Results 1 to 14 of 14

Thread: Left Hand on Neck: Palm or Thumb

  1. #1

    Default Left Hand on Neck: Palm or Thumb

    Usually I play with my thumb more or less behind the middle of the neck (guitar habit) but I've been trying to move it down more into the palm which seems to induce less tension in my left hand.

    Maybe this is my imagination but I could swear the sound of my mandolin is different when my entire hand is holding the neck versus just the finger tips on top and my thumb underneath. Not sure it's a better or worse sound but the tone is different. I think it might be brighter (or thinner?) sounding with just the thumb on there.

    Anyone else notice that kind of effect?

    Or maybe it's just changing the angle my fingers press of the strings or something.
    The first man who whistled
    thought he had a wren in his mouth.
    He went around all day
    with his lips puckered,
    afraid to swallow.

    --"The First" by Wendell Berry

  2. #2
    Innocent Bystander JeffD's Avatar
    Join Date
    Sep 2006
    Location
    Upstate New York
    Posts
    23,914
    Blog Entries
    55

    Default Re: Left Hand on Neck: Palm or Thumb

    I don't know about a tone difference. But I do notice a difference in my ability to note confidently, and hold the note confidently.

    The ideal, I suppose, is the now famous Mike Marshall video.
    Life is short, play hard. Life is really really short, play really really hard.

    The entire staff
    funny....

  3. The Following 2 Users Say Thank You to JeffD For This Useful Post:

    KennyTony S 

  4. #3
    Stop the chop!
    Join Date
    Oct 2008
    Location
    europe
    Posts
    1,484
    Blog Entries
    1

    Default Re: Left Hand on Neck: Palm or Thumb

    Why choose between two unnatural alternatives?

    The middle of a mandolin neck (25 mm at the nut) in no way corresponds to the middle of a guitar neck (45 mm) . And palming the neck severely restricts mobility and reach.


    My approach to the two instruments has always been the same: the thumb lands where it lands. E.g., on the guitar a non-barre four note chord, like Db on the inner strings, and single string passages, will usually force my thumb to the side of the neck, a complete barre chord, across all strings will pull it below. On the mandolin the thumb will land on the side most of the time, except for bare chords. (Barre chords are usually best avoided),

    Try this: let your left arm hang loosely from your shoulder. Your fingers will automatically curl slightly. Then raise your forearm to the neck of the mandolin. Your left hand will then effortlessly assume a natural position.

    Or watch Marshall’s video.


    How many times have I posted this?

  5. #4

    Default Re: Left Hand on Neck: Palm or Thumb

    After (re)watching the Mike Marshall video I went back and dug up videos of my own playing from 10 years ago. It looks like I used to do it not miles away from Marshall's suggestion. At least the left hand part.

    When I came back to playing the mandolin last week, I've no idea why I was twisting my thumb way underneath the neck like that. I could tell it wasn't working well and my experiment with clutching the neck in my palm seemed to help.

    What I need to do is use my own old videos to get back to a happy medium.


    Thanks for the sanity check, guys. Guess some things have to be learned more than once.
    The first man who whistled
    thought he had a wren in his mouth.
    He went around all day
    with his lips puckered,
    afraid to swallow.

    --"The First" by Wendell Berry

  6. #5
    Registered User John Bertotti's Avatar
    Join Date
    Oct 2002
    Location
    SD
    Posts
    3,416

    Default Re: Left Hand on Neck: Palm or Thumb

    Click image for larger version. 

Name:	6B937EB0-5962-43F1-BEFD-C0DFED7314FF.jpg 
Views:	27 
Size:	333.5 KB 
ID:	196503Click image for larger version. 

Name:	491B0F07-26C1-4713-974C-41AF480BF660.jpg 
Views:	27 
Size:	359.6 KB 
ID:	196504That vid looks similar to how I hold mine. The neck does not go all the way down into the V of my thumb index finger area. It test more on the palm to finger jobs so there is light behind the neck. I rest my thumb on tue other side of the neck. Worse case I pick a bit more for a four finger chord it is a strat I for my but all others seem quite comfortable on my wrist although some still feel like finger twisters. It was really hard to hold and keep it natural and take the pictures myself so I hope this helps heck I hope I’m doing it right! I never get wrist pain or unwanted tension so I figure it is pretty safe. I also stretch my wrist a lot, it’s and old Combat Hapkido habit. But stretching definitely helps with everything. I never understood why people wait until they practice to stretch their wrists and hands it take minutes while walking to the bathroom or kitchen for the first coffee tea or in my case Monster!
    My avatar is of my OldWave Oval A

    Creativity is just doing something wierd and finding out others like it.

  7. The following members say thank you to John Bertotti for this post:


  8. #6
    Registered User liestman's Avatar
    Join Date
    May 2008
    Location
    Conroe, Texas
    Posts
    381

    Default Re: Left Hand on Neck: Palm or Thumb

    Another vote for exactly how Marshall teaches in that video. It yields the most relaxed position.
    John Liestman -
    Eye new ewe wood lye kit!

  9. #7
    Registered User Simon DS's Avatar
    Join Date
    Feb 2016
    Location
    South of France
    Posts
    1,451

    Default Re: Left Hand on Neck: Palm or Thumb

    Hhmmmm, what’s the right forearm doing? If he pushed harder with that, would the mandolin fretboard be forced against his left hand fingertips and make thumb use redundant?

