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Students who are double jointed... (Read 9244 times)

Offline perfect_pitch

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Students who are double jointed...
« on: August 26, 2015, 01:50:23 PM »
Hey users...

Interesting question from a teaching point of view. Has anyone taught students who are double jointed? I've never had a student who's double jointed until now, but he seems to have trouble with playing with fingers 4+5.

What does being double jointed mean - does anyone have any experience, or is anyone here double-jointed?

How does this affect students???

Online roncesvalles

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Re: Students who are double jointed...
«Reply #1 on: August 26, 2015, 02:27:03 PM »
I'm a student who is double jointed on my left hand's 2.   The finger collapses (backwards...or upwards if you like) when a lot of pressure is applied on the finger pad, but I've yet to find any real hindrances caused by it.  If the finger has a gentle curve while playing, it's really not that noticeable, but if I play flat fingered my finger collapses pretty easily.  The only possible thing that I could imagine could go wrong for me is when playing with a lot of forearm/wrist movement, if the finger collapses, the hand could move downwards, putting other fingers out of position.    If the fifth finger is double jointed on a smaller hand, there may be some problems with octaves. 

Offline outin

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Re: Students who are double jointed...
«Reply #2 on: August 26, 2015, 03:08:11 PM »
I am double jointed in all of my fingers and have small hands and I am experiencing what the previous poster wrote about, problems with stability in large streches. The issues are mainly caused by my thumb and pinky joints. The middle joint of the 4th collapses quite badly too, but it seldoms bothers my playing that much, just looks bad.

Double jointed just means the joint is hypermobile and will "turn over". Normally people have a structure in their finger joints that will stop the extending process when the finger is straight. Mine will go way over that, curving to the wrong way. This makes the finger unstable and inefficient for playing the piano. I cannot really load even a small amount of weight on some of my fingers without the joint giving away to the wrong way. So the whole process of learning to play has been about finding a balance between not allowing the joints to "turn over" and avoiding too much tension in the process. I cannot keep my fingers in good shape or my fingertips firm without some effort and in the beginning I overdid it a lot, causing problems with my wrist. Although I have a wonderful skilled teacher she didn't quite get it at first that I really cannot make my fingers do some things no matter how much I practice and need to compensate instead.

Although often it's just a minor thing and doesn't really cause problems, I would say from my experiences: As a teacher do not ignore your students joint issues and just tell him to do what you do  and practice more and it will go away. Sometimes the only answer is to develope an individual technique that may look "wrong" or inefficient for someone with "normal" joints, but it may be the only good option and can be made to work.

Offline evryali

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Re: Students who are double jointed...
«Reply #3 on: August 26, 2015, 10:33:16 PM »
I to am double jointed and I can tell you I just HATE it when the 5th finger collapses because it messes-up my octave passages.
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Offline pianoplayer002

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Re: Students who are double jointed...
«Reply #4 on: August 26, 2015, 11:06:11 PM »
For me, whether I'm double jointed or not is a coordination thing. It's sort of like, if I'm unaware of, and "dead" in, my finger tips, and gripping the keys by flexing mainly the second joint of the finger (the joint 2nd closest to the fingertip) my fingers, or more specifically the first joint closest to the finger tip, collapse like hell.

I have to ensure my focus is in my finger tip, and that I move mainly from there, pulling the very tip veeeery slightly towards me (allowing the knuckle joint to bend), and then my fingers get a nice arch and no longer collapse. So it's not about forcing the finger into the correct shape by tensing it, but rather moving it correctly (and not pressing down on it with the arm).

Alfred Cortot is quite clearly double jointed (I'm not talking about the use of flat fingers, but the instances where the fingers are curved yet the outer joints are collapsed). He was still able to have a virtuoso technique, until Parkinson's disease started taking its toll. Video of him playing starts at 1 minute.



Offline outin

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Re: Students who are double jointed...
«Reply #5 on: August 27, 2015, 03:25:17 AM »
For me, whether I'm double jointed or not is a coordination thing. It's sort of like, if I'm unaware of, and "dead" in, my finger tips, and gripping the keys by flexing mainly the second joint of the finger (the joint 2nd closest to the fingertip) my fingers, or more specifically the first joint closest to the finger tip, collapse like hell.

