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#1260173 - 09/01/09 09:10 AM Double jointed?  
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BSP Offline
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Hi all,
A student of mine who is double jointed, told me that a friend of his with the same issue, who also studies piano, uses some sort of finger strengthening device to hold his joints in place while he plays.

Have any of you heard of this or have used it before??
thanks,
BevP

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#1260185 - 09/01/09 09:35 AM Re: Double jointed? [Re: BSP]  
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Barb860 Offline
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That's a new one for me. I am double-jointed and have never used any device for playing or finger strengthening. Why would one be needed?


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#1260263 - 09/01/09 11:26 AM Re: Double jointed? [Re: Barb860]  
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Morodiene Offline
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I, too, have not heard of this, and in the 11 years of teaching I haven't encountered any such problems with double-jointed. Just because a finger can move in such a way doens't mean it has to move that way. The tendons are just more flexible, I think, but someone who is flexible and can bend over backwards and walk on their hands and feet like that doens't mean they do so all the time uncontrollably! laugh

What do you notice about this student that is causing the problem? Perhaps we can offer suggestions on how to train him to play with more control.


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#1260373 - 09/01/09 02:31 PM Re: Double jointed? [Re: Morodiene]  
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This student seems to have a problem playing on his fingertips. He told me he has the same trouble playing guitar.. the first joint just collapses. Is it a finger strength problem??

BevP

#1260452 - 09/01/09 04:44 PM Re: Double jointed? [Re: BSP]  
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John v.d.Brook Offline
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Bev, every so often, I encounter a student with collapsing joints or double jointed, and to bring to the student's attention of maintaining the proper finger strength, I have them bend their finger into a lazy J and I do likewise, and then we pull against each other, finger tip to finger tip (sort of hooking fingers, but using the tips). Invariably, the student's finger muscles are quite strong, so the issue isn't strength, but not being aware that the finger is collapsing.

You might try that with your student. With a younger student, I can say buzzzz, whenever the finger collapses, so they can immediately sense the feel of the finger, and start to work on not letting it collapse.


"Those who dare to teach must never cease to learn." -- Richard Henry Dann
Full-time Private Piano Teacher offering Piano Lessons in Olympia, WA. www.mypianoteacher.com
Certified by the American College of Musicians; member NGPT, MTNA, WSMTA, OMTA
#1260519 - 09/01/09 06:24 PM Re: Double jointed? [Re: John v.d.Brook]  
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Gary D. Online content
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Collapsing joints or double jointed fingers are about 500 on my list of problems.

Beginning players fingers are going to collapse, if their fingers are able to collapse. The trick is to develop the fingers naturally so that they no longer do that, but trying to totally stop that too early can actually lead to over-tensing other muscles, in compensation.

This is another area in which "watching carefully as things develop" is the key.


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#1260554 - 09/01/09 07:31 PM Re: Double jointed? [Re: Gary D.]  
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Morodiene Offline
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Certainly if you're dealing with a very young student, there may be less development in the fingers. But every child that I've taught who has had the collapsing first joint, I'll do as John did, and have a little tug of war with the fingertips. The student usually wins, too. wink I always comment on how strong their fingers are, and that they can keep them from pressing down flat when they play.


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#1260573 - 09/01/09 07:54 PM Re: Double jointed? [Re: John v.d.Brook]  
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Originally Posted by John v.d.Brook
Bev, every so often, I encounter a student with collapsing joints or double jointed, and to bring to the student's attention of maintaining the proper finger strength, I have them bend their finger into a lazy J and I do likewise, and then we pull against each other, finger tip to finger tip (sort of hooking fingers, but using the tips). Invariably, the student's finger muscles are quite strong, so the issue isn't strength, but not being aware that the finger is collapsing.


Nice idea. I'll certainly use that. It's also worth getting them to hold the middle joint still and then move the end joint very slightly back and forth. Obviously you can't use the final joint in isolation when actually playing, but it's a good way of sensing what needs to grip, in order to stop that joint collapsing.

By the way, it's worth considering that for some students, a flattish finger is basically essential when it comes to the end joint. Some students will continue to collapse whatever they do, if told to play on pointed fingertips. When you bring the flesh into contact with the key, a very small amount of grip will get that joint stabilised. However, if you reduce the contact of that flesh and come onto the end of the fingertip, there's no longer much that can be done to stabilise. Beyond a certain angle, the muscles described begin to weaken the support, rather than aid it. I think it's better to start too flat and pull a tiny bit until a balanced position is found, with a very slight curve but a good fleshy contact. If you start by curling up too far, you there are no simple adjustments that can correct it after the finger collapses. The flatter the starting point the better. You can then move towards the optimum point of contact. However, if you pull too far, you start to feel how you are weaking that contact rather than improving it. Best to go very slow, in order to feel exactly where the joint is best lined up.

