I am trying to play the bass strings without thumbnails because I like the sound. I trimmed my thumbnails to minimum so they don't get in the way.

It's surprisingly hard to play such that the strings only touch the flesh — currently, when I try my best, I can manage it 80% of the time.

If I play quickly, I can usually predict by the feel when the sound would include the unpleasant thumbnail part. However, I can't predict when it would come out clean — it's seemingly random.

If I play slowly, it's unpredictable — I always feel that it's going to come out beautiful, and most of the time it does. But sometimes it suddenly doesn't.

I tried to approach it in an analytic way. There are a lot of parameters of how I pluck the string — two angles of the thumb relative to the string, rotation angle of the thumb itself, how far I insert it between the strings, etc. I think I have discovered the best parameters, but it's not enough. Maybe I don't pay attention to something essential?

I am practicing with rest stroke for now. What should I do to make my practicing time effective?


1 Answer 1


As always, a lot of practice helps.

However, it's so unpredictable, I am no longer sure it's worth the effort and risk - when I am playing, I am still never sure if it's going to sound like I want it to.

One thing that helps is to position the wrist as far as possible from the guitar. This will make the angle between the thumb and strings closer to 90° and not the recommended 45°. Less convenient, but more effective if you want to prevent your thumbnail from touching the string.

position to play with thumb without nails

You might want to try playing with less force than usual, to not throw the thumb out of placement too much. However, this contradicts the desire to emphasize the bass, which you probably want to do when playing without nails!

Another thing: prepare your thumb before playing. Bring it near the string you want to play as early as possible. This "nailless" style requires such an extreme precision, you can't afford doing extra motion with your thumb right before you pluck the string. Such "preparing" skill also helps for general mastery, so you should learn it anyway.

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