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#3173398 11/26/21 11:50 AM
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I'm an adult amateur, only rarely a teacher, but I want to cast a wide net -- maybe a teacher has had to deal with this problem. My hands are built in such a way that the thumbs play largely on the nail. This is particularly unfortunate when I'm trying to play on the black keys, as in the famous Chopin étude. Evidently this is not a very common problem, as I've hunted for commentary on this without success. My playing is very unreliable, as the thumbnail slides like a bad skater on ice. I cannot play with the flesh any more than I do without totally ruining the posture of the other fingers. I've experimented with a variety of kitchen gloves, using only one digit of them, and some come close to solving the problem, but they're all too non-sliding, which is another problem in itself. Has anyone out there dealt with this? Any suggestion would be appreciated.

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My initial thought was about adhesive medical tape also called a surgical tape. But if you're really serious about piano you may also consider surgical removal of a small side part of the nail.

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When I vote, they give us finger condoms so we are not touching the screens barehanded. Perhaps something like that could work?


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Collagen injection? Or whatever it is that plastic surgeons use to give people big puffy lips.

Rosin?

Can you massage the side of your thumb in that direction at all?

Last edited by malkin; 11/30/21 11:10 AM.

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Originally Posted by malkin
Can you massage the side of your thumb in that direction at all?

My impression from the OP description is that his or her thumb is just a little more "opposed" than most.

I looked at my hand, and I can play with the flesh, it naturally rests about a 10 degree angle. I can't rotate that out at all when the distal joint is flexed. If I straighten the thumb I get a bit more rotation, and even more when I extend it. With an extended thumb I can actually play on the joint (proximal).

When I curl fingers, as is frequently taught, the thumb naturally flexes as well, and that immediately limits the ability to rotate. Perhaps being aware of that he can either play on the flesh next to the nail, or resort to playing below (towards the wrist) the nail.


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Nobody has asked to see even pics taken while playing. A dozen things can be going on. The hand is not an object that has a fixed shape.
Originally Posted by Malkin
Rosin?
Please no! laugh Have you ever tried to clean off buildup off the stuff. As a beginner I didn't know I had to wipe the stick of my bow, and once I did now, I could only fix the mess somewhat. And what about it getting into the cracks?

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Originally Posted by keystring
Nobody has asked to see even pics taken while playing. A dozen things can be going on. The hand is not an object that has a fixed shape.
Originally Posted by Malkin
Rosin?
Please no! laugh Have you ever tried to clean off buildup off the stuff. As a beginner I didn't know I had to wipe the stick of my bow, and once I did now, I could only fix the mess somewhat. And what about it getting into the cracks?

Rosin was mostly a joke, since we really have no idea what OP's thumb looks like.
It would certainly be a mess, but less invasive than surgery!


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Originally Posted by Tono
I cannot play with the flesh any more than I do without totally ruining the posture of the other fingers.

I just noticed this.

When I curl my fingers excessively my thumb tends to rotate nail down a bit. It might be that as a beginner you are trying to hard to adhere to a curved hand shape.

Can you play with flat fingers and see if that allows you to get the thumb rotated out a bit? The shape of the hand is not a fixed one, it changes dynamically as you play, and part of the time it is pretty flat.


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Okay, forget everything I said. I've been looking at my hand shape on the table near the computer. I just went to the piano and experimented a bit, and it's totally different.

So I'm going to make a guess. The OP doesn't have a teacher currently, or if he does they are not one that concentrates on the fine points of form and mechanics. (Me too.)

I just experimented playing a few scales and chords. For me, what part of the thumb touches is heavily dependent on the height of the wrist, the straightness of the wrist, and the rotation.

If my wrist is very low relative to the hand, the thumb plays on the distal knuckle, and the nail is a nonissue. If my wrist is very high relative to the hand, the thumb rotates outward and plays on the pad. As I raise and lower the wrist, the area of the thumb that touches changes from pad to nail to joint. An awkward and tense internal rotation of the hand is the only thing that really puts my thumb nail scraping the keys with a more neutral wrist position. Also the thumb being flexed vs extended makes a difference - flexed rotates the thumb inwards so the nail touches more.

Here's what I wonder. Maybe this is not caused by an anatomical thumb alignment so much as an awkward technique. I can't tell you what good technique is, my last teacher didn't know either, but someone here might help if you shot some slow motion video of your hands playing. If you don't have access to a teacher I suggest videoing your own playing and comparing it to video of the professionals.

Last edited by TimR; 12/02/21 11:06 AM.

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Originally Posted by malkin
Rosin was mostly a joke, ....
You never know what people will take seriously as advice and then try. smile

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I thank you all. As for surgery, I tried that several times on my nose in pursuing a singing career; never, never, never again. TimR's first response strikes me as sensible: it had never really occurred to me that there might be differences in the angle of opposition of the thumb to the fingers. But let's face it, there are lots of physical factors that enhance or detract from our ability to play well. (Just as there are many different body types, some of which make excellence at various sports or athletic endeavors relatively easy or hard.) At the piano, for instance, I see that there are excellent pianists who manage to play without cutting their fingernails very short. I have been playing off and on for 60 years, and I believe that just about every postural adjustment possible has been tried. So far the best remedy is a thin kitchen glove cut to fit over the thumb.

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Maybe cut one of the sticky sides off a band-aid, put that over your nail? Depending on the brand, the non-sticky side can be rather "fleshy."


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