Sacrificing the visual
One of the main reasons I was excited about this festival was that Jerry Read Smith was going to be there. I haven’t seen him in several years, and I wanted him to look at my dulcimer, sort of give it a checkup, especially to see if anything needed to be adjusted to make tuning easier for me.
Basically he did two things he’d told me I could do myself, but that I hadn’t wanted to do without an expert there in person to make sure it was the right thing to do. First of all, he took a hammer to any pins that were sticking or slipping, seating them further into the pinblock.
Secondly, he moved some of the strings up or down on the side saddles. I confess that I’ve always hated this idea. I find it visually distracting to have some strings not absolutely parallel to the others. And it bothers my idealism — ideally, the strings should all be absolutely parallel and tune just fine. Seems to me there must be something else wrong if they’re straight but not tuning properly. Jerry — and Dan — would like to persuade me that sometimes it’s just the best solution, and that the visual aspect is simply not that important. Sigh.
The first meaning…
Sunday afternoon Dan watched me play with regular hammers, and he thinks the way I play with my left hand is likely to lead to injury. My left hand doesn’t work the way my right does, at least not naturally or automatically. To compensate, I’d developed a finger flick — hitting the back of the hammer grip with a middle finger — that helps me get a nice clear tone and good accuracy with my left hand.
I know there are other players who do this — Nick Blanton and Tim Seaman among them. However, maybe they use their wrists better than I do. I didn’t think I moved either of my wrists while playing, and I didn’t think it mattered. In fact, I thought it was a good thing, preventing carpal tunnel syndrome. Dan said my right wrist does move just a little, nice and loose, but that my left one is locked stiff.
Those of us standing around talked about the whole ergonomics thing for a while, and the consensus seems to be that the more muscle groups involved, the better, and the more loose and relaxed these muscles are, the better. Dan doesn’t even really hold his hammers — they balance on his finger, and his thumb keeps them from falling.
So I need to think about what I can do to loosen up my left wrist, and the grip of both hands on the hammers.
The second meaning…
I tend to think fear is safer than arrogance. I suspect people will like me better if I need to be encouraged, reassured, than if I need to be taken down a few pegs.
It’s not really that simple. Being too fearful is just as annoying — but in a different way. It gets old pretty fast to those who have to do the encouraging and reassuring; the fearful person makes a high-maintenance friend.
The most comfortable people to be around are neither overly fearful nor arrogant, but comfortable with themselves.
For whatever reason — yet another symptom of pregnancy, lol? — I felt just a little bit more comfortable with myself at this festival than I have at similar occasions in the past.
It was nice.
Several people noticed my flexible shaft, angled cimbalom grip hammers from Sam Rizzetta. One person who has arthritis thinks she’ll look into getting a pair for herself. Other folks, including Dan and Christie, found them awkward. Dan said it would be impossible to play the kinds of things he plays with those hammers — percussion stuff is too fast, and the flexibility loses too much energy and requires more muscle. Interesting. So far, I still like them for keeping my thumbs loose, but I admit that I miss the sound of my old regular hammers.