Thumb Pick: time to relearn how to play

Discussion in 'Fred's Barcalounge' started by calebaaron666, Dec 2, 2021.

  1. calebaaron666

    calebaaron666 Friend of Fred

    Aug 15, 2018
    Portland, Maine
    For a long time now I’ve used a guitar pick. I often do sloppy hybrid picking.

    Because I have bad wrists, and it’s cold here in Maine, I cannot hold a pick! Last gig my thumb and index finger both went numb and I kept losing the pick. It was terrifying! Luckily it was only during the last two songs and no one was the wiser cuz I played it cool, but inside I was panicking!

    I realized that until I see a doctor to address the issue, I have to figure out how to use a thumb pick.
    I tried a bunch of them at my local guitar shop and found these Bumblebee thumb picks.


    The pick can be rotated, and it fits tight enough that it’s secure. I’ve used it at three band practices, and haven’t had a sore hand or wrist yet!
    It also makes my sloppy “hybrid picking” much easier. Almost sounds like I know what I’m doing!
  2. stiv

    stiv Country Gent

    Sep 12, 2014
    Firenze, Italy
    I switched about 10 years ago, after I decided to dig deep into learning delta blues style (and also because windmills were killing my index finger and nail..:D ) and never looked back. I didn't touch a pick for years (eventually switching to all fingerpicking for a while), only recently I had to use a light pick for jingle jangle purpose on acoustic guitar.
    On the more rocking things, at first I relied a lot on "hybrid regular" picking, sometimes holding the thumbick as a regular pick with the index as well, other times only using it downstroke (it gaves you a nice, old style dylanesque touch ;) ) but then I improved my fingerstyle so now I could really play everything with just the thumbpick and the index, punk rock included.
    Even solos became more natural after a while, although a certain grade of bluesy touch was always there (I almost play them all with my index ) even in the rocking things.
    I always used white Ernie Ball (L size) thumpicks because they were short enough (to me, shorter = easier) but at the moment I could use any thumbick I want (long or short) without changing too much my picking.
  3. calebaaron666

    calebaaron666 Friend of Fred

    Aug 15, 2018
    Portland, Maine
    Yes, I’ve been practicing all the same techniques!
    Down strokes with my thumb, bracing it with my index for surfy stuff. I really need to work on my solos with it though. It works, but I need to tighten up when to use my thumb and when to use my finger. The Chuck Berry stuff I normally do needs to be picked much different with a thumb pick. I’m just gonna keep going!
  4. KuKuKu

    KuKuKu Gretschie

    Aug 28, 2016
    I use a thumbpick for Travis picking, but I can't for the life of me strum with that damn thing. Downstrokes are okeyish, but upstrokes ... I have no control over it, can't strum softly, it's always full in. Good luck with it and keep practising, Cale. :)
  5. Highroller

    Highroller Country Gent

    Jun 11, 2015
    Portland, OR
    Bumblebees are OK in my book. I've been looking far and wide for the perfect thumbpick (for me) and they're the closest I've come to finding one I like.

    Still, I struggle with them, I really do. You gotta just keep pluggin' away at it - practice, practice and more practice.

    Good luck with it!
    calebaaron666, Duo Slinger and Sabato like this.
  6. HypotenusLuvTriangle

    HypotenusLuvTriangle Country Gent

    Oct 27, 2010
    Whittier, Ca
  7. Trash Kidd

    Trash Kidd Country Gent

    Dec 14, 2015
    London U.K.
    This is something I should look into..
    I’ve never mastered the art of finger/thumb picking etc..
    I tried a couple of years ago but got lazy…. and put off as I found it difficult!
    I’ve become too set in my ways lead guitar wise & have always stuck to my Chuck Berry, Johnny Thunders, Link Wray etc type lead work.
    I need to suss this picking out a bit!
    calebaaron666, Duo Slinger and GlenP like this.
  8. GlenP

    GlenP Country Gent

    Jul 23, 2019
    I recently got a few of the metal finger tip picks and have been trying to get the hang of them on my m, a fingers while hybrid picking with p, i holding the standard flat pick. Trying to learn the McGuinn style on my 12 string, the metal finger picks are quite a bit more chimey than finger nails alone.