I have to ensure my focus is in my finger tip, and that I move mainly from there, pulling the very tip veeeery slightly towards me (allowing the knuckle joint to bend), and then my fingers get a nice arch and no longer collapse. So it's not about forcing the finger into the correct shape by tensing it, but rather moving it correctly (and not pressing down on it with the arm).

Yes, this is what I need to do as well. You explained it a lot better.
It is not that easy to learn to do this though (especially if you start as an adult). Depending on how severe the problem is it requires a very good ability to coordinate the muscles to avoid tension.

Alfred Cortot is quite clearly double jointed (I'm not talking about the use of flat fingers, but the instances where the fingers are curved yet the outer joints are collapsed). He was still able to have a virtuoso technique, until Parkinson's disease started taking its toll. Video of him playing starts at 1 minute.


If you look at some of the great pianists it seems that being double jointed is not a problem as long as you have large enough hands (I think Rachmaninoff was as well). It's the combination of hypermobility and small hands (need to play a lot with straightened streched fingers) that creates the biggest problems. At least for me.

Offline perfect_pitch

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Re: Students who are double jointed...
«Reply #6 on: August 27, 2015, 11:46:45 AM »
Thank you for the replies... it's quite interesting. So I presume that being double-jointed might appear as if people are playing with weak fingers and not fully supporting them with their hand.

I had a student yesterday whose finger 5 on the RH sticks out quite a bit. I tried to get him to do an exercise where he holds finger 5 on G, and tries to hold it as he plays underneath the pattern: C D E F E D with 1-2-3-4-3-2 etc.

Every time he tried, he could play C D & E but the second he tried playing F, his G (5th finger) would release from the key - unable to physically hold it down. To me I thought it was just bad technique from his previous teachers, but he told me that it was a little sore to try and force his finger to do the exercise.

Is this normal for most people who are double-jointed??? I'm FASCINATED by this only because it's something I've never really experience before.

Offline outin

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Re: Students who are double jointed...
«Reply #7 on: August 27, 2015, 04:10:01 PM »
Thank you for the replies... it's quite interesting. So I presume that being double-jointed might appear as if people are playing with weak fingers and not fully supporting them with their hand.

I had a student yesterday whose finger 5 on the RH sticks out quite a bit. I tried to get him to do an exercise where he holds finger 5 on G, and tries to hold it as he plays underneath the pattern: C D E F E D with 1-2-3-4-3-2 etc.

Every time he tried, he could play C D & E but the second he tried playing F, his G (5th finger) would release from the key - unable to physically hold it down. To me I thought it was just bad technique from his previous teachers, but he told me that it was a little sore to try and force his finger to do the exercise.

Is this normal for most people who are double-jointed??? I'm FASCINATED by this only because it's something I've never really experience before.

I do have similar issues (although I can keep the key down), I cannot always hold all 5 fingers resting on keys while playing the others without a lot of tension and my hands may get sore if I force it. I used to do some exercises to "teach" my fingers to stay down, but they did no good, I just got plenty of problems. So now I just let it be and while my 5th often looks strange (it's hooked up), it really does not cause me any discomfort or slow me down, so my teacher lets it be. Every now and then I see real pianists whose pinky does the same so it probably is not something you can just "correct" the same way as you would normally correct a flying pinky.

In fact I was watching the Busoni competition stream and today there was this girl Mao Ishida whose hands looked so much like mine that it felt really weird to watch...she even has similar weird thumbs.

Online roncesvalles

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Re: Students who are double jointed...
«Reply #8 on: August 27, 2015, 04:33:01 PM »

I had a student yesterday whose finger 5 on the RH sticks out quite a bit. I tried to get him to do an exercise where he holds finger 5 on G, and tries to hold it as he plays underneath the pattern: C D E F E D with 1-2-3-4-3-2 etc.

Every time he tried, he could play C D & E but the second he tried playing F, his G (5th finger) would release from the key - unable to physically hold it down. To me I thought it was just bad technique from his previous teachers, but he told me that it was a little sore to try and force his finger to do the exercise.

Is this normal for most people who are double-jointed??? I'm FASCINATED by this only because it's something I've never really experience before.

