Hi everybody and welcome to our first appointment with the “Double Thumbing” technique.
In this technique the right hand thumb (left for left-handed) is supposed to “pick” the string in both direction down and up. In traditional slap technique, the thumb hits the strings with only one movement (down), bouncing to load next stroke and the wrist is the fulcrum. Using double thumbing, introduced by Larry Graham and developed by Victor Wooten, we can, on the contrary, not bouncing but using an opposite motion to produce another sound (up).
In this first lesson we will start from the basics and we will practice on two simple three notes patterns, using the two movements of your thumb down (T?) and up (T?) and plucking (P) with your index finger (i). In the second pattern we will see how to introduce a fourth element: the hammer (H).
In this way we can use any combination of two, three and four notes, which can be applied to one or more strings.
The first step to approach the double thumbing technique is to achieve the right skill to hit the strings. Picking hand position is one the keys, and even if it is entirely personal and it changes from hand to hand according to size and anatomy, you must play in the most comfortable way in order to avoid inflammation and tendinitis.
These are my personal hand positions and approach, according to my own hand.
• As I said before the thumb must be able to hit the string in both the down and up direction. I place my thumb parallel to the strings. My hand, and therefore my fingers, are instead perpendicular to the strings as shown below.
• The tip of my thumb touches the end of the fretboard but you may find it more comfortable being a bit farer or even on the fretboard.
When the thumb actually hits the string it “gets through”, it doesn’t bounce, and it will stop on the string underneath. If the thumb bounces you lose the second movement because the thumb is already up.
The key point is to strike the first note (down) in the proper way. It is very important to hit the string firmly and with drive in order to obtain a full, clear and precise sound. After the first movement it will be easy to come back to the opposite direction (up) snapping the string again. I use the thumb knuckle to pluck the string on the way back.
Applying this concept on each string, note and scale, we can create infinite combinations of vertical and horizontal patterns.
The following two examples are focused on a three note pattern. Now the index finger is involved to pluck (P) the note after two motions of the thumb.
-The movements involved are then:
• Thumb down, Thumb up on the A string.
• Pluck, Thumb down, Thumb up on the D string.
• Pluck, Thumb down, Thumb up on the G string.
-As you hit the last note with an UP stroke, you can start either with a pluck or a Thumb down on the way back to play the descending scale.
Note: Keep in mind that movements must be fluent and relaxed. The best way to achieve this is to find the right balance and economy of movements.
2. In this second pattern we replace the double thumb with another element, the hammer (H), to play one quaver of our triplet.
The Open-Hammer-Pluck is a versatile and easy way to develop a triplet within two right hand movements and one left hand hammer in between.
The pattern is composed this way: the thumb hits one note; it could be either an open string or a fretted note. Afterwards the left hand Hammers another note and a third note is plucked by the index finger.
Note: The first note, opened or fretted, is always on beat. You can manage the open string as a full or a ghost note, but always on beat. Do not get confused by the fingering.
For any questions, suggestion or comments you can contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I will be happy to answer your questions as soon as I can.
Enjoy and I look forward to see you in the next issue.