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#962641 - 02/17/08 03:51 AM Collapsing nail joints  
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Why do the nail joints collapse on so many kids? What is the solution for students with chronic collapsing joints? It's foreign to me because my nail joints have never collapsed and won't even if I try to force them to do it.


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#962642 - 02/17/08 04:25 AM Re: Collapsing nail joints  
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There is a similar thread 'Physiology of the hand/arm' started by Morodienne. As I said thee, it is nothing to do with strength, all to do with coordination. If, after beginning flexion with the nail phalanx, you concentrate only on flexion of the middle phalanx (especially when encountering resistance) it will break in. Many teachers aren't concerned about this but you do lose about half your flexor capability. The answer is to work the brain hard on this 'grip' or 'scratch' until it's a conditioned reflex.


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#962643 - 02/17/08 11:07 AM Re: Collapsing nail joints  
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This is good advise until the child is able to play without the collapsing joint. Then they can relax the scratch without totally caving in.


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#962644 - 02/17/08 11:30 AM Re: Collapsing nail joints  
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The relaxed scratch I call a 'grip' and has very little if any sign of joint movement. To the uninitiated it looks no different from the 'playing from the knuckle' most people advocate, but it is a very different (I would say it is the better) finger coordination.


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#962645 - 02/17/08 01:57 PM Re: Collapsing nail joints  
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"Scratch" the key is a good description. I am not sure kids will get the "grip" description. How do you further describe "grip" to kids?


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#962646 - 02/17/08 02:05 PM Re: Collapsing nail joints  
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It has also a lot to do with hand position.
Working with posture and proper height of the bench I noticed that when this has found the nail joint don't collapse anymore. In fact I have often seen that in a proper sitting height and position it's hard to make the nail joint collapse even if you want to.

Tyr to have the student laying the whole arm by the side of a table. In this way both the fingers and the elbow are resting on the same surface.
Tell him or her to adjust the arching of the fingers so that elbow, back of the hand and forearm are all in straight line. Also have the thumb slightly touchig the index while both rest on the surface. Now apply several kinds of pressure from very light to very very strong with your hand on the knuckles. You'll see the nail joint won't collapse even when you apply a lot of weight pressure. If you experiment with different positions (different wrist, elbow level, thumb position and finger curvature) you'll see that the nail joint tend to collapse very easily even when the weight pressure is small.

#962647 - 02/17/08 02:06 PM Re: Collapsing nail joints  
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After they've been successfully scratching for a few weeks you tell them to do the same but now once the sound has happened to stop moving the finger. As I said 'scratching' and 'gripping' are exactly the same coordination; it's just the later is, you could say, the short form.


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#962648 - 02/17/08 05:21 PM Re: Collapsing nail joints  
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Excellent advice, all try all of those. Thanks


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#962649 - 02/17/08 06:11 PM Re: Collapsing nail joints  
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Quote
Originally posted by rintincop:
"Scratch" the key is a good description. I am not sure kids will get the "grip" description. How do you further describe "grip" to kids?
It is important to have flexible fingertips and nothing is wrong with hyperextending the first joint of each finger but like others have said students then need to "grip" or "scratch."

I prefer to use the word "take", taking the notes from each key and putting it in the palm of your hand. Or "taking" and getting stuck in the cement.

It is a sweeping action used by extending fingers to sweep with pads, (yes, first joint is hyperextended but then becomes firm.)


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#962650 - 02/17/08 09:14 PM Re: Collapsing nail joints  
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That sounds confusing to me.

I mean I think kids would be puzzled by "stuck in cement" and "take the key" and put it in your palm. "Scratch" the key is a simpler image and gesture for a kid.


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#962651 - 02/17/08 09:24 PM Re: Collapsing nail joints  
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Quote
Originally posted by rintincop:
That sounds confusing to me.
It's interesting, isn't it, about word-pictures. What confuses one person enlightens another and v.v. For me, I very clearly got the idea of what pianobuff meant. Just shows we probably should have more than one illustration handy for what we're trying to get across, so if one doesn't make the penny drop, another might smile .


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#962652 - 02/17/08 10:13 PM Re: Collapsing nail joints  
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Quote
Originally posted by pianobuff:
It is a sweeping action used by extending fingers to sweep with pads, (yes, first joint is hyperextended but then becomes firm.)
It seems to me that this motion allows the hand to position itself in the way I described above.
In other word it sounds like an extra addition that could be avoided by making sure to maintain a natural hand, wrist and arm position. I imagine it is delying and a bit confusing. I think it's important to coney the idea that the "grasping" comes from the whole finger (which would slighly raise the back of the hand) rather than the fingertips (which would cause tension induced claw-curling)

The idea of grasping the keys and bringing them towards the palm is interesting but imo only as a preparatory measure to align the bones and the joints before playing.

#962653 - 02/17/08 10:57 PM Re: Collapsing nail joints  
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Quote
Originally posted by pianobuff:

I prefer to use the word "take", taking the notes from each key and putting it in the palm of your hand. Or "taking" and getting stuck in the cement.

It is a sweeping action used by extending fingers to sweep with pads, (yes, first joint is hyperextended but then becomes firm.)
I understood what pianobuff was trying to say. But I meant I think it would be a confusing image for a kid" "taking the key" and putting it in your palm....or getting stuck in cement (more confusing). I think kids would get the simpler idea of "scratch" the key as a gesture much easier.


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#962654 - 02/18/08 03:23 AM Re: Collapsing nail joints  
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'Take' the key is a Suzuki Method term ('caress' is CPE Bach's) and I do agree with it, though 'scratch',as rintin says, is easier understood. You can get the pupil to scratch their arm - instantly transferring the movement to the key or 'brush some fluff of a baby's nose without waking her up' for the tiniest sound. They must not move their arm/hand when doing this.

