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Mendy Smith

A Week Without the You-Know-What

May 13, 2013 at 2:27 AM

A week has gone by without the You-Know-What. Instead I have a cute little "crabby paddy" (it is a dense sponge in the shape of a crab)to cushion my collarbone and give a wee bit of support. It seems that is all I need. Granted, muscles I haven't used before are a bit sore, mostly in my forearm and base of my hand near the thumb. However, gone is the never ending muscle tension & cramps I used to get in my neck and wrists.

Things I've learned this past week:
1) I CAN downshift, and from quite a distance without resorting to left hand and shoulder gymnastics.
2) My thumb needs to be under the neck more than it was with the You-Know-What.
3) Changing posture/position makes my bowing go catty-wonkle.
4) Instead of playing a wee bit flat all the time, I'm now playing a wee bit sharp all the time.
5) I can finally vibrate with my 1st finger on all strings except the Cing after a week of work.

In fact, my vibrato is progressing better than I had thought it would. It is a fine balance, but by letting the neck of the instrument rest on my thumb, the rest of my hand is free to move. And as an added benefit, it is so much easier to shift up in the nose-bleed sections than ever before, even on the C string. Without the You-Know-What getting in the way, I can move my viola around a bit to get up there without my left hand getting stuck on the upper bouts.

Who knew?

From Corwin Slack
Posted on May 13, 2013 at 1:17 PM
Supporting the neck on the thumb is a common strategy but I don't think that it is correct. The base of the first finger with the natural (unforced) resistance of the opposing thumb should be enough. When downshifting the fingers and thumb start the shift a millisecond before the rest of the hand. This helps form the "shelf" between the palm and the first finger that allows for support.

Downshifting was the hardest part of the transition for me. I had to learn to let go of the instrument and let it fall and then catch it again. It is like riding a bike. We fall to the left and then to the right. The bicycle is always falling and we catch it and pull it the other direction. The secret is being in total control of the fall.

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