Cello student with double joints in pinky

Krista Lucich said: Nov 1, 2012
Krista LucichCello, Guitar, Piano, Bass
Mashpee, MA
2 posts

I have a student who has a tough time playing with her fourth finger, because when she applies pressure to the string, her knuckle collapses and does not stay rounded (double jointed-ness). I have had her try bringing her left hand closer to the neck to give it more leverage. She has also had her bridge trimmed down a little so she wouldn’t have to add as much pressure, but it’s still pretty hard for her. Any tips for finger exercises, etc. to help her?

Brenda Lee Villard said: Nov 1, 2012
Suzuki Association Member
Edina, MN
27 posts

Thera-putty. I get it from my physical therapist and it is used to help strengthen fingers/hands after an injury. It comes in varying degrees of “toughness”. I’ve been told you can find it in some sport shops but some of my kids have ordered it on line, too. Besides putty therapy, I also have them do “pinky pulls”. Put 1,2,&3 down on the A string and work at plucking the string with pinky only. It forces the finger to curl and strengthens it at the same time. Along with putty, you should see a difference shortly.

Just wondering, Is the pinky shorter than normal?

Barb said: Nov 3, 2012
Barb Ennis
Suzuki Association Member
678 posts

My pinky is shorter—or at least set back further on my hand, and is somewhat double jointed. I have dealt with this in a student who had long fingers, too.

I make sure the weight of the hand is over the finger, the hand is in a position such that that finger approaches the f/board straight on or angled toward the bridge (my student’s finger was curved more than mine and wanted to flop over and angle the wrong direction), and that the knuckle nearest the tip stays rounded. You’re probably already doing all that too! But it is harder for some of us… hand position really is key in which joint collapses. I haven’t ever been able to keep both joints rounded.

I tried to get my student to do the putty exercises (we made some of our own), wall-fingertip push-ups as suggested by David Finckel here, and pinky pizz. She usually didn’t follow through with practicing things that weren’t repertoire based, though, so it really came into play in book 2 with making sure the 4 cleared the A string when playing an A with the 4 on D string for a nice ring. And I got her to use her 4 at least some of the time in the L.H. pizz in Budapesto (Cheney Solos for Young Cellists vol. 1) We didn’t do them the way Brenda suggests with the other fingers down as pinky pulls—sounds good!

I am just revisiting my own pinky strength because I am wondering if that is an issue in the strain and tension I have with extended position double stops. (Compounded by a small reach and arthritis.)

My 4th finger trills are nothing pretty, either! My student transferred to another town before book 4 and the trills, but I had her doing the trill drills in book 3, too, come to think of it.

If you can, watch Pam Devenport’s talk “All Thumbs” in the Mini-Online Conference 2012 (videos from the main 2012 Conference). She talks about double-jointedness and hand and finger strengthening (weak fingers can lead to squeezing with the thumb, or pulling up with the shoulder).

As well as pulling the string as a pizz for L.H. strength, she recommends pushing, like flicking the finger on the thumb. Sometimes pushing or pulling to a count of three before the pluck. She demonstrates with the first finger on the D, and has the other fingers down on the A. She mentions that many young children have hyper-mobility and will out-grow it by the age of 7 or 8. But by then they may have squeezing habits. She talks about how thumb issues can be a cause of set-up problems, and it works the other way, too: set-up can be a cause of thumb problems. Approach is important even down to the way the students are sitting. Oh, she calls the putty Power Putty—might just be a different brand.

Best wishes with your student!

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