    I can do finger style folk guitar p i m a or flat pick, but have not quite got the hang of the hybrid picking yet.
  9. Duo Slinger

    Duo Slinger Synchromatic

    Sep 11, 2020
    California, USA
    Well, I saw a lotta of the Rev and Chet online, so I started my hybrid picking and fingerstyle stuff early. I started off hybrid picking, and I still do that very often, because it's so versatile. But, I also eventually got me a pack of those plastic Dunlop thumbpicks after I saw a video of Mother Maybelle and I spent a ridiculous amount of time learning "Wildwood Flower". But more recently, I've been working on my Travis picking, which is coming along decently. I've made it a point to practice Travis picking with the thumbpick and hybrid picking. I like it with the thumbpick more. My fingerstyle has noticeably improved (surprise surprise) since I've picked up the banjo, and I've also tried playing with fingerpicks on the guitar, but to be totally honest I like the Chet way of thumbpick and bare fingers. My one big problem is like KuKuKu, in that I can downstroke, but not upstroke. I've changed to one of those metal Dunlop thumbpicks with the upturned edges, and maybe that's a problem? I don't know. I very rarely play with it like a conventional pick either, it doesn't feel quite right. I'll do it in a pinch, but I try to avoid it.
  10. Archtops

    Archtops Country Gent

    Mar 4, 2021
    I was able to improve my Travis picking by practicing on a square-neck dobro. Laying down flat, it was easier than the guitar being in the normal playing position.
    Andrew Griffin and calebaaron666 like this.
  11. stiv

    stiv Country Gent

    Sep 12, 2014
    Firenze, Italy
    I learned to upstroke with my index finger (or, better, with the nail, that has more attack) from John Lee Hooker style.
    He usually hit downstroke with the thumb and upstroke with the index. There must be a video somewhere on the Tube demoing it (that’s where I picked it). Once you get accustomed to it, it’s pretty effective.
    I’m not sure you could use it for all guitar styles, but it works for me. It’s not as effective as a real up/down stoke with a regular pick, but it gets the job done :)
    calebaaron666 likes this.
  12. calebaaron666

    calebaaron666 Friend of Fred

    Aug 15, 2018
    Portland, Maine
    Same here! you and I have a similar style with the Thunders, Ray, Berry, Ivy influence, and the thumb pick makes those solos work VERY differently. The upstrokes are harder to do.
    I would rather keep doing what I’ve been doing, but right now I have no choice. I either gotta adapt, or die!
    Trash Kidd likes this.
  13. calebaaron666

    calebaaron666 Friend of Fred

    Aug 15, 2018
    Portland, Maine
    That’s what I’ve been doing so far, down stroke withe the thumb pick, up stroke with the index. Still a bit sloppy, but it gets the job done.
  14. Highroller

    Highroller Country Gent

    Jun 11, 2015
    Portland, OR
    That's kinda interesting. Any idea if there's a minimum thickness pick you have to use with it?

    - thanks
  15. HypotenusLuvTriangle

    HypotenusLuvTriangle Country Gent

    Oct 27, 2010
    Whittier, Ca
    No. there's no requirement. Though, the thicker you go, the more pressure you're gonna have on your thumb if keeping all other things equal. You can bend the metal to the pressure of your liking. A very THICK pick won't fit in that little space in the top though.
    I use hard picks but nothing super thick.

    Benefits of this over the Black Mountain and Bumblebee: once the pick wears down, you don't need to replace it with a specialized pick, just a normal pick will do. It will give you the most benefit of the feel playing with a normal pick but with the added support of a thumbpick.
  16. Highroller

    Highroller Country Gent

    Jun 11, 2015
    Portland, OR
    Thanks. One of my problems with thumbpicks is that I usually use a thin flat pick and most I try are too thick. After 40+ years of playing, it's not something I really feel like changing! This would seem to eliminate that issue, because you're using whatever you want.

    Think I'll give them a shot, see how they work out. Much appreciate the heads up!
  17. Jeff67

    Jeff67 Country Gent

    Nov 3, 2019
    Crockett, Texas
    I do the same thing with Dunlop/ Ernie Ball thumb picks. I use nail clippers to get most of the way there, and then finish it off and bevel the edges a little with an emery board.
  18. Andrew Griffin

    Andrew Griffin Synchromatic

    Oct 22, 2015
    Very interesting thread; you all are inspiring me to give the thumb pick another go. I've just been finger picking with my fingers, and I do like the clarity that a hard pick gives you, but I can't keep a hold of them, whereas I've never lost a whole finger yet, lol. I did lose the tip of my right hand index finger in a farming accident but I've adjusted to only using my middle finger. Using the thumb in a more intelligent way would open up a lot of new sounds for me.
    Duo Slinger and tmcq65 like this.
  19. tmcq65

    tmcq65 Electromatic

    Nov 10, 2021
    This IS an interesting thread. I am fairly early in my guitar journey, and want to explore fingerstyle, but I have (initially at least) decided that I am more likely to favor a flat-pick dominant style overall, so I have started working on a technique that uses a typical flat pick. I do have some thumb picks on order, though, to keep my options open.
    Last edited: Dec 2, 2021
  20. Mr Twangy

    Mr Twangy Gretschie

    Dec 27, 2020
    I've been trying those two. The nice thing about them is you can have your forefinger ride in the same position as with a flat pick. I have the same problem as the OP and sometimes drop a flat pick.
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