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...
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.