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TUF Players- get a grip!!!

Posted by fiddlepogo on Saturday, July 10, 2010

Well, I love TUF, you KNOW I do, but TUF has some issues with thumb slippage-
since the bottom of the frog is all one smooth contiguous surface (even though actually THREE surfaces- silver, pearl and ebony) there is nothing to keep the thumb in the same place.  And since the thumb is part of the fulcrum for the bow, if the thumb changes position, the balance point changes... and the bow behaves differently, and that's not good, since consistency is a good thing for establishing better control.

SO... I devised two versions of add-on thumb grips for TUF players:

1. I used a twist tie, or a very fine gauge insulated solid core wire, and wrapped it around the place where the ebony meets the silver ring.
2. I now use the smallest nylon cable tie, you can get them in white or black,
cinch it tight with the bump towards the front of the bow (tilting forward keeps the CG of that bit of weight low)
and clip off the remainder.

Either way leaves a ridge that you can position your thumb on either side of, or even on top of, your preference.
It acts both as a reference point when picking up the bow, but also inhibits the thumb sliding.

I believe one should look soberly at the pluses and minuses of whatever technique used for fiddling-  I don't think getting on bandwagons really helps.

This solves one problem with TUF- variable thumb location.

Another TUF problem is solved by angling the thumb diagonally accross the bottom of the frog (see pics in my photos section)

That leaves only one problem I can see:

If you picked a bow for a classical or other thumb-on-stick hold, it might or might not work for TUF.  TUF changes things just enough so that your previous calculations go out the window.  If you have several bows, and switch to TUF, you should try all of them with TUF, and see which one works best with it, and I'd be surprised if it's your previous favorite.  However, subtle additions of weight, a dot of copper tape or masking tape cut out with a hole punch either on the bottom of the frog towards the end or on the bottom of the bow's tip can restore optimum balance to a bow if it didn't work with TUF.


BJ's comments below got me thinking.

And what I'm thinking is that kludges like these grips of mine are only necessary because the frog was not designed by and for TUF players.  If they could come up with that fancy schmancy leather and silver grip on the stick for classical players, a thinking bowmaker who was a TUF player him or herself could easily come up with some equivalent grips for TUF players, and they wouldn't be that hard to do.

See my response below for my ideas for permanent TUF grips.


8 comments on “TUF Players- get a grip!!!”

bj Says:
Saturday, July 10, 2010 @12:13:56 PM

Funny, I've never had some of these problems you're constantly coming up with mechanical ways to solve. :-)

Could it be that you simply need to change your bow hold in some minor fashion?

mudbug Says:
Saturday, July 10, 2010 @1:08:10 PM

I understand that you're very attuned to bow grip and very anylitical of the changes that your inventiveness brings about. Have you tried a little rosin on your thumb or maby some "Gorilla Snot". ( I think the name is a parody of "Gorilla Glue".) They market it to guitar players who drop picks and drummers who drop sticks.

fiddlepogo Says:
Sunday, July 11, 2010 @10:58:29 PM

I'm a certified Picky Person.
But I got way pickier when I got into electric guitar.
I turned into a Tone Freak... always tweaking my signal chain to get more out of the
usually inexpensive gear I have...
and some guys on-line thought I was crazy, I'm sure, just like here...
BUT I do get enough compliments from other people hearing or playing my Strats to think it must be actually doing SOMETHING to improve the tone.
And now, fiddling again after all the electric guitar pickiness, I find the same obsessiveness with tone working
on the fiddle, I was NEVER nearly this picky before the 15 year hiatus. And, like with the Strats, I find the pickiness seems to being paying off in more compliments on my playing.

Although... I have to admit... you may have something there...
now that I think about it... the only major difference between my hold and Byron Berline's right now is that he drops the pinky
BELOW the stick behind the frog... could it possibly be that that pinky isn't there so much for leverage
as for keeping the TUF hold from moving laterally and throwing the balance off???

Oh yeah, I thought you'd tried the TUF hold and dropped it.
PERHAPS some of these tweaky thing might have helped your TUF hold.
And the reason the TUF hold is prone to these things is because the frogs are designed
for classical players with a classical hold. If they were catering to TUF players, there are simple things
that could be done to make the frog work better:
1. Put some grooves in the bottom of that silver ring
2. Make that silver ring with a ridge where it meets the rest of the frog.
3. Either groove the mother-of-pearl inlay...
or maybe even inlay ROUGH pieces of shell!!!

