Tuesday, October 29, 2013

A Banjo Player's Forearm: Let's Get Lost!

I was in a class at the Old Town School of Folk Music recently, and I saw this:

Well, I'm lying. What I actually saw was this:

Steve's forearm muscles are quite clear in the first photo, and in the photo above they've been diagrammed 
and labeled. The extensor group is shown in blue, and a small portion of the flexor group is shown in green. 
The ulna, which indicates a dividing line between the two groups, can also be seen. Muscles are as follows: ECRL (extensor carpi radialis longus); ECRB (extensor carpi radialis brevis); ED (extensor digitorum); EDM (extensor digiti minimi); ECU (extensor carpi ulnaris); Anc (anconeus); FCU (flexor carpi ulnalis-in the flexor group and, as such, shown in green); APL (abductor pollucis longus) and EPB (extensor pollucis brevis.) The tendon of extensor pollucis longus can be seen just to the right of the EPB muscle, but it was too small to label!)
This arm, readers, is that of one of my beloved music teachers, Steve Rosen, as he plays his banjo during the Old Time Ensemble at the Old Town School of Folk Music here in Chicago. As he played on this balmy summer evening, his forearm extensors danced. How could I help but dig out my phone to catch a quick photo?

Don't you love that feeling of complete absorption in an activity? Being so consumed, so lost in your work, that hours pass unnoticed? I often feel this way about this blog. And about playing music. If you don't know this feeling, I highly recommend you find a way to experience it. Love of your subject, intense concentration, and a sense of productivity is a combination difficult to match.

I think the reason anatomy blogging, art, and music all fall into category for me is that all three of them combine a puzzle-like quality with a wide degree of latitude for creative expression. Learning an instrument is an especially difficult puzzle, but it can still be solved in a number of ways. There is no single correct solution. There's room to experiment, embellish, and make any tune your own. It's no wonder it's so easy to become entranced in the process.

I'd have never learned any instruments in the first place if it wasn't for the talented and diverse faculty at the Old Town School. Of all the wonderful instructors in this fine institution, I've taken the most courses from Steve (above) and Paul Tyler, including fiddle, guitar, banjo, and a group course called the Old Time Ensemble.

This is a shot from last summer's class, at the end of which Paul and Steve celebrated with a little cherry cheesecake! The Wednesday evening section of this class has been team taught by these two for years, Entertaining and informative, it's a popular class that is taken repeatedly (sometimes for years) by many of Paul and Steve's devoted students and fans. Each of these gentlemen has an extensive background in Old Time string music, including time together in the Volo Bogtrotters, a... well... modern day Old Time string band. Watch them play a wonderful tune, Lost Indian, here.

Finally, there is more to Steve than his forearm or his banjo. He has many other physical features and interests. So let's diagram these as well:

Here is another diagram that more clearly shows the division of the two forearm compartments:

And a view of these muscles exposed:

You can read more about these muscles in the following posts:

I promised I'll get off forearms next time! Again, to learn more about Steve, go here. Better yet, treat yourself to a little of his banjo playing here.

Until next time!


  1. Dear Kristin Mount, I am very happy to have found your blog, which is both very helpful and interesting. I would like to send you a picture of a very well defined climber's forearm, which I used for my anatomy lessons, inspired by this blog. Where could I send it to?
    Thank you,
    Thomas (Amsterdam, Netherlands)

    1. I am so very sorry that I did not see this message earlier! It was buried between far too much spam in my email box!
      Are you still interested in sending me the photograph? If so, you can email to kristin@gm-studio.com.