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Double jointedness is a very common condition. I don’t know the statistic, but I’d say at least 25 percent of all people are double jointed, some more severely than others. I’m so double-jointed, kids used to pay me money at recess just to see the contortions I could put my hands into!
If you are double-jointed, you know it. Double jointedness becomes a problem on the violin in several ways, on both the left and right hand. On the left hand, the base knuckle of our thumb can cave in when we squeeze the neck (which we shouldn’t be doing anyway!) and makes for bad form, affecting our vibrato and shifting.
Also on the left hand, our pinky tends to “cave in,” instead of the nice arched, rounded fingers that are more conducive to fast, clean playing. This caving in is also detrimental to vibrato with this finger.
On the right hand, the same fingers are the culprits. Thumb and pinky. The base knuckle of our thumb caves in, giving us a paralyzed bow hand with no strength or control. Our pinky caves in, making it rigid, and causes it to fall off the bow frequently, and robbing us of the “steering” and “balancing” capability of a rounded pinky.
What You Can Do About It
This video will summarize the exercise described below.
Clothespin Exercise for Double Joints
Fortunately, the cure is the same for both hands, making it a snap to work on. First, borrow, steal, or buy a clothes pin. You can find these near the laundry detergent in most variety stores. If all else fails, buy a “baby clamp” from a hardware store. They will be about the size of a clothes pin, but the angle is not quite as nice, so try to find the clothes pins.
Your goal is to be able to squeeze the clothes pin and open it completely with just your thumb and pinky. This will not be possible at first. You will be tempted to let your joints cave in, or to bend your thumb backwards. NO! DON’T ALLOW IT! You will make the problem worse if you do this exercise wrong. Please read on for an easy way to understand the right way.
You know when you make the “OK” sign, making a circle with your thumb and index finger? Well, make an “OK” sign with your pinky and thumb, and THAT is EXACTLY how you need to squeeze the clothes pin. Any engineer will tell you there is greater strength in a nice high arch than there is in a flat or concave shape. A nice high arch will train your joints not to cave in, and you will gradually build strength.
Like I said, you won’t be able to do this at first. That’s ok. Allow your other hand to assist for awhile. Let both hands sort of share the workload so that you can maintain perfect form (nice round arches). You can push yourself until your joints start to cave in, then back off, and work some reps just under the point where you caved in.
Two minutes per day, per hand, for a month, and you will start seeing real results. But you still have the task of breaking the “habit” of double jointedness, and replacing it with the good habit of nice round arches. It is no longer due to weakness in your joints, because you have strengthened the muscles and tendons. It is now just a matter of awareness and will power!