This kind of thing is quite doable, and similar things have in fact already done-
that what those leather and silver grips are for, and they are close
to useless for a TUF player.

Also, the rebalancing dots are partly bows are balanced with the classical grip in mind.
I'm aiming for a neutral feel for my shuffles, so I can get short strokes with a flick of the wrist.
Ah yes... that's one reason for the pickiness- like with flatpicking, the less effort you use, the more bowing efficiency increases. But when you use less effort, little things causing resistance or inefficiency show up
that weren't showing up when you were muscling the bow more- muscling the bow steamrollers those little inefficiencies... which seems like it would sound better, but it actually physically sounds worse, because muscling the bow chokes the vibrating strings underneath the bow.


If they were trying to market that stuff to me,
they picked the wrong name.

I think I did try some rosin dust at one point, but my pickiness already
has me doing a number of things before I play, and I'm loathe to add one more,
(especially if it's some kind of sticky goop!!!)
if there is a semi-permanent mechanical solution that can be found.

As an example of my pickiness applied to picks, I tried holding a standard Fender pick SIDEWAYS,
using the round corners instead of the pointy one, and I find I drop picks a whole lot less-
bigger gripping surface, and less leverage on the tip of the pick means it's much less likely to pop out.
The only problem is that picks with a built-in grip are useless to me.
Added benefit- my picks last at least twice as long since I have two useable tips per pick, and maybe longer
because it's a shape that's less vulnerable to wear.
It also reduces pick noise and increases speed- I can now do mandolin style vibrato picking with ease.

Having made that switch on the guitar and gotten good results probably has made me much more open to different ways of holding the bow.

BGT Says:
Monday, July 12, 2010 @5:26:03 AM

This was a wonderful post... you explored this issue very thoroughly
for folks who do have problems in this area. There is much food for thought here, wonderful suggestions. I know what you mean about how electric guitars can make you sensitive to tone. It takes a bit of work and study to get the tone you want out of a rig. It makes you think about tone much more.

bj Says:
Monday, July 12, 2010 @9:41:39 AM

I switch back and forth between TUF and TOS these days. It seems one works better for some things, and the other works better for others, though I'm more TOS than TUF.

In truth, I have no problem whatsoever with any fingers moving around when I'm using TUF. That's much more of an issue with TOS, but probably solvable by replacing the leather grip thingie that came loose and that I removed.

You really would have more playing time if you spend less time analyzing. :-)

fiddlepogo Says:
Monday, July 12, 2010 @1:29:30 PM

Much of my analyzing takes place after my wife's bedtime, when fiddle playing is verboten!
Also, much of the analyzing starts with playing... because I'm feeling or noticing something happening,
but can't put my finger on it, then start to ponder it, maybe after I tired myself out practicing or something.
And then I get a Eureka moment sometimes where I "see" what's going on. And then once I see what's going on, all I have to do is put words to it, which, as you may have noticed, is VERY easy for me.

Feodosia Says:
Tuesday, July 13, 2010 @8:22:38 AM

I don't use a TUF hold ... but I do choke up on the bat a bit, sort to speak ...
And have experienced a thumb-slipping problem too ... I didn't think of the nylon cable tie idea ... but I do use some rubbery tape-stuff to make a thumb-stop ... so I think its ok for non-classical fiddlers to go ahead and modify their bow if they need to ! :-)

ruthbrons Says:
Monday, July 19, 2010 @10:51:22 AM

This is indeed a very interesting and thorough discussion, as there is indeed merit in doing things different ways -- including TOS, TUF, and accessorizing the bow to aid learning.
Whether a beginning player chooses TUF or TOS, the Bow Hold Buddies[tm] instant bow hold accessory has helped many students to keep their hand relaxed, their pinky flexible, and the bow hold flexibly stable. In my violin studio, where we do mostly Suzuki and Mark O'Connor materials, we do TOS -- except for the very very young who have short thumbs or the very very "mature" who have less than very flexible thumbs.

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