2023 Dead Pool

I never listened much to Jeff Beck. I was watching a video of him last night, and he was playing with his thumb instead of a pick or his thumb and fingers. The only other guitarist I know of who played substantially with his thumb was Wes Montgomery. Pretty good company.


Mark Knopfler plays that way too.

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That’s interesting. Pretty good company.

So, asking as a non-guitarist - if these greats do it, why isn’t it more widely imitated?

I had the 8 Track and I absolutely wore it out. Eight tracks were expensive, but I got a few with money from my dishwashing gig. I think the rotation was:

Jeff Beck, Blow by Blow
Blackmore’s Rainbow, Rainbow Rising
Traffic, Where the Eagle Flies
Blue Oyster Cult, ???
Jethro Tull, Aqualung

Now I’m thinking about patching in an eight track into the stereo. Maybe I could get a slide mount for the car…

In general, using a pick is simply faster and louder. And using only the thumb is even more limiting. Knopfler uses a mish-mash of fingerpicking, clawhammer, and the Travis-picking thumb method. The thumb and fingers are sort of falling over each other in what he describes as “a guitar teacher’s worst nightmare”, but he makes it work.

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Why doesn’t everybody use Bagwell’s batting stance?


Question: Why doesn’t everyone use Django Reinhardt’s three-finger style?

Answer: Because everyone else has five fingers.


Thanks, I wondered if it was something like that.

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My guess is, it’s not how most are taught and it requires developing and you have to be good to pull it off. In the case of Beck, his technique was developed from his extensive use of pulling and pushing the whammy bar and manipulating the volume and tone control knobs with his fingers while plucking the string with his thumb.


And if anyone has never seen Wes Montgomery…

Wes Montgomery, TV show in Brussels, Belgium, april 4th, 1965 (colorized) - YouTube

Derek Trucks is a thumb/finger style guitarist.


Never listened to much of their studio stuff, not sure why, but Tedeschi Trucks Band is a great live show.

Yeah, lots of guys use that hybrid style. Montgomery pretty much used his thumb exclusively. He was basically using his thumb as a pick.

And everyone do yourselves a favor and pick up a copy of Smokin’ at the Half Note.

Montgomery plays differently than Beck. Montgomery played with very heavy gauge strings–think Babe Ruth’s bat–and he slams the strings. Nobody plays like Montgomery because it really hurts.

The classic country blues players played with the thumb and the index and middle fingers, but I don’t know if they used their nails like Beck does. Classical players use their nails (if they can keep from breaking them), but they use their thumb, index, middle, and third fingers which is nothing like Beck, but similar to what a lot of finger style guitarists do. I’d guess Beck picked up his style somewhere in between the two, but he does use the whammy bar a lot, and Sphinx’s comment is probably spot on.

Lindsey Buckingham also pickless/ heavy thumb

Can be seen here (pls trust me and ignore the low-rez video):

I usually play without a pick. Started playing in '86 and by the early 2000s got a bit bored with playing and wanted to change things up so instead of being one of those alternate tuning weirdos I decided to go pickless. I still play with a pick sometimes, but mostly that same weird hybrid fingerstyle (or likely no style in my case) Beck et al use. I use my thumb and all four fingers (steady!) so sort of a clawhammer. When playing with a pick I usually only expose a bit (just the tip) of the pic and the rest of the fingers on my right hand often strike the strings along with a good chunk of my thumb (above the pick). It’s a more visceral way to play I think. I don’t have a Tele anymore but man that Tele maple 2x4 neck and fingerstyle playing is the shit. It’s like grabbing and pulling the music out of the instrument.

ETA, after watching the video @Orange_Fire posted, I play a lot like Buckingham except without the talent or the hair.

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Lisa Marie Presley, she was 54.

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She was just at whatever Hollywood awards show they just had.

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What a fantastic, weird, wild and ultimately tragic life.