Saturday, April 10, 2010


Aligned again

As I was getting out of bed the other morning I rolled onto my left hand and heard / felt a sharp "crack" at the base of my thumb. All the pain I'd been feeling in my thumb for the last few months was gone, just like that! It hasn't come back.

I'm guessing that there must have been some triggering event earlier this year that caused the misalignment - probably aggravated by all those years of the cello death grip. It took a few days of Ibuleve (thanks E for the tip!), applied generously to my thumb, to relieve the inflammation enough for the spontaneous realignment to occur.

Maybe I should have gone to a chiropractor.

I will continue playing thumblessly until I've completely broken the habit.

As an adult beginner, I enjoy your blog. I have problems with my joints but I figure that I am just arthritic and clumsy. LOL.
Ouch, super ouch...but at least the pain is gone.
Dear god...
You play thumblessly? How long have you been at it?

I must commend you because playing without the use of your thumb is quite an acheivement but the damage it can leave is permanent.

My suggestion is that you play with your thumb on your neck. It's not supposed to hurt you to play to the point where you have to seek medical attention.

Stylistically, i suppose i can see where this might help you but it's not all that great for your vibrato.

I've been playing for five years and i know that you cannot acheive a warm, round, vibrato, by not using your thumb. Without your thumb more pressure goes to your fingers and you have to work more with your joints.

Use your thumb and clasp your finger on the string gently enough to put the string to the fingerboard. Make a full bow and roll your wrist forward and backward on the tip of your finger. This will help to strengthen your vibrato and overtime your fingers overall.

Whatever you do, use your thumb and keep it on the neck.

With the exception of the thumb position as you work your way into the upper register (if you are not there yet)

In the meantime, nurse your thumb back to health.

Plus, it might be a good idea to ask your teacher if your bridge is too high.
To see a very high level, Grammy-winning professional demonstrate playing without left thumb touching the cello, see talk 80 at

If it's ok for him to do some, and demonstrate to the world, and even recommend it if helpful to get a clean sound, then I think Guanaco is doing just fine. The thumb is useful in left hand balance but should never be used to oppose finger force.
My teacher has been encouraging me to let go of my thumb- with the goal of better intonation, and she is completely correct! Works for me in the lower positions. OTOH, I agree that you really need your thumb for vibrato. So it's not one of those hard and fast rules, but something to try, and use when appropriate.
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