Lesson Series: “0 To 60, An Introduction to Alternate Picking” - Lesson 47

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Todd Simpson
Todd Simpson

LESSON #47 - (Learning to Play The Impossible) - Working Your Stretch and Playing Without Your Thumb!

Lesson Series by Todd Simpson
Direct Link to This Lesson http://bit.ly/shredjourney47

It has come to my attention that several students are struggling with hand position and in order to help work through it, we are going to work on our stretch and (get this) learn to play WITHOUT YOUR THUMB!

"thumbless" technique video:


Notice how far away my thumb is from the fretboard? When playing thumbless, and especially when going for a long stretch, the thumb should naturally move down toward the floor and the fingers should flatten/straighten out a bit as your left hand rotates under the neck. so that the palm of your hand is almost vertical with the plane of the guitar neck.

The more you rotate the hand/wrist forward like this, the more you can straighten your fingers and the more you can get out of your reach!!! See how straight my fingers are in that screen grab? I"m almost touching fret 5 and fret 12 at the same time using just this one simple technique. The trick is being able to control it once you get it.

Also, notice how I'm fretting with just the very tips of my fingers. Not using very much "meat" at all, just the very tip. This allows you to stretch very wide as you don't have to cover very much of your intended string/fret with your finger! It takes far less of the finger to make a fretted sound on a string than you might think. So finding the bare minimum amount is key for work like this.

Finally, notice how I mostly keep my hand "centered" between the two goal frets? It all depends on the two "goal notes" you are trying to hit, as to where you center your hand. At that point, you tilt your wrist under and forward, and flatten out the fingers and just use the tips to fret like we talked about. The centering allows you to not have to adjust your hand position each time you want to hit a note. So we put all that together, and you can play crazy stretches at speed.

First, let's warm up and work our stretch. So do our usual warm up stretches and wrist rolls. Once you are warm, take a look at this tablature. Let’s alternate pick this as it’s only on one string so no traverse is involved and it will be good practice.


We will work our way up on this. At it’s toughest point, this involves an 8 Fret Stretch. That is a serious, killer, massive, stretch and you may not be able to do it at first. Don’t worry, it will come.

Let’s now do a bit more of a “Hammer On” thing, this will push up our speed while using the stretch we just worked on. So strike only once on the open string, and hammer on the other two notes per section.


Now let’s work on our left thumb. Thumb placement on the neck is critical. And if you already have bad habits on thumb placement, it can really get in your way and stop you from getting better. So let’s take the thumb out of the equation. Once you can generate enough finger strength to not need your thumb on the neck, you can essentially re-learn your thumb placement as you can essentially play without it, so adding it back becomes easier.

Let’s revisit LESSON 4 from our notes page and try it simply play it while your left thumb floats free and doesn't touch the guitar neck.


Now let’s add a bit of complexity in, here is our first “Back and Forth” lesson, LESSON 5. Again, let’s try it without the thumb.