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Author Topic: Thumb Groove  (Read 5565 times)

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911377brian

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Thumb Groove
« on: February 24, 2013, 03:13:40 PM »

Thumb grooves are sometimes mentioned as an alternative to thumb straps. I always remove the strap when I get another box and play with my thumb behind the fingerboard. This probably restricts the reach of my fingers.I'm capable of routing out a groove, but does it go on the edge of the fingerboard or the back, and how deep does it need to be to be effective? A picture would be a great help..... ??? 
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GPS

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Re: Thumb Groove
« Reply #1 on: February 24, 2013, 03:31:25 PM »

It goes down the edge - only needs to be shallow, and very well smoothed off and edges rounded.  My Saltarelle came with a thumbgroove and no thumbstrap, and on all my Hohners I've removed the thumbstrap, but not bothered with routing a thumbgroove, just leaving the factory rounded edge. I use the thumb-on-the-edge and the thumb-behind position on all my boxes (depending on what I'm playing), and in all honesty I can't say it makes a fat lot of difference whether there's a thumbgroove or not.  If you feel you need to do it, it shouldn't be a difficult job if you have decent machinery and/or woodworking skills, but personally I'm not convinced it's worth the trouble.  Other opinions may vary  ;D.

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Graham
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Lester

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Re: Thumb Groove
« Reply #2 on: February 24, 2013, 03:33:46 PM »

I play with my thumb on the edge of the keyboard without any thumb groove. I fact I find a thumb groove uncomfortable as I have my thumb on the back edge of the keyboard so the groove presents a sharpish edge.

But to answer one of your questions the groove is on the edge of the keyboard.

911377brian

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Re: Thumb Groove
« Reply #3 on: February 24, 2013, 04:10:43 PM »

Lester and Graham, thanks. I'm going to try lester's thumb position.....My main problem seems to be finding an excuse for buggering about with my boxes.. :|bl
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Chris Ryall

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Re: Thumb Groove
« Reply #4 on: February 24, 2013, 05:06:24 PM »

See Lester's post above. I managed to get a few pics and he beat me to it while I was making them web ready.  The thumb grove seems to be something you either like, or don't and in my view it is more suited for the cross row style of play. I personally wouldn't be without one and find a non chamferered edge at the back quite painful to the right thumb after a while



The above are side on shots of my keyboards. #1 is a castagnari Lilly and as such represents a fairly standard "groove" from the early 90's. 

The middle (black) one is my recently acquired van der Aa. That slightly Baroque curve is very much what makers have been putting on over the past 20 years or so, a deeper grove, slightly cut back posteriorly. I have always found this form a little 'sharp' myself.

Number 3 is my 2009 manufacture Gaillard. As you see it has a softer curve, and allows you to get wrist in closer, and to curve fingers very naturally over the three rows. It has been the most comfortable in play and is my own preference. I know from French friends that this is a fairly recent Gaillard design modification, and that it had followed feedback from his clients. Pignol spotted the "[truc]nouveau" very quickly and may have had an input in this. I don't remember the actual word he used (wasn't [truc]!), but I hope I've shown that its rather more than a "groove".

Thumb "rebate" might be a better and more meaningful term?  However, yours truly is strictly limited to one new new word per day  ;)
« Last Edit: February 24, 2013, 05:09:54 PM by Chris Ryall »
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Mike Hirst

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Re: Thumb Groove
« Reply #5 on: February 24, 2013, 05:29:27 PM »

@chris - interesting comparison. I have never been a fan of thumb groove. Of the instruments I play regularly, those which have a grooved kbd can prove quite painful for any kind of lengthy play (4hrs+). I have quite a wide thumb. I find most thumb grooves restrictive. I much prefer convex to concave, although I suspect that a deeper kbd might offer a more comfortable arc. The Gaillard rebate looks interesting, but in truth I remain happiest with the no groove option. If it aint broke don't try to fix it.  ;)
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malcolmbebb

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Re: Thumb Groove
« Reply #6 on: February 24, 2013, 06:06:45 PM »

Chris's third photo is reminiscent of the shape used on Hohner Clubs (inc Liliput), which I find much more comfortable than the rounded edge on my Erica. I have yet to try a simple groove.

Anyone able to post a Club photo? (Gotta go out in 10 mins!)
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The Blues Viking

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Re: Thumb Groove
« Reply #7 on: February 24, 2013, 07:11:35 PM »

I have never used a thumb grove, and have never felt the need of one. I play with the very tip of my thumb against the keyboard edge, not the pad of it like Lester's example, and have had no problems so far. But maybe I'm weird that way.

TBV
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Sage Herb

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Re: Thumb Groove
« Reply #8 on: February 24, 2013, 08:11:01 PM »

I wonder if the shape and size of your hand is a factor? My Club 2s/ Erikas and Nuage all have grooves, but if I use them I end up with a sore right wrist. I rest my thumb on the lip of the groove (the edge away from the buttons) which sounds painful but isn't. Obviously YMMV.