When a finger collapses it takes a lot of effort to hold a key down (ie, an undue amount of pressure, which further collapses the finger).   What you can try to get the student to do is to encourage a natural curve in the finger.   An engineer can build bridges with an arch with minimal support, but try building a flat one without a plethora of columns or suspension mechanisms--it'll just collapse...it's the same basic principle.   Unfortunately that means for stretches with the fifth finger, if your student is double jointed, she/he will just have to learn how to work with it, which is even more difficult if the student has small hands (with my largish, flexible hands, for example, I am able to play octaves with the thumb and any finger, if there are no interior notes).  For smaller intervals, like your exercise, a gently curved finger should help a lot.


Offline pianoplayer002

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Re: Students who are double jointed...
«Reply #9 on: August 27, 2015, 09:27:22 PM »
Thank you for the replies... it's quite interesting. So I presume that being double-jointed might appear as if people are playing with weak fingers and not fully supporting them with their hand.

I had a student yesterday whose finger 5 on the RH sticks out quite a bit. I tried to get him to do an exercise where he holds finger 5 on G, and tries to hold it as he plays underneath the pattern: C D E F E D with 1-2-3-4-3-2 etc.

Every time he tried, he could play C D & E but the second he tried playing F, his G (5th finger) would release from the key - unable to physically hold it down. To me I thought it was just bad technique from his previous teachers, but he told me that it was a little sore to try and force his finger to do the exercise.

Is this normal for most people who are double-jointed??? I'm FASCINATED by this only because it's something I've never really experience before.

When I started with held-note exercises, I found it impossible to do them gently, i e I would put a lot of pressure on the finger(s) holding the key(s) down. In the instances, where the use of one finger causes an involuntary lift in another finger, it can sometimes be caused by pressure and improper use of the extensors.

The extensor muscles in the forearm, the ones that extend each finger, are interconnected, but when used gently, they can lift each finger, except the 4th, rather independently. However, if you put a lot of pressure on one finger, and it primarily resists that pressure by engaging the extensors, the other fingers will involuntarily lift. Finger movements "pushing away" from you, or pressing down with the arm on a finger like described above, can cause this. It could be possible your student is doing some kind of uncoordinated pushing movement with the 4th finger, rather than a gentle gripping movement.

However, it could also be a much simpler coordination problem: your student has simply not figured out what instructions to send from the brain to the fingers to move the 4th without moving the 5th.

Offline outin

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Re: Students who are double jointed...
«Reply #10 on: August 28, 2015, 03:31:42 AM »

The extensor muscles in the forearm, the ones that extend each finger, are interconnected, but when used gently, they can lift each finger, except the 4th, rather independently. However, if you put a lot of pressure on one finger, and it primarily resists that pressure by engaging the extensors, the other fingers will involuntarily lift. Finger movements "pushing away" from you, or pressing down with the arm on a finger like described above, can cause this. It could be possible your student is doing some kind of uncoordinated pushing movement with the 4th finger, rather than a gentle gripping movement.


What I have figured out is that in my case it is actually the need to curve the 4th for stability (to avoid the middle joint collapse) that is causing the 5th to curve as well. The lifting simply comes from the need to get it out of the way (in addition to help lift the 4th, which in my case only can left very little independently), since there's very little room between these 2 fingers and my 5th naturally bends towards and under the 4th when relaxed. When playing with straight extended fingers deep into the keys this does not happen. So it probably is related to the double-jointed thing or a specific hand shape.

Offline outin

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Re: Students who are double jointed...
«Reply #11 on: August 28, 2015, 04:17:51 AM »
What I have figured out is that in my case it is actually the need to curve the 4th for stability (to avoid middle and nail joint collapse) that is causing the 5th to curve as well. The lifting simply comes from the need to get it out of the way (in addition to help lift the 4th, which in my case only can left very little independently), since there's very little room between these 2 fingers and my 5th naturally bends towards and under the 4th when relaxed. When playing with straight extended fingers deep into the keys this does not happen. So it probably is related to the double-jointed thing or a specific hand shape.

Offline perfect_pitch

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Re: Students who are double jointed...
«Reply #12 on: September 01, 2015, 02:12:26 PM »
Thanks... It's handy to know.

It could be possible your student is doing some kind of uncoordinated pushing movement with the 4th finger, rather than a gentle gripping movement.

I had thought of that, however I'm very observant to what their fingers are doing and wasn't getting them to really push. I feel it was genuinely that they couldn't play the fourth and fifth fingers together as we tried a few times doing that exercise. He's been playing for a number of years, so I don't think it was due to 'for lack of a better word' incompetence at understanding what needed to be done.