To be honest, I had no idea how to fix a collapsing second for ages. However, I do find this approach to be very effective. It helps the student find the optimum alignment for balancing their own hand. I'm not sure if I agree with the idea that this should be left alone in beginners. Once the right muscle has been sensed and the best alignment is found, it really shouldn't require much effort to maintain it- even for a young hand. I'd have imagined that there are more counterproductive tensions when joints double back upon themselves.

Last edited by Nyiregyhazi; 09/01/09 08:07 PM.
#1260624 - 09/01/09 08:40 PM Re: Double jointed? [Re: Morodiene]  
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Gary D. Online content
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Originally Posted by Morodiene
Certainly if you're dealing with a very young student, there may be less development in the fingers. But every child that I've taught who has had the collapsing first joint, I'll do as John did, and have a little tug of war with the fingertips. The student usually wins, too. wink I always comment on how strong their fingers are, and that they can keep them from pressing down flat when they play.

My point is that it doesn't matter how the problem is solved, just that a way is found to do it. I would also point out that the moment you tell any student, of any age, to become aware of a particular aspect of technique, there is always a danger of over-compensation.

I'm sure what John talks about works. I'm also sure that some people reading here what John does will misinterpret it and do something very wrong, thinking that they are doing the same thing.

Perhaps it's more important that most of us seem to agree that students being double-jointed has not generally been a big problem for us. For me (as a teacher) it is a problem that mostly works itself out.

But that's just my experience…

Last edited by Gary D.; 09/01/09 08:41 PM.

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#1260631 - 09/01/09 08:56 PM Re: Double jointed? [Re: Gary D.]  
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Originally Posted by Gary D.
Certainly if you're dealing with a very young student, there may be less development in I'm sure what John talks about works. I'm also sure that some people reading here what John does will misinterpret it and do something very wrong, thinking that they are doing the same thing.

Perhaps it's more important that most of us seem to agree that students being double-jointed has not generally been a big problem for us. For me (as a teacher) it is a problem that mostly works itself out.


What's to get wrong? Sure nobody would misread that as implying that the teacher should put the full force of their strength behind it and end up ripping the student's finger off?

When a student is aware of a sensation in the muscle that stops the joint collapsing, it doesn't take much to fix the problem. You just have to make sure that the fingers are not curled so far that use of the muscle would have the finger sliding towards you, rather than contacting the key. I usually start on the tabletop, to show the student just what a tiny amount of effort transforms a perfectly flat finger, into one that supports at the flesh of the tip- when you draw that tip marginally towards yourself. Problems occur when the student can only sense a pull from the knuckle or mid-joint. That's why it's essential to teach them awareness of how to feel the movement initiating at the very tip, through such exercises. All that needs to be stressed is that ot's not about any great effort, but merely awareness of what is activated. I've often been surprised how quickly things can fall into place after using related exercises.

I get the impression that those students who suffer collapsing joints tend to be far more prone to counter-productive tensions, compared to those who have followed the simple procedures that would get their fingers supporting.

Last edited by Nyiregyhazi; 09/01/09 09:11 PM.
#1260640 - 09/01/09 09:16 PM Re: Double jointed? [Re: Nyiregyhazi]  
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John v.d.Brook Offline
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And you'd be quite surprised how strong those little fingers actually are!


"Those who dare to teach must never cease to learn." -- Richard Henry Dann
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Certified by the American College of Musicians; member NGPT, MTNA, WSMTA, OMTA
#1260654 - 09/01/09 09:43 PM Re: Double jointed? [Re: John v.d.Brook]  
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Nyiregyhazi Offline
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Originally Posted by John v.d.Brook
And you'd be quite surprised how strong those little fingers actually are!


Yeah, I'm rather looking forward to trying it! Over the last couple of years I've used a similar type of thing where I get them to rest their fingertip on the key and drop the wrist down, before pulling slightly from the tip. It'll be interesting to feel the force direct.

#1260798 - 09/02/09 01:55 AM Re: Double jointed? [Re: Nyiregyhazi]  
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Gary D. Online content
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Originally Posted by Nyiregyhazi

What's to get wrong?

I apply Murphy's Law to almost everything, and so far the incredibly bad habits I see in the playing of people who come to me from other teachers has not changed my mind.
Quote

I get the impression that those students who suffer collapsing joints tend to be far more prone to counter-productive tensions, compared to those who have followed the simple procedures that would get their fingers supporting.

I certainly agree with that. For the same reason that now and then we see young students who just seem to do everything right, almost without help, there are others who have to be monitored very carefully. Most can still learn to play very well, but they have to be guided much more carefully.


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