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Collapsing 5th Finger Joint

piano technique

Question: As I depress the piano key using the 5th finger, the 2nd knuckle (middle knuckle) collapses and the first knuckle (nail knuckle) over-curls to compensate for it. (See the above picture.)

Could you please suggest what I should do to rectify this? Thank you.

– Emmanuel

Albert’s reply: Collapsing knuckles is quite a common problem amongst piano students. The hand should naturally form an arc when placed on the piano keyboard, as it would when grasping a round object such as an orange.

Momentarily disregarding the many natural differences among hands, the cause of collapsing knuckles is generally weakness in the finger muscles. Very often pianists will compensate for weak muscles by employing naturally stronger ones to do their work. Thus, the forearms, elbows and wrists will unconsciously come to the rescue of weak fingers. This only works up to a point, since the weakness will ultimately be expressed in one’s playing.

There is a simple exercise that you can do to strengthen the finger joints. Place the hand to be exercised on a table, with the whole hand rounded like half a globe. With the index or middle finger of the other hand, press on the weak knuckle, trying to collapse it. The finger joint should resist, never allowing the knuckle to collapse. If it collapses, simply apply less pressure. Hold the pressure for several seconds. Make sure the muscles of the arm do not tense – the finger muscles need to be allowed to strengthen.

Do this exercise once a day, concentrating on the weak finger joints of both hands, and the fingers will naturally strengthen. It must also be remarked that the fingers will strengthen themselves by regular playing as long as they are allowed to do their work, meaning that the natural weakness of the fourth and fifth fingers is not overcompensated for by the wrist or forearm – but this is the task of a one-on-one expert teacher.

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