I disagree with any hyper-extension before hand. Fingers/hand/arm are absolutely at rest.

When 'caressing' I often ask them to play as if stroking a pet rabbit (not poking it).


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#962655 - 02/18/08 05:38 AM Re: Collapsing nail joints  
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I said taking the note and putting it in the palm of your hand. Not the key.


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#962656 - 02/18/08 05:43 AM Re: Collapsing nail joints  
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Quote
Originally posted by pianobuff:
I said taking the note and putting it in the palm of your hand. Not the key.
Interesting. Where do the notes go from there?

I often ask the students to imitate the gesture the wicked witch from Oz uses when she says 'Come here my pretty". That's perfect piano playing.


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#962657 - 02/18/08 02:56 PM Re: Collapsing nail joints  
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It's connecting ear with tone and the physical aspect of how it is produced, but said in simple terms.

It's okay if you don't get it. You would have to take a lesson to understand.


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#962658 - 02/18/08 02:59 PM Re: Collapsing nail joints  
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Quote
Originally posted by keyboardklutz:
[QUOTE]
I often ask the students to imitate the gesture the wicked witch from Oz uses when she says 'Come here my pretty". That's perfect piano playing.
I was under the impression that this way something to use for few days or a week to ingrain a certain good habit. But I can't imagine playing advanced repertory with all the extraneous motion of moving the fingertips towards the palm by stroking the key surface all the time. confused

#962659 - 02/18/08 03:29 PM Re: Collapsing nail joints  
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From a few days to advanced repertoire. That's kinda sudden isn't it?


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#962660 - 02/18/08 03:37 PM Re: Collapsing nail joints  
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Quote
Originally posted by keyboardklutz:
From a few days to advanced repertoire. That's kinda sudden isn't it?
But if the motion is used for a long time doesn't it becomes such an habit that when it's time to abandon it, the student can't because is too ingrained?

#962661 - 02/18/08 04:12 PM Re: Collapsing nail joints  
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Maybe you haven't read my posts too well. The knuckle player and the wicked witch player can be indistinguishable to the untrained eye.


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#962662 - 02/18/08 04:44 PM Re: Collapsing nail joints  
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Quote
Originally posted by keyboardklutz:
Maybe you haven't read my posts too well. The knuckle player and the wicked witch player can be indistinguishable to the untrained eye.
How? In knuckle motion there's no gripping/curling motion towards the palm. There's just a downward motion, the fingertips don't slide.

#962663 - 02/18/08 04:56 PM Re: Collapsing nail joints  
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In a 'grip' the fingertips don't slide.


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#962664 - 02/20/08 01:57 PM Re: Collapsing nail joints  
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It happens to me too, but I think it's because of the size of our hands. I'm probably wrong, though. For me it happens when I can't reach the right notes while my hand is holding the rest of the notes down--usually in chords or running-notes passages. This is when my joints collapse into flatness and it's bad, but I'm learning how to prevent it.

Hope I explained it okay. =D


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#962665 - 02/20/08 05:53 PM Re: Collapsing nail joints  
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Quote
Originally posted by sweet_melody:
It happens to me too, but I think it's because of the size of our hands. I'm probably wrong, though. For me it happens when I can't reach the right notes while my hand is holding the rest of the notes down--usually in chords or running-notes passages. This is when my joints collapse into flatness and it's bad, but I'm learning how to prevent it.

Hope I explained it okay. =D
It's not bad. Round arched fingers are usefull in certain passages and flat fingers in others.
For example over the black keys the fingers should be flatter. And if you must hold a key down and play a 7th or 8th up it's normal and benign that your fingers and hand will flatten. The correct position is a basis to maintain and return to as often as possible but you can devert from it when needed. I wouldn't try to play octave with the same round arched fingers and high palm. I would instead opt for long flat fingers and palm.

#962666 - 02/21/08 02:35 PM Re: Collapsing nail joints  
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I'd like to reinforce what Danny Niklas wrote on 2/17 about the importance of proper seating. You might explore the photos demonstrating how to make some adjustments at TheBalancedPianist.com.

#962667 - 02/21/08 04:31 PM Re: Collapsing nail joints  
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sunshine: welcome to the forum. Could you expound a little on the proper posture and seating for pianists?


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#962668 - 02/22/08 04:52 AM Re: Collapsing nail joints  
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Quote
Originally posted by Danny Niklas:
In fact I have often seen that in a proper sitting height and position it's hard to make the nail joint collapse even if you want to.
You claim to understand the physiology of piano playing. Could you please, in less than 2,000 words, explain the mechanism for this? It is one of your more bizarre statements.


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#962669 - 02/23/08 03:39 AM Re: Collapsing nail joints  
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Danny!?


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#962670 - 02/23/08 04:00 AM Re: Collapsing nail joints  
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I missed this post. I don't know of any "specific" mechanism for that nor I claimed there's a "specific" mechanism for that. It is just empirical observation. The reason is probably that is far easier to compensate by collapsing the nail joints when the hand is not in the proper position, actually when the whole body and arm and wrist are not. A very low wrist for example helps the collapsing of nail joints. In other words there are positions that direct the pressure in a way that it doesn't promote the collapsing of joints. It seems to me like joint collapsing happens when pressure is put on the nail joint itself and the knuckles are let free to collapse. The finger is somewhat divided in two units when this happens: the nail joint and the other two phalanges. When pressure is directed towards the knuckles and the finger contract as a whole unit and no individual pressure is put on the nail joint it doesn't collapse that easily. In fact a conscious redirection of contraction and pressure must be then used to allow the nail joints to collapse.

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