Guitar Techniques - - Con­tents -

I felt re­cently I was mak­ing progress prop­erly for the first time, spend­ing up to two hours a day prac­tis­ing the gui­tar. But for the sec­ond time in the space of a year I have had a thumb in­jury that takes six weeks to heal up, so I know my tech­nique is wrong some­where. I am try­ing to change my pos­ture, the way I grip the neck, tak­ing reg­u­lar breaks, stop­ping my­self grip­ping too hard and tens­ing up.

My ques­tion is: should the pad of my thumb be on the back of the neck and should it al­ways move with the hand or act as a pivot? I think some­times when I pivot with the thumb for big stretches I squeeze and tense up, and the tip of my thumb might not have the pad spread evenly. The part of my thumb that is sore is the sec­ond joint which has a dull ache. It’s really knocked my con­fi­dence and I am sure my thumb po­si­tion for chords and string bend­ing is cor­rect. I en­closed a pic­ture. Paul Shaw Ja­son Sid­well replies: Paul, while we’re not equipped to of­fer ad­vice from a med­i­cal per­spec­tive, the photo you’ve sent of you play­ing a wide stretch looks fine. The thumb is po­si­tioned well and there doesn’t look too much of a strain on it de­spite the wider stretch; most gui­tarists play­ing this would look sim­i­lar. If you are hav­ing play­ing pains it may be that your thumb hasn’t healed well enough yet (two in­juries in one year is heavy go­ing!) to ac­com­mo­date such stretches. You don’t say whether you were able to play like this be­fore the in­juries, but your let­ter sug­gests they were in­curred while play­ing, which does point to­wards tech­nique prob­lems. An iso­lated photo like this can only pro­vide so much in­for­ma­tion as re­gards prob­lem solv­ing; we’d need to see you ac­tu­ally play dif­fer­ent things to de­tect where (if any) prob­lems lie. Large stretches are one thing but barre chords can also be strain­ing - if you play them a lot, this can have an im­pact on your thumb. One sug­ges­tion we’d of­fer is that you may be us­ing too much pres­sure when fret­ting; a com­mon prob­lem with many which often ex­plains why some­one sounds out of tune de­spite the gui­tar be­ing in tune (your fin­gers should al­most never touch the fret­board’s wood). To see if this ap­plies to you, fret a note and then re­lease the ten­sion un­til you get a buzzing sound (on the cusp of the note not sus­tain­ing). If this ex­er­tion is less than your usual amount when fret­ting, you will need to re-pro­gramme your play­ing. We’d also rec­om­mend look­ing into your ac­tion (string-tofret­board dis­tance) and string gauge choice. While this is a very per­sonal area, you may like to try a lighter gauge (change from .010 to 0.009 gauge per­haps) so there’s less strain when fret­ting and string bend­ing. So, with what you’ve told us, it would seem you’ve a few ar­eas to con­sider along with a pos­si­ble visit to your doc­tor to be­come more savvy to your prob­lems.

Paul Shaw’s thumb po­si­tion looks fine to us

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