Follow your dreams.
How many times have we heard that exhortation? How many of us have actually tried to follow our dreams? Are we truly aware of what is involved in following a dream?
I can only speak for myself here; following a dream takes a surprising amount of bravery and hard work. The “idea” of following a dream is easy, because it is, in itself, just a daydream. “Someday I’ll…..such and such….” But that idea ends up never acted upon. To pull that idea down from the clouds into your hands to be made into realty is a rather surprisingly Big Deal.
For violinists, this is often about pursuing conservatory, competitions, performances, a career, etc.
For me it is a much different case. As an adult beginner with violin I discovered that simply holding the instrument correctly with the left hand was a challenge. “Hmmm, I wonder if something could be done to help with that?” And thus began my journey. It started out as trying to find a way to help myself. It then morphed into creating something that I hope can help other students of the violin/viola. To create something entirely new. An aid, a device, an invention, a product, a patent. I won’t go into the details of the development process, but I will say that it took me quite a long time to refine my initial hazy idea into something that worked well, felt good, and looked good.
Every step of the way I had to learn how to do it. How do I sculpt the form in the first place? After achieving that- how do I make another? How do I make it in different sizes for different sized players? How do I protect this idea? How do I get this aid out to be able to help others?
I had hand crafted an aid that worked perfectly fine for me personally, and I could have left it at there. No following dreams, no fuss, no muss. Instead I had to delve into 3D laser scanning of the part, becoming adept enough at CAD modelling to manipulate the 3D design into more refined shapes that functioned better. How to make more? Well, I better learn how to use the 3D CAD models to make molds of it utilizing 3D printing. How to mold a part? I had to research appropriate foams to use in my molds for the body of the device. Creating the ShiftPad took more 3D CAD design and this time a crash course in laser cutting of neoprene. None of this is anything I had done previously.
And concurrently with all of that development was filing for a patent. Talk about a gut-check! Filing a patent is another one of those things that sounds rather easy-breezy. An inventor has an idea, files a patent, and rides off into the sunset, right? Oh boy, what an adventure unto itself it actually is. First off is trying to find a good patent attorney (I am quite happy with mine!). Then you have to put your idea down onto paper, explain what it does, how it does it, how it is different than any previous patents that may already be out there. YOU have to do all of that if you want a strong, effective patent. It’s like a term paper due in college, except its real life, not simply an assignment. The patent attorney doesn’t do that for you, they simply (or not so simply actually) take what you give them and craft a remarkable document that gets submitted to the US patent office for review. Did I mention legal fees? Did I mention how most patent filings get rejected on their first submission and must then be argued to the patent office of how your item is different from their objections? It’s a grind, and it takes months and years to accomplish.
Setting up a website, marketing, setting up a workshop in the basement.....probably other stuff that I've forgotten as well, all learned on the go.
The journey so far has had the entire spectrum of emotions; elation, fear, joy, doubt, excitement, back to fear, hope, ok-still scared, satisfaction….and onwards into the unknown.
DON’T LET ANY OF THAT STOP YOU FROM FOLLOWING YOUR DREAMS!
Whether it is becoming a better violinist, asking someone you like out on a date, having children, or any number of other dreams. Go for it!
If you have a dream, I fully encourage you to act on it. I think you will find it to be a journey uniquely challenging and fulfilling.
Here's a chance to win a set of free Wonderthumbs! Check out our friends over at Music for Young Violinists for a chance to win, as well as for a great resource for teachers and students alike!
I'm happy to announce a second vendor, Shar Music is now carrying the Wonderthumb. Please check it out on their site: https://www.sharmusic.com/shop.axd/Search…
I developed the Wonderthumb to help with my own playing, as I never found a shoulder rest setup that did not cause me pain. And playing without a shoulder rest led to a feeling of insecurity in my left hand, which lead to tension there. Necessity is the mother of invention...
Shoulder rests can be a wonderful thing if used correctly. And the Wonderthumb is not necessarily a replacement for one. Many young students suffer from left hand issues even with a shoulder rest (pancake hand, thumb held in too tight, death grip..etc). I hope that the Wonderthumb may be of assistance for them as they get used to the dynamics of holding a violin properly.
My personal experience with using the Wonderthumb without a shoulder rest is that it helps me to find a natural balance for the instrument. With the body of the instrument placed on my collar bone, and the violin neck supported by my left hand via the Wonderthumb, I must stand straight and tall. I also naturally adjust the angle of the instrument left/right for best balance between my left hand and my bow. There is no need to clamp down on the chinrest, as the violin rests on the collar bone due to gravity, without the fulcrum of the shoulder rest levering it up. The neoprene Shiftpad on top allows for easy shifting.
My son began playing using a shoulder rest, and the added friction of the shoulder rest allowed him to hold the violin way down on his chest, his head leaning forward to hold it in, elbow down at his side. No matter how we cajoled him, that's the way he held it. It was enabling him to have bad posture. But the first time he tried playing without the shoulder rest, and with the Wonderthumb only, his posture straightened up significantly. My wife was shocked at the change. The violin had to adapt to him, not vice versa.
Almost every masterclass that I attended for my children while they were studying the Suzuki method pointed out having a good "mouse house" space in the left hand. That's the space that is filled by the Wonderthumb. Even with the ubiquitous use of shoulder rests, the cases of problems such as "pancake wrist" among beginners are epidemic. It would seem, therefore that a shoulder rest doesn't really automatically address many of the issues inherent in the violinist's left hand. I'm offering an alternative to the status quo. So that a student can get used to proper hand posture.
It seems to me that most new students are indoctrinated into using a different sort of contraption, called a shoulder rest as a compensation. There doesn't seem to be much instruction on what the purpose of the shoulder rest is, or how it is best utilized for the beginner. It seems to simply be installed on the first day of class, and that's that, they have to figure it out on their own.
And then do we wonder why we need classes on how to get our bodies back in alignment after years of playing? Yes, the shoulder rest can completely free the left hand from any support duties, but that support doesn't just go away, it gets transferred elsewhere--to the head and neck.
The hand and arm are fully functional and adapted to the task of holding things up. The head and neck are adapted to only holding your head up, and issues seem to arise when asked to do anything off axis, or one sided.
For me, that dynamic caused a great deal of actual pain. Which is why I came up with an alternative.
Some who have tried the Wonderthumb have said to me that it would be great as a transitional tool to learn how to go from playing with a shoulder rest to playing without one (for those who choose to go that route).
As an adult beginner, I realized early on in the process that learning the violin is a challenge. Even just the basics of holding it properly can be a source of tension and consternation.
So, I invented something to help me. And then I developed the concept into something that I hope can help others as well.
Developing a brand new device from concept to actual physical embodiment has been an interesting journey to say the least. Getting it patented has also been an adventure.
An exciting new part of the journey began yesterday when I made the delivery of the first batch of Wonderthumbs to Johnson String Instruments! Very excited to have a major violin retailer carry these!
a look at how the Wonderthumb is designed to move with your thumb and assist you in having a more relaxed left hand
After multiple test users gave me their feedback I have made some modifications to the original form, and this version is lighter (by about 30%), more stable with the added "wings" front and back, as well as the sleeker ShiftPad now made of neoprene. Commercial production will begin very soon.
My latest round of pre-production WonderThumbs with logos fresh out of the molds. Seven different sizes, still trying to decide on a color...