Double jointed fingers?

Amber said: Sep 24, 2012
Amber Walton-Amar
Suzuki Association Member
Toronto, ON
5 posts

I have a new student with extremely double jointed fingers. All fingers of her left hand collapse when she depresses the string. She is a transfer student and had been playing this way for many years with her previous teacher. It seems that they had given up trying to curve her fingers. I believe that it is possible to encourage double jointed fingers to remain curved. My new student practiced very diligently after her first lesson and willed her fingers not to collapse, resulting in arm pain—I suppose her attention to this aspect of her playing created tension.

Any feedback would be much appreciated.

Thank you!

Trina Christensen said: Sep 24, 2012
Trina ChristensenInstitute Director
Suzuki Association Member
Violin, Suzuki Early Childhood Education, Suzuki in the Schools, Viola
6 posts

I don’t know if it is different for the cello, but I have had students with that same issue and we needed to be sure to use thumb-side corners. For one student that had a huge issue we had to use the very tippy-tips of her fingers because the slightest pressure on her fingers made them collapse. Drawing dots or lines on the fingers where they need to meet the strings helped as well to get them in the habit of using proper fingers. Good luck!

Wendy Caron Zohar said: Sep 24, 2012
Wendy Caron Zohar
Suzuki Association Member
Violin, Viola
Ann Arbor, MI
94 posts

Here’s a suggestion that comes from my book 1 and 2 training with Ronda Cole, and from observing her energetic and insightful assistant David Strom as he worked with a group of little ones, showing them how to avoid collapsing fingers while keeping the fingers well into the string, without pressing or straining the hand.

Mr. Strom used the imagery of hands hanging and swinging from monkey bars. The fingers “pull down” on the fingerboard, and the left hand and arm simply hang with their own weight. Knuckles are rounded and low; only the pinky finger has a high second knuckle. There is no chance for finger joints to collapse. The downward weight into the thumb-side-corners of the fingers comes from the hanging weight of the arm. Thus there is no pressing the fingers down onto the string from above, which tends to cause buckling and collapse of the joints. Just as we swing from bar to bar, left arm to right arm, progressing along the row of monkey bars, we similarly walk the fingers, swinging and re-balancing the hand with each finger. Most kids who’ve spent any time on a playground have no trouble visualizing and feeling this.

(On a different but related point, the bow hand can also be felt to be hanging from the monkey bar—the bow, all the way down to the elbow, giving natural weight to the bow, not “pressing” the fingers or hand from above.)

It’s the visualization, and sensation, of hanging from monkey bars, that can resolve the double jointed problem. For Amber and Trina, and other teachers with double jointed students, I’d be interested to know whether this has been helpful.


Wendy Caron Zohar

Mary Anne Polk O'Meara said: Sep 25, 2012
Mary Anne Polk O’Meara
Suzuki Association Member
16 posts

New Comment on Double jointed fingers? from Trina ChristensenI had a piano student who was so double-jointed that he had to wear braces on his ankles! For his fingers and hand position, we just had to wait until he grew out of it—at about age 12. Then all was fine.

Julio Cesar Anselmo Possette said: Dec 19, 2012
 Cello, Suzuki in the Schools
10 posts

Hello Amber,

              A photo of her student’s hand placed over the strings would help in the diagnosis. It seems to me that it is very tense and have difficulty relaxing the fingers may help to hold a job with relaxation / stretching body to be done before you even pick up the instrument.
              Try closing the whole hand and place your thumb and forefinger only in the first position (the other fingers closed) and think that holding a butterfly wing—very smooth—or chiclets also put one between his thumb and arm, asking to not tighten it. There are several other strategies for working voltage of the left hand, but I have helped.


Kiyoko said: Jan 25, 2013
 84 posts

I’m not a teacher, but I was a Suzuki violin kid. I am not extremely double jointed, but I did have hard time learning to curl my fingers because of the collapsing thing, especially the pinky. The collapsing finger thing is not only painful but feels gross. The monkey hanging idea did help me. So did working on the muscles for support. Any finger strengthening might help. My thoughts woud be start easy and see if they want to consult a hand therapist for more exercises. It takes a while and patience, but it also helped me with hand dexterity in general.

Barb said: Jan 28, 2013
Barb Ennis
Suzuki Association Member
678 posts

Hi Amber,

I have limited experience with this, but Pamela Devenport talks about this in her “All Thumbs” talk which is available in the Mini-Online Conference (ends Jan 31!). The talk is mainly about the thumbs, but the whole hand set up is all part of it. I highly recommend viewing her video! I would say that the cost of the MOC—about the same as a private lesson—was well worth it since going to the conference just isn’t feasible for me. I watched all the videos, but have about four favorites I have watched multiple times, and this was one. There are also many great hand-out pdfs.

I do remember that one thing she said was that some young children just need to grow out of it (she mentioned the age of 7 or 8), but in the mean time they develop a habit which we later will be working against. Young children may not be able to support the weight of the arm as we like to teach, without collapsing. Problems with the hands might result in posture/approach problems, or vice-versa—problems with the hands might be a result of how they are approaching the string.

The one-unit forearm is important (flat wrist, straight line from elbow wrist, base of pinky)—she starts there and places the thumb based on that, rather than place the thumb first. Starting with a high arm seems to be helpful. The C shape thumb isn’t probably as important as we tend to think—no one really has a stable one shape thumb when playing, we only want to avoid locked thumbs. Developing strength is important for collapsing fingers/thumbs. Power putty can be used. Left hand pizz—hold first, then let go and pizz (can be used for right hand, too).

ABCs (+M) of thumb rehab: Work on Approach, Build strength, Consider the proportions, Maintain their diligence. Every Child Can—believe that the child will overcome this!

Music Teachers Helper—for individual teachers
Studio Helper—for entire music studios or schools

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