Steve
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Chris Ryall

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Re: Thumb Groove
« Reply #9 on: February 24, 2013, 10:52:17 PM »

Yes, it's as much about how you hold your hand as anything.

I have to confess that on a 1-row I'd do none of this. I basically wedge the hypothenar eminence (see http://www.noelhenley.com/228/hand-surface-anatomy/) against whatever bit of wood the maker has installed and try to get as many fingers onto as many buttons as I can; blast away.  It really is a different instrument.  :|glug
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Bobtheboat

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Re: Thumb Groove
« Reply #10 on: February 24, 2013, 11:17:55 PM »

I don't really use any pressure or force on the edge of the keyboard with my thumb. Rather just using it as a reference point. Maybe due to my use of the two strap method of holding the box. Bob.
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911377brian

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Re: Thumb Groove
« Reply #11 on: February 25, 2013, 06:52:50 AM »

Got so immersed in your noelhenley link Chris that ten minutes later I found myself wondering what had led me to it. Ah yes.. thumb grooves..could only happen on Melnet... ;)
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IanD

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Re: Thumb Groove
« Reply #12 on: February 25, 2013, 09:37:20 AM »

See Lester's post above. I managed to get a few pics and he beat me to it while I was making them web ready.  The thumb grove seems to be something you either like, or don't and in my view it is more suited for the cross row style of play. I personally wouldn't be without one and find a non chamferered edge at the back quite painful to the right thumb after a while



The above are side on shots of my keyboards. #1 is a castagnari Lilly and as such represents a fairly standard "groove" from the early 90's. 

The middle (black) one is my recently acquired van der Aa. That slightly Baroque curve is very much what makers have been putting on over the past 20 years or so, a deeper grove, slightly cut back posteriorly. I have always found this form a little 'sharp' myself.

Number 3 is my 2009 manufacture Gaillard. As you see it has a softer curve, and allows you to get wrist in closer, and to curve fingers very naturally over the three rows. It has been the most comfortable in play and is my own preference. I know from French friends that this is a fairly recent Gaillard design modification, and that it had followed feedback from his clients. Pignol spotted the "[truc]nouveau" very quickly and may have had an input in this. I don't remember the actual word he used (wasn't [truc]!), but I hope I've shown that its rather more than a "groove".

Thumb "rebate" might be a better and more meaningful term?  However, yours truly is strictly limited to one new new word per day  ;)
The Gaillard groove has almost the same shape and angle to the one I got Martyn Banks to put on my Oakwood when we were making design changes, and which I seem to remember was shaped by taking a mould of the edge of my thumb when in the most comfortable playing positon using blu-tac...

The rounded corners stop it digging in if you're playing with the thumb round the back (like I do for morris), and the backwards slope stops the thumb tending to slip off forwards if your hand is in the natural position in line with the forearm.

So it only took the French 15 years to catch up with the English, then ;-)
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Chris Ryall

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Re: Thumb Groove
« Reply #13 on: February 25, 2013, 10:29:57 AM »

Fascinating stuff, I'm afraid my butterfly like brain does this sort of thing quite naturally, but being an X-ray doc has me looking at hands and things all the time, I've even radiographed my melodeon! It isn't just melnet however. At a Ring meeting in Thaxted a chap in bells and a bowler hat quipped "the trouble with morris men nowadays is that they are all doctors, biochemists and computer programmers" I'd done the first two, and just started on a masters in the third so it struck home!

While I'm being so self indulgent, there's another thing perhaps more pertinent to the thumb rebate topic. We've touched on the row v cross row aspects, which I personally still think very important.

Bob has now mentioned straps, and that as a 2-strap-chap, pressure is not an issue for him. I'm an 1-strapper. That didn't matter in the days when my only box was the little Lily. I now play 3-rows, in the 4-5kg range, and that needs a nice balance of tension between thumb (or hypothenar muscle  ;)), box weight, and strap tension. In this the rebate's comfort factor has become important, and is something I look for from a good maker.

What do others think? FWIW Pignol clearly cares a lot about his rebate, and is a 2-strap-type. Cutting uses one, don't know his views on rebate, but I'm very interested in what we'd want from a québécois box, which plays with no straps at all  :|glug


[edit] hi Ian. My own oakwood is sort of half way to what you describe, but it seems you got a fairly bespoke product there. Don't know if Bertrand would be aware of the Leeds design as they don't do St Chartier any more. But the makers do copy each other. Van der Aa claims my Oakwood compact was a lift from him, and he's copied the Gaillard air valve for me. Castagnari now do the Gaillard/Pignol right end layout. There's a move in France at least to their 18 bass .. We could go on. That thumb/bluetac tailoring is certainly a good thing.  :|glug
« Last Edit: February 25, 2013, 10:39:23 AM by Chris Ryall »
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george garside

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Re: Thumb Groove
« Reply #14 on: February 25, 2013, 10:49:52 AM »

whilst I have a slight preference for a thumb groove  rather than a smooth (erica pokerwork) edge to keyboard  I find that it doesn't  matter that much  and can swap between boxes with and without without any inconvenience.

