Many years ago, I attended a sign making/pinstriping seminar-event in Pennsylvania. These are usually a 3 or 4 day deal where sign painters and stripers from all over the country congregate, swap lies and paint the shit out of everything they can find. It is a great networking deal and you often come home with a serious urge to try something you have just learned.
At this particular event, a pinstriper by the name of Julian – Mr. J. – Braet was telling a story about how he found that most “creative” people had thumbs that would normally bend outward. When pinstriping, this does come in very handy and I was somewhat pleased that my thumbs had a tendency to do this. I remember this Mr. J. story as one would remember things like “a pint is a pound the world around” or “vampires can’t be seen in a photograph”… all things you heard somewhere and figure it must be so – because you heard it somewhere.
Well, not quite so. When I turned 50 or so and kind of felt like my days were numbered – or easier to number than they had been at 49.5 – I decided that I should do something. I did not know exactly what that something was going to be but I figured that whatever it was, I would soon have less time to do it. What could I do? I could learn a new language. I could learn how to use a smart phone. Same thing, I suppose, and I chose neither of those. I could figure out how to take better pictures. I’m working on that. I could exercise… nah.
I decided that it would be interesting and possibly amusing if at this late date I learned how to play the violin. After a couple of years now, I can officially say that I’m a pretty shitty violin player. AA, AABB, AAB with a B2 variation, where is my frog and how to finger close to the nut. All things I’m learning.
I recently – somehow – totally lost my grip. Ok, for the smart asses out there who think I may have lost my grip because I was trying to finger too close to my nut, that is not it at all. I’m talking bow grip.
Eventually, you don’t even want to think about this stuff… you just pick up the bow and go to town. In the meantime, you have to consider things like balance and pressure, where your elbow is located (knowing the difference between this and your ass helps a lot) and keeping at a slight angle where the top of the stick is slightly away from you. Stuff like that. Then, one day I watched a video where someone showed me something else. Sure, for a while it was great and fun and all of that. It was easy and I did not have to put a lot of thought into it. It gave me a lot of force… so much so that I was bouncing off of the strings a little too much at times. After a while, it began to feel wrong and I tried to regain my grip.
Here’s where the Mr. J. story comes into play. Having a thumb that naturally bends outward is great for pinstriping but not so great for holding a violin bow. There’s this whole “keep your thumb bent slightly” idea. Not only that, keep your pinky on the inside face of the octagon and also slightly bent. Stick your bent thumb over near the frog and the tape area… so much so that you have an indentation in your upper right side tip of your thumb.
Maybe I should have tried the exercise thing. I think my grip is coming back. It’s like work.