  10. #8
    Lurkist dhergert's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jul 2012
    Location
    Blue Zone, California
    Posts
    1,572
    Blog Entries
    1

    Default Re: Left Hand on Neck: Palm or Thumb

    I used to have my thumb planted on the back of the neck in the same way I played 5-string banjo. Then early last year I started showing symptoms of congenital RA -- finger joint stiffness and swelling, trigger left thumb, trigger right ring finger. After seeing a DR, a DPT and an OT and stabilizing the hands as well as possible using braces and soaking, I set about to re-learn how to play mandolin, banjo and double bass. All three were affected by this RA change in ways that unavoidably required re-learning.

    For banjo and mandolin, the left thumb had to move. Since I play both instruments using barre chords ~90% of the time and the thumb is needed to support the barre on the fingerboard, I had to find a new way to use a now less-mobile thumb. As it works out for me, my thumb as a barre support really didn't naturally "fit" on the center of the back of either a banjo or a mandolin neck. It fits better at the lower 8th-string side of the mandolin neck and the lower 4th or 5th string side of the 5-string banjo neck. And since the last joint on the left thumb is now pretty stiff, I can plant mostly the inner-side of that thumb against the lower side of the neck and do a really pretty comfortable barre chord.

    It took a fair amount of re-learning, but it works pretty nicely now. Reach of the barre index and other fingers is actually at least as good if not better. And when I fall out of the barre for individual string fretwork -- at most about 10% of my playing time -- the web of the thumb just naturally cradles the neck as needed with very little hand-posture change.

    The right hand required some changes of its own, but that re-learning has also come along nicely. And the double bass re-learning has also worked out well.

    I'd actually say both my hands are much more relaxed in instrument playing now and I've been very pleased with the re-learning results. Getting into a mode to re-learn also brought in some other good changes too. I don't necessarily recommend exactly what I am doing now unless the ideas fit for the person. But I do recommend being willing to re-learn. Just getting into the re-learning mode opens up a lot of possibilities.

    Here's a recent vid that I posted that shows my current playing after the re-learning process:

    Blue Bayou
    -- Don

    "Music: A minor auditory irritation occasionally characterized as pleasant."
    "It is a lot more fun to make music than it is to argue about it."


    2002 Gibson F-9
    2016 MK LFSTB
    1975 Suzuki taterbug (plus many other noisemakers)
    [About how I tune my mandolins]
    [Our recent arrival]

  11. #9
    Registered User John Bertotti's Avatar
    Join Date
    Oct 2002
    Location
    SD
    Posts
    3,416

    Default Re: Left Hand on Neck: Palm or Thumb

    In my picture you can see light through the area between the neck and my hand there is very little pressure on the thumb at all. It provides some support for harder chords, ones I find harder.
    My avatar is of my OldWave Oval A

    Creativity is just doing something wierd and finding out others like it.

  12. #10
    Registered User John Bertotti's Avatar
    Join Date
    Oct 2002
    Location
    SD
    Posts
    3,416

    Default Re: Left Hand on Neck: Palm or Thumb

    @Brent Hutto did you ever get this sorted out? I'm curious about what helped you.
    My avatar is of my OldWave Oval A

    Creativity is just doing something wierd and finding out others like it.

  13. #11

    Default Re: Left Hand on Neck: Palm or Thumb

    Quote Originally Posted by John Bertotti View Post
    @Brent Hutto did you ever get this sorted out? I'm curious about what helped you.
    Thanks John.

    I watched that video of myself (above) and played along with it a few times. After an hour or so I managed to get comfortable with holding my left hand like I used to do and it freed me up to play cleaner with less effort.

    So originally it took me 3 months to figure out my best playing position. A decade later it only took a week to get back to it. Progress!
    The first man who whistled
    thought he had a wren in his mouth.
    He went around all day
    with his lips puckered,
    afraid to swallow.

    --"The First" by Wendell Berry

  14. The following members say thank you to Brent Hutto for this post:


  15. #12
    Registered User John Bertotti's Avatar
    Join Date
    Oct 2002
    Location
    SD
    Posts
    3,416

    Default Re: Left Hand on Neck: Palm or Thumb

    Excellent!
    My avatar is of my OldWave Oval A

    Creativity is just doing something wierd and finding out others like it.

  16. #13
    two t's and one hyphen fatt-dad's Avatar
    Join Date
    Nov 2003
    Location
    Richmond, Virginia
    Posts
    7,582

    Default Re: Left Hand on Neck: Palm or Thumb

    I think it's on my index knuckle rather than those choices.

    f-d
    ˇpapá gordo ain’t no madre flaca!

    '20 A3, '30 L-1, '97 914, 2012 Cohen A5, 2012 Muth A5, '14 OM28A

  17. #14
    Registered User Mandobart's Avatar
    Join Date
    Apr 2009
    Location
    Washington State
    Posts
    3,234

    Default Re: Left Hand on Neck: Palm or Thumb

    I started violin at 10 years old, and was taught to hold the neck so the left index finger touches it just above the first joint and the left thumb touches about halfway between the tip and last (2nd) joint. The wrist is straight such that the back of the hand and forearm are in line - no back bend in the wrist. The fingers should be mostly perpendicular to the fingerboard/fretboard.

    I hold the mandolin neck the same way. I've been mostly self taught on guitar and mandolin, but it seems awkward to me to play any stringed instrument with the palm against the neck - this limits finger reach, flexibility, puts more tension/stress on the tendons and puts more of the flat of the fingers than fingertips on the strings.

    And your fretting hand (left for most of us) should not be supporting the instrument.

    All that said - anyone can point out several famous/professional players whose technique is "all wrong" and they still play circles around the rest of us. That's in spite of, not because of their technique.

Posting Permissions

  • You may not post new threads
  • You may not post replies
  • You may not post attachments
  • You may not edit your posts
  •