I’VE NOTICED A BIG DIVIDE IN fingerstyle players’ right-hand technique. There are those whose thumbs are just locked to the pickup, no matter the part (Fig. 1). To be sure, pickups provide a convenient anchor. But for the most part their position as a thumb-anchor is incidental—not a product of an ergonomic design challenge. The second camp moves the thumb constantly, using the strings as temporary anchorage points (Fig. 2). This offers a few advantages over the pickup anchor technique. First, it preserves the fingers’ angle of attach relative to the strings more consistently. If you’re a pickup anchorer, imagine how much your plucking hand shape changes as you move across strings. The angle between your thumb and first finger is much more acute for E-string notes than for notes on the G string. Moving the thumb with your plucking fingers mitigates this by preserving a relatively constant angle.
More important, perhaps, are the speed and touch benefits of a moving anchor point. Since the distance between the thumb and plucking fingers is closer, the muscles seem to respond more quickly, with greater precision. There’s a reason why Jaco played this way. If you’re not currently doing it, try integrating it into your practice regimen.