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grant wright

Finger Rests

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I have an old wheatstone 48 button.

When I hold it off my knee,the joints in my little fingers ache.I am a bit arthritic.

I have played other instruments as well with the traditional finger rests and there seems to be a lot of the weight on the little fingers and no weight on the thumbs.

Any suggestions to help please.

 

Regards

Grant.

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When I hold it off my knee, the joints in my little fingers ache.... Any suggestions to help please.

Yes. I suggest you don't hold it off your knee. Seriously.

 

I imagine you're concerned about wear and tear on the bellows from resting the instrument on your leg. Try resting the action box -- not the bellows as a whole -- on one leg, just above the knee. I rest the left end on my left leg; this is a common choice.

 

You may also wish to get a small piece of ultra-soft "chamois" leather, say, roughly 6 inches square, to put under your instrument to minimize abrasion from your clothing.

 

You may still get some wear on the left end of your bellows, but that's a small price to pay for playing pain-free.

 

[Edited to change "reed pan" to "action box" -- I wasn't thinking clearly when I wrote that.]

Edited by Michael Reid

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I'm in full agreement with Michael - rest the wooden end on your knee and play. Some people use a nech strap, others wrist straps, but personally I'm hesitant to drill any extra holes into my instrument. there are some links through Concertina.Net to do those things if you so chose. The other thing is, if you use your knee as a rest, you are able to use your little finger for tricky fingering. I also recommend the book "Contemplating the Concertina" by Alan Atlas for an excellent discussion of ways to hold the concertina. I agree with his oft stated summation - do what is comfortable! :D

 

Jay

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I find that I can often dispense with the finger rest entirely for a break when standing. This works best with a small treble.

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I have played other instruments as well with the traditional finger rests and there seems to be a lot of the weight on the little fingers and no weight on the thumbs.

The problem you describe seems the opposite of what many others complain about, namely pain in their thumbs. What I suggest you try, though, is the same as what I recommend to them:

... Try gently gripping the instrument between your thumb and little finger (on each end). This is difficult to do, of course, if the thumbstrap is loose and the thumb is pushed through to its base. I keep my thumb straps adjusted so that I can insert the first joint of my thumb, but not the first knuckle. This gripping distributes the support of the instrument between the thumbs and little fingers, and in fact across the palm as well.

... I recommend this grip whether not only when you're holding the instrument "free" in the air, but also if you're resting an end on your knee, as in my experience it improves control of the bellows. And because you can involve the additional thumb knuckle, it should also improve the flexibility of the hands and fingers on the keyboard.

... From my own experience and that of others, I believe it is possible -- and not even too difficult -- to strengthen the fingers and hands to a point where one can play for extended periodss with the instrument held "free" in the air and no additional support (knee, neck strap, or whatever). A standard English or anglo is really very lightweight (though the new Button Box instruments are even lighter). Nevertheless, I don't insist that everyone must or even should do so.

... In your case, the arthritis may be a factor, but I think you should be able to try my method and judge for yourself. I think you indicate that you do sometimes play with the concertina supported on your "knee", and there's nothing inherently wrong with that.

... I myself prefer to stand while playing. If I'm performing, I like to see the audience, but I also find that I have more control when I play in a standing position than when sitting. Others, however, find their personal "balance" is different. E.g., I believe RatFace always plays seated and rarely if ever uses the finger plates, but his playing and control are superb.

 

So I recommend that you experiment to find what's best for you, but I hope that you include my method among those you try.

 

As something of a sidebar, I would comment on your problem, the more frequently reported thumb pains, and what I think is "at fault" (my judgement) in both cases.

... The complaints about thumb pains I find are often associated with "hanging" the instrument from the thumbs and letting the little finger merely rest against the finger plates. While the concept of hanging something may seem natural, that is not a "natural" direction in which to exert pressure with the thumbs. Pressing inward is natural, but pressing outward is not. Both the muscles and tendons for pushing in the outward direction are weak, and it is no wonder that they become tired and sore. But the muscles and tendons for pressing in the other direction -- as I recommend with my "gripping" technique -- are naturally strong and easy to strengthen, as has been demonstrated by an army of video-game fanatics.

... However, it sounds like you must be resting the entire weight of the instrument on the little fingers -- via the finger plates -- and completely relaxing your thumbs. The direction your little fingers are flexing should be the natural direction, but the pressure is unnaturally large. With practice, you can probably strengthen them to where they will give full support without pain, but it would be better to divide the load between the little finger and thumb. I think you need to consciously use your thumbs, in the gentle gripping I recommend.

... You might ask how pressing downward with the thumb can hold the instrument up. The reason it works is that the thumb and little finger aren't acting independently, but form a semi-rigid arc with the palm of the hand, and it is this arc across the entire hand -- not the thumb and finger separately -- which supports the instrument.

 

Good luck to you!

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... Try gently gripping the instrument between your thumb and little finger (on each end).  This is difficult to do, of course, if the thumbstrap is loose and the thumb is pushed through to its base.  I keep my thumb straps adjusted so that I can insert the first joint  of my thumb, but not the first knuckle.  This gripping distributes the support of the instrument between the thumbs and little fingers, and in fact across the palm as well.

... The complaints about thumb pains I find are often associated with "hanging" the instrument from the thumbs and letting the little finger merely rest against the finger plates.  While the concept of hanging something may seem natural, that is not a "natural" direction in which to exert pressure with the thumbs.  Pressing inward is natural, but pressing outward is not.  Both the muscles and tendons for pushing in the outward direction are weak, and it is no wonder that they become tired and sore.  But the muscles and tendons for pressing in the other direction -- as I recommend with my "gripping" technique -- are naturally strong and easy to strengthen, as has been demonstrated by an army of video-game fanatics.

 

Excellent advice indeed, Jim, it surely helped to keep my nasty tendon problems at bay.

Thanks a lot !

Claus

(So not only your jokes are first class...) :lol:

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