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  • Writer's pictureАлександр Васильев

Two Exercises For The Right Thumb

Updated: Feb 19

In this article, I offer my students and blog readers two exercises aimed at practicing the technique of the right thumb*, achieving its correct position, and consolidating characteristic movements.

General remarks
  1. As always, when playing the guitar, you need to avoid unnecessary tension. All movements should be as relaxed as possible.

  2. The thumb should not be bent. It should be slightly arched without tension.

  3. The thumb should be outside of the other fingers. Under no circumstances should it be allowed to “hide” inside.

  4. The movements of the thumb are made “from the wrist” but not with the help of its phalanges.

  5. When performing both exercises, you are free to choose what your left hand will do: remove it from the fretboard, mute the strings, or take any chord or chord progression.

Proper and wrong positions for the right thumb

Exercise 1:

Going down the hill and up the steps

  1. Place all fingers of your right hand, except your thumb, on the first string. Place your thumb on the sixth string.

  2. Pluck the strings one by one with your thumb, starting from the sixth to the second.

    1. Important: this must be done in one single movement, without breaking it into parts. This requires your finger to slide off each string and rest on the next one.

  3. Pluck the strings in reverse order with your thumb: from the second to the sixth. You will have to make a separate movement for each string, but it is still necessary that the thumb, when plucking the string, slides off it and rests on the next string below, rather than dangling in the air.

Exercise 2:

Jumping Over Bumps

This exercise imitates the common guitar accompaniment technique, in which the thumb moves between the strings, alternating the root with other degrees of the chord being played.

  1. Place all fingers of your right hand, except your thumb, on the first string.

  2. Place your thumb on the fifth string.

  3. Pluck the strings with your thumb in the following order:

    1. 5–4–6–4, 4–3–5–3, 3–2–4–2, 4–3–5–3;

    2. 6–4–5–4, 5–3–4–3, 4–2–3–2, 5–3–4–3

The requirements are the same as in exercise 1: the thumb should move as relaxed as possible, “from the wrist”; sliding off the plucked string, it should rest on the next string down.

Materials for exercises

Below are the notes for both exercises. You can also download them in PDF and .gp** (Guitar Pro file) formats.


* to be precise — the picking hand: for right-handers, it is the right hand, and for left-handers it is the left.

** Students of the Syncope Music Studio can purchase the Guitar Pro program with a 50% discount.

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