What is the purpose of thumb rest on bass guitars?

by | Mar 11, 2021 | Musical Instruments, Tips

Every bassist will agree to the fact that thumb rest plays a vital role in playing bass guitar as it gives you the leverage when you are plucking.

In simple words, it acts as a support that assists you to pluck the strings freely and lets you dig deep in the notes. 

When you shift from an ordinary bass guitar to a unit that comes with thumb rest, you will understand the difference while plucking the strings.

The thumb rest comes in varied types where some of them come as a dedicated part while others are blended with the bass guitar’s pickup either it’s a sustainer pickup, bridge, or neck pickup. It doesn’t matter that the bass guitar is headed or headless. Basically, it provides a proper anchor point for your thumb so that you can comfortably move your other four fingers with consistency. 

Not only does it assist you in relaxing your hand, but it also prevents you from bending your wrist too much. It also comes handy when you want to play for long as it prevents your hand from getting fatigued.  

What is the purpose of thumb rest on bass guitars?


Most importantly, when you rest your thumb in one place and move others, it also allows you to develop muscle memory faster, which in turn improves your playing.

There are various ways to create sound, and the use of thumb rest serves as a common approach.

The separate thumb rest varies in sizes and shape where they are fitted right above the string. They either come in the shape of a standard bar or come with a small curvy bridge so that you can comfortably rest your thumb. 

On the other hand, the integrated thumb rest looks almost similar to a regular thumb rest, but they are attached to the pickup so that it doesn’t hinder the guitar’s look.

This type of thumb rest generally blends with the front pickup of the bass guitar, but based on your playing; you can even shift it to the back.   

The zero-model thumb rest is a popular integrated thumb rest that easily fits with the electronic pickup of your guitar.

From a distance, you may not notice the thumb rest, but if you look closer, you will find it tucked above the front pickup of the guitar.

They don’t come with a distinctive design, and you can easily install or unmount them based on your requirement. Importantly, you won’t make a hole or any strenuous modification to fit them as they come with a simple coupling that easily on the pickup. 

Plus, they suit bass players who are new to thumb rest and aren’t sure whether it would suit their playing style.  

 Although thumb rest is an excellent tool for bassists, it too has some drawbacks. When you want to play fast and need to move your hand a lot, then having a thumb rest would be totally futile. When you play with thumb rest, you will be restricted to certain tones, and you won’t be able to bring much variation. 

Moreover, freely moving your hand without thumb support will assist you in playing deep tone and sharp tone simultaneously. If you pluck strings with your thumb, you will find it challenging to play as it would be able to support your pinky properly.  


Other Options For Resting Your Thumb 

Other Options For Resting Your Thumb



However, if you think a thumb rest won’t suit your playing style or it would hinder the value of your bass guitar.  You can use the pickup itself as a thumb rest, and to date, many bassists follow this technique.

It is easy to rest your thumb on the pickup and get a cleaner sound during your jamming sessions. Plus, you can utilize both pickups as a thumb rest to bring variation in your playing rather than restricting yourself to a specific position.

 But you will need a lot of practice before you can successfully get a clean picking technique while resting your thumb on pickup.


According to some specialists, if you continue to play using this technique, then oil and sweat from our hand can damage pick up overtime. Plus, it might ruin the finish as well as the wood of the guitar.  

 Another technique that you can as an alternative is to use the thickest E string as the resting position for your thumb.

However, you can use other strings as a rest while playing notes in the lower regions. But this technique also has some disadvantages, and dampened sound is the most highlighting one. 

  • If you don’t master this technique, then there will be a chance that your finger might get stuck while playing notes swiftly. Plus, you will have to lower the strings to offer proper support to your thumb.  
  •  So we can wrap it up by saying a thumb rest on your bass guitar will significantly benefit, especially if you are a beginner.
  • Not only will it assist you quickly master the plucking technique, but it will also help you to play for a long time. However, you should assess the type of thumb rest that will suit you before buying.  

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