunch of posts, but I was sorry to see such an interesting, helpful, on-topic thread get taken so far off track, too.

We now return you to your regularly scheduled thumbfest. Any inquiries, complaints, etc, please take them up with me directly rather than on the thread.

Mahalo,
Tim
Mod
 
I am philosophically a thumb behind the neck person, but I wondered if my behavior was consistent with that. To be honest, I don't know because I never give a thought to my thumb placement. And since people behave differently when they know they are under observation, I cannot guarantee that my reactions were 100% true when I did pay attention. But, yeah, my thumb stayed behind the neck all the time. Of course, sometimes the thumb shifted a bit from the centerline depending on what support the hand needed, but it never neared the point of curling around the edge. And there are special circumstances. For example, when I was younger and not so perspicacious I bought my custom Kamaka without a cutaway so that to play notes above the 15th fret I need to stretch over the upper bout. In that case it would be impossible to maintain a centerline thumb position.

All that being said, I don't fuss about this at all. It is kind of like which finger do you strum with, strap or no strap, plectrum or not, do you anchor with the pinky when fingerpicking. Just do what you do, for whatever reason, and let the haters hate, the envious be green, and the admirers gush.
 
It's hard to play these days, since Sunday, without thinking about this. I noticed that sometimes I have my thumb in a "hang loose" position, where it's closer to the headstock than my fingers.
 
It is true that fatigue is managed better and navigation around the fretboard is facilitated more by the thumb behind the neck, especially with guitar and bass, but I do so much bending and vibrato that I find myself with the thumb wrapped around more often than not. On bass, I have to have the thumb behind because of the width and everything else with basses, but even there I'm bending on occasion and I'll shift, but the stress on the ligaments, all the way up the arm is crazy with bass. I don't know how the Jacos of the world do it!
 
I used to obsess about keeping my thumb on the back of the neck even though it didn't feel natural. Then I watched this video of Brittni Paiva.


I started with acoustic guitar and took a classical class in college, so I learned to keep my thumb on the back... then, in a recent lesson with Brittni, she taught me this soloing technique where you mute the low G with your thumb and play various intervals and mutes with the other fingers. It definitely takes some getting used to! She also mentioned that Corey not only mutes, but sometimes frets the G with his thumb.

Echoing what others have already said here, I don't believe there's a 'proper' technique and anything that came from classical training might apply or might apply differently, based on it being a completely different instrument.

I was just imagining the history of the uke and how it was likely played in the old days of Hawaii out on a beach or in the country. I'm sure they just played either what was comfortable if they learned on their own or how they're teacher taught 'em if they learned from someone else.

Ahhhh.. the beauty if the internet and forums! Now we all get try try a few different things and see what works for us!.. but if you wanna play those octave isolations like Brittni's solo, you'll likely find the thumb mute works great!!!

👍🏼
 
I started with acoustic guitar and took a classical class in college, so I learned to keep my thumb on the back... then, in a recent lesson with Brittni, she taught me this soloing technique where you mute the low G with your thumb and play various intervals and mutes with the other fingers. It definitely takes some getting used to! She also mentioned that Corey not only mutes, but sometimes frets the G with his thumb.

Echoing what others have already said here, I don't believe there's a 'proper' technique and anything that came from classical training might apply or might apply differently, based on it being a completely different instrument.

I was just imagining the history of the uke and how it was likely played in the old days of Hawaii out on a beach or in the country. I'm sure they just played either what was comfortable if they learned on their own or how they're teacher taught 'em if they learned from someone else.

Ahhhh.. the beauty if the internet and forums! Now we all get try try a few different things and see what works for us!.. but if you wanna play those octave isolations like Brittni's solo, you'll likely find the thumb mute works great!!!

👍🏼
Note the thumb pick. Not trad. I always noticed jazz players like Pat Matheny and John McLaughlan with the thumb back, but there's not a ton of bending/vibrato going on that would require the thumb wrapped. If you want notes to sing, go back. If you want them to speak, wrap it up is the way I see it. Depends on what you're after. I remember a critic back when McLaughlan first came on scene complaining that he could play a lot of notes, but he couldn't bend one to save his life, which I find as ignorant a statement today as I did in the '70s!
 
Interesting discussion! Coming from cello, I find I naturally gravitate to having the thumb behind the neck. (But that, itself, is a modern notion; most cellists in the 18th century played with the thumb over, like a modern folk guitarist!). I sometimes put the thumb over to stabilise the uke (I play mostly without a strap). If you watch tenor guitarist John Lawler play, he shifts effortlessly between the two positions. As with any technique, flexibility is key.
 
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