I was intrigued when I ran across a product called the WonderThumb, an aid to attaining a relaxed and functional left hand position for violin.
Much of the tension in the left hand is a result of a feeling of insecurity. Gravity is always trying to pull the neck of the instrument down the thumb, so the player often wants to create a more secure feel, often by clenching or tightening the hand. That is obviously counterproductive to freedom of movement while playing. The Wonderthumb was designed to alleviate all of that.
The Wonderthumb slides on to the thumb and transfers the support of the neck of the violin directly down to the base of the hand. It reduces tension in the left hand and allows for independent movement of the fingers, maximizing dexterity. There is no need to squeeze the left hand to prevent the violin from sliding down the thumb. The hand is now allowed to relax and is free to just finger the notes. The Wonderthumb was created by Craig First, an aspiring violinist and violist, to
- combat tension
- develop a well balanced hand frame
- eliminate griping
- allow easy shifting
- promotes good form as second nature
Here is an overview of how the WonderThumb is designed to work with your hand while playing.
Before purchasing, it is important to choose the correct size. The Wonderthumb comes in five sizes and there are detailed instructions about sizing before ordering on the WonderThumb website. The cost is $24.
I decided to try the Wonderthumb out, and after measuring, I ordered the largest size for my chubby thumb. I have only used it twice, but am already extremely impressed with how it keeps my left hand in great position, securely supporting my fiddle, eliminating gripping and tension, and allowing my fingers to move with ease. The last being very difficult when the neck is too low between the thumb and index finger and/or griped too tightly. In fact, with the Wonderthumb, a tight grip becomes impossible.
Now, over time, will the WonderThumb train my left hand so I can eventually reproduce that hold without using it? Will I revert back to letting my fiddle settle down into the space between my thumb and index finger? Will I revert back to griping too tightly at times? I don’t know. I do know that the feeling of the proper left hand position when using the Wonderthumb is wonderful, nothing like I have experienced before. All the videos I have watched describing and illustrating proper left hand form have never allowed me to feel or play as easily as I can with the Wonderthumb. While I think it might be physically difficult without the Wonderthumb, I finally have a feeling I can work on reproducing rather than just imagining what it should feel like. The Wonderthumb is artificially creating the proper left hand form. With it’s help, my task will be to reproduce this form without it. However, unlike before, I now have a guide, and that alone, is worth the $24!
Even Fiddlerman says this is a product that may suit you if you have an issue keeping the instrument from sinking between your left hand thumb and pointer finger or grip the neck to tightly. As with all aids, it is important not to become dependent on it. Use it for a while and then try without.
So, what do you think of the WonderThumb? I am interested in your comments, especially if you have ever tried it. I will be sure to post updates either here, in other blog posts, or the forum as I move forward with my Wonderthumb.
If you are interested in purchasing a WonderThumb, you can buy it directly from the creator’s website. It is also available in a few online music stores.