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 Double-jointed Thumb
Author: kdk 2017
Date:   2010-06-10 12:01

I have a 7th grade (13? years old) student who has double-jointed thumbs. At a lesson last night she mentioned fatigue in her right thumb. As I watched her play over the next few minutes I realized her thumb position looked contorted - too far under the thumbrest, pointing (being pulled by the weight of the clarinet) markedly downward, rotating slightly inward toward the instrument. I could well imagine the tendons across the top or her thumb were under a great deal of stress, explaining the fatigue. When I asked her to try moving her thumb out so the thumbrest was closer to the nail end of her thumb, she found it difficult to support the instrument that way. As we talked, she told me her thumbs are double-jointed, making it hard it seems for her to keep her thumb straight under the clarinet's weight.

Thumb and hand positions are so individual that I often find it difficult to "correct" odd looking ones and often leave them alone if they don't seem to be interfering with the student's facility. This student's hand is considerably smaller than mine (male and over 60 compared to female and not nearly fully grown). Her wrists and fingers aren't nearly as sturdily built at 13 as they will be when she's reached adulthood, and they will never look like mine, so my hand position is not necessarily a good model for her. I don't have double jointed thumbs, so I have no first-hand experience dealing with them. I've had other double jointed students who found their own accommodations, so I've never really tried to deal with the specific problem before.

This girl doesn't have a noticeable problem with facility, but I'm concerned with her fatigue in the area around the base of her thumb (it was only 30 minutes into a lesson that included a reasonable amount of stopping, starting and discussion) and want to try to help take some of the strain off if I can. We talked about stopping for a couple of minutes' rest when she begins to feel discomfort, and I mentioned using a neck strap, which we'll try next week.

I will try to help find a position for her thumb that allows freedom of movement for the other right hand fingers and also gives her the best leverage in supporting the clarinet, but I wondered what anyone else's experiences have been with this, especially perhaps teachers here who themselves have double jointed thumbs and small hands.

TIA,
Karl



Post Edited (2010-06-10 12:25)

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 Re: Double-jointed Thumb
Author: Tony Beck 
Date:   2010-06-10 12:31

I have the same issue. My thumbs can bend backwards about 90 degrees. It was an issue when I first started playing in elementary school. I even switched to trumpet, but I liked the clarinet a lot more, so switched back. As my hands grew, it became less and less of a problem.

Try the neck strap and see if your student would be willing to have an adjustable thumb rest installed.

My daughter had this problem and used a neck strap, but hated it. About the time she got to the 7th grade, her hands were big enough that she quit using the strap.

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 Re: Double-jointed Thumb
Author: vjoet 
Date:   2010-06-10 12:58

I too have double jointed thumbs. A neck strap works very well.

However, the upward pressure you must exert on saxophone is such that it has damaged the tendons and ligaments of the left thumb. I now need to sleep with a splint on that thumb, and any movement of the last joint creates a click as the tendons/ligaments slide off to the side. Only occassionally real painful, but always awkward.

vJoe
amateur

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 Re: Double-jointed Thumb
Author: kdk 2017
Date:   2010-06-10 13:06

Do you mean the left thumb or the right (from the sax)?

Karl

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 Re: Double-jointed Thumb
Author: Katrina 
Date:   2010-06-10 14:09

I've got double-jointed thumbs too and the only way I can play is to have my right thumb kind of hooked up and almost around the far edge of the thumb rest. I used to be able to play more "correctly" when in college, but had many more right forearm tendon issues then than now so I'm happier. The way my thumb joints work is that I can't keep the thumb joint straight when there's weight on it and still have a relaxed base of the thumb. The position I described above works for me! :) I always tell my students I'm playing "incorrectly" though...

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 Re: Double-jointed Thumb
Author: DavidBlumberg 
Date:   2010-06-10 14:51

I let my students who are hyper-flexible have quite different hand positions as their flexibility to me dictates that.

It's got to first be comfortable, natural, and then functional as well.

http://www.SkypeClarinetLessons.com


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 Re: Double-jointed Thumb
Author: concertmaster3 
Date:   2010-06-10 19:33

I too have double jointed thumbs. I found that a thumb rest cushion that provides a larger circumference to hold helps. I use the Ridenour Thumb Saddle with a neck strap also (I jammed my thumb recently, and it helps for that as well). It's also just about $10 or $11, so not too inexpensive. But this helps make the hand position more round, and free up the fingers.

Ron Ford
Woodwind Specialist
Performer/Teacher/Arranger
http://www.RonFordMusic.com

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 Re: Double-jointed Thumb
Author: kdk 2017
Date:   2010-06-10 20:00

Thanks to everyone for your responses. I hate to hihack my own thread in the direction of neck straps, but I may as well ask what any of you recommend who are using them. I have a BG (I think) - the kind with the slotted leather connectors that hook onto the thumbrest and a hook on the strap that goