The last prototype functioned pretty well, but there was no way for it to maintain alignment on the hand, especially during shifts, but also simply in putting the device on your hand.
I then came up with the concept of a saddle type shape which accomplishes two things; it limits the device from rotating around the thumb, and it helps transfer the weight of the instrument into the hand itself.
This was the first "saddle" shaped prototype.
The shape needed some more refinement, but the support of the neck was great.
No time for another development blog entry today. Here's a pic I took of four violins that I owned (two of which have subsequently been sold, two of which I also used to make my avatar).
A violin scroll, is a violin scroll, is a violin scroll, right? That's the way it's been done for 400 years, by cracky,and that's the way it shall be forevermore, amen!
Except when someone decides to do things a bit differently. The odd man out scroll is from a Chanot replica.
That's is where I'm headed with my WonderThumb. It seems that everyone and their brother pretty much takes it for granted that a shoulder rest is what gets used to support a violin, end of story, no questions asked.
But my concept turns that around: support for the violin originally was done by the left hand. Why do we now transfer that duty to someone's jaw and neck by clamping something across the back of the instrument? If help is needed in support, why not aid the left hand itself. Hands are made to hold things up, the only thing your neck was made to hold up is your head. Utilizing it to hold a violin may not be the best use of resources...
Don't get me wrong! I think the Shoulder rest is a wonderful invention, and is a very useful tool to have in our arsenal of aids. I'm not bashing it! But I'm thinking there is more than one possible solution to this issue.
The sling concept was a bust, so I had to investigate other avenues on my quest. I tried many, many different variations. Combinations of materials, arrangements, etc etc...I don't have them all photo documented. I may take a pic of the pile of rejects that I think I have in a drawer somewhere.
One step in the evolution that I thought promising was this one:
It was a hybrid using foam as a support, and an elastic loop around the finger to keep it aligned.
It worked pretty good. However, it had it's drawbacks. It supported the instrument as long as you held your hand *just right*, if you bent you wrist, "pancake hand" as they refer to it that young kids often do, there was about zero support. The other major drawback was the loop around the finger. Sure, in first position, with no need of major stretches, or shifts it was acceptable to a certain degree, but it really limited the freedom of mobility of the entire hand. It bound it up, reducing dexterity.
A number of further variations again followed.
A key stage of the evolution was this one:
This device relied solely on the foam itself as it wrapped around the thumb to support the violin. No elastic bands, etc to bind the hand.
This version also passed over the palm of the hand, not around the back as the previous one. This meant that it lent support to the instrument over a much great range of hand angles relative to the violin. The addition of the velour greatly aided shifting. I was pretty happy with the improvements.
I think it was at this point that I first unveiled my idea to my teacher and had her try it out.
Not perfect yet, but things were looking up.
Gravity is always working against us, to pull that instrument down off your thumb.
I wanted to see if I could create a device that would prevent this from happening, yet still allow for freedom of movement while playing.
My earliest prototypes were "sling" or "hammock" style devices. They worked at preventing slippage.
These did hold the violin up at the correct height, and the supple nature of the sling conformed well to the contour of the neck. I thought I was on to something!
That excitement was short lived.
It only took a few minutes of playing to realize that to support the weight of the instrument with a sling like device required the thumb to pull back against the tension. This utilized muscles that are not up to the task, and it became uncomfortable in a very short period of time.
It was back to the drawing board!