Brians original question was   however  thumb groove - v - thumb strap.  They serve different purposes.   Aa thumb strap is meant to help locate the box when played strapless on the knee and  prevents it moving to port or starboard.  A thumb groove  is not there to enable pressure to be put on the edge of the keyboard to locate the box  any more than is a smooth edged keyboard.  The thumb groove is provided on some boxes to locate the thumb, not the box, and to facilitate the smooth sliding  along the edge of the keyboard of the thumb when moving up and down the keyboard

george
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Re: Thumb Groove
« Reply #15 on: February 25, 2013, 01:20:34 PM »

whilst I have a slight preference for a thumb groove  rather than a smooth (erica pokerwork) edge to keyboard  I find that it doesn't  matter that much  and can swap between boxes with and without without any inconvenience.

Brians original question was   however  thumb groove - v - thumb strap.  They serve different purposes.   Aa thumb strap is meant to help locate the box when played strapless on the knee and  prevents it moving to port or starboard.  A thumb groove  is not there to enable pressure to be put on the edge of the keyboard to locate the box  any more than is a smooth edged keyboard.  The thumb groove is provided on some boxes to locate the thumb, not the box, and to facilitate the smooth sliding  along the edge of the keyboard of the thumb when moving up and down the keyboard

george
It might not be for you, but for people who play with one strap (like me) one function of the thumb groove (even the main one) is certainly to provide some pressure to locate the box and stop it moving around so much, just like a thumb strap -- even when sitting down with it already braced against a crossed leg. My thumb hardly moves up and down the groove (as can be seen by where the lacquer has worn through), moving up and down the keyboard is mostly done by rotating/flexing my hand/fingers.

Don't assume that your view applies to everybody ;-)
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ACE

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Re: Thumb Groove
« Reply #16 on: February 25, 2013, 02:07:27 PM »

I took off the thumbstrap as it was always in the way on my old pokerwork, then with the paolo it never had one, but for the life of me I cannot remember if it had a groove or not. Now the little mini has a thumb strap and as the thing is so light even with two straps it has to be used to keep the box steady. This might be my playing style which can be a bit theatrical at times swinging the box up and away from my chest for a big finish etc. I think that motion can be a throwback to my big circular swings with the anglo although a bit restricted by the melodeon straps.

Now with the Roland I am back to the paolo type of weight and it sits there solid on my chest. so much so the hand can go right over PA style  I can even use the thumb for playing. As there are percussive tones that need punching, it makes it ideal to play that way.

So after all this rambling it seems the heavier your instrument the less likely you need a thumb strap, even sitting you would still usually use shoulder straps. Little lightweights need thumbstraps otherwise you are clamped on  sometimes at the wrong end of the octave. Thumbstraps will need personal adjustments, which is worth trying before you discard them.
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Re: Thumb Groove
« Reply #17 on: February 25, 2013, 02:23:26 PM »

On my Weltmeister with a thumb groove I play with one strap and make use of the groove. I have tried using two straps, and could probably get away without a thumb groove in that situation but I'm not a fan of playing with two straps and prefer the thumb groove over a rounded edge. This might also be the same reason why I prefer the stepped keyboard and why I prefer B/C over C#/D. For all I believe the reason is "that's what I'm used to".

For my one-row 4-stop I play without a shoulder strap and just use the thumb strap. It took a lot of getting used to but for this I play with the thumb on the back not the edge. I think I've heard some people still playing thumb on the edge even with a thumb strap but that felt weird for me too.

I have a pokerwork in the shop that I should be getting back pretty soon so maybe after playing with that more often I'll feel less awkward playing a rounded edge but as far as personal preference goes, I currently prefer the groove.
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Bob Ellis

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Re: Thumb Groove
« Reply #18 on: February 25, 2013, 03:07:17 PM »

Sometimes I play with two straps, sometimes with one, and on my Cajun boxes, I use a thumb strap. I prefer boxes with a groove to those without one, because my hand is less likely to slip off the end of the box. This rarely happens with those boxes that have a thumb groove but happens frequently with my boxes without one, especially my Cajun boxes that have a convex edge. Of course, this may be a fault in the way I position my hand.

I can't play my Cajun boxes without using the thumb strap, but I do find it restrictive and would like to find a way of dispensing with it without increasing the risk of my thumb slipping off the ege of the box.
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Re: Thumb Groove
« Reply #19 on: February 25, 2013, 05:24:50 PM »

I play B/C almost exclusively these days and a thumb strap is useless for playing boxes in that tuning

I use two shoulder staps and a backstrap, as I play standing as well as sitting.  I always rest the tip of my thumb against the outer edge of the keyboard.  As some of the tunes I play cover the whole length of the keyboard my thumb skips up and down the edge of the keyboard quite a lot.

I have a number of boxes which have anything from a tight radius groove (Tommy) through broad shallow groove (Cairdin/leBouebe) to no groove and convex (pokerwork/black dot)

sadly, they're all equally hard to play
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