Develop a “Babe Ruth” Thumb!

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Tip From Mark Hanson

As a fingerpicker, if you are having any trouble producing good, consistent tone and accurate string selection with your thumb, consider this: Think of your picking-hand thumb as a baseball bat. It is powerful and accurate when it’s straight, in its natural relaxed position.

If you find that you bend your thumb’s first knuckle when you pick, visualize a baseball bat with a hinge in it a foot from the end: You have no power and no control! (Babe Ruth and Shohei Ohtani would refrain from having a hinge in their bats, of course!) For maximum power and accuracy, your thumb should remain straight and move from its joint in the wrist. Keeping a straight first knuckle also helps keep the thumb from colliding with the first finger.

If you currently bend your thumb knuckle when you pick, try this:

1. relax;

2. put a piece of tape around your thumb knuckle (not tightly!!) so it pulls the skin when you bend it. It brings your attention back to the state of your thumb as you play;

3. Then relax again!

4. This may take some weeks of taping to get your thumb to relax and straighten out to its at-rest position.

This remedy has worked for a number of my students over the years.

–Mark Hanson, August 2023

Copyright © 2023 Accent On Music, LLC

One thought on “Develop a “Babe Ruth” Thumb!

  1. Thanks, Mark! I have oscillated over the years as to whether finger picks are advantageous. I enjoy using my bare fingers as much as for the sound as for the ease of sounding the notes. I have tried all types (except acrylic-glued on) of finger picks, and the plastic ones seem to work the best (on steel strings). Classical strings, I am pleased to read that you recomment fingertips without nails!

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