There are two main positions for the thumb when playing the guitar. The first is the standard playing position, in which the thumb is placed behind the neck, out of sight. To find the correct position, try this exercise: Hold the fretboard as if you are cradling the neck, and stop behind the third or fourth string as you move down. Alternatively, you can try playing a scale in front of a mirror with your thumb placed behind the neck. It should not be visible while you are playing.
If you are playing scales, arpeggios, legato, tapping, string skipping, or improvising, then this is the thumb position you want to use. So, what is the other position? Why do we have a second thumb position? Where do we use it? Let us see!
The second position in guitar playing is a technique used for bending the strings and adding vibrato. To perform this technique, the thumb should be placed over the neck of the guitar instead of behind it. This is because using the bicep to bend the string, rather than the extensor and flexor muscles in the fingers allows for a stronger and more controlled bend and also reduces the risk of finger injury. To do this, hook the thumb over the neck of the guitar and turn the wrist while bending the string to use the bicep to push it up. This technique can be applied to both regular bends, vibrato, and consecutive bends.
I hope this was helpful. You can watch the video below, where I explain this topic in more detail. If you’re interested in developing your guitar skills and reaching your music goals, please check the different Elite Guitar Coaching Academy packages and how you can get private coaching from me.
Ioannis Anastassakis studied at the distinguished Musicians Institute (GIT), where he remained as an instructor, after graduating in the top 1% of his class. He continued his graduate studies in Music, at California State University, completing an MA in Guitar Performance, and graduating with Magna Cum Laude distinction. As an accomplished author, he has written five highly successful instructional books published by Mel Bay Publications, with his latest book reaching the #1 spot on the Amazon charts. He has released 5 guitar CDs and has been teaching Music and Music Business at the University level since 2001. Additionally, he is the founder and managing director of Elite Guitar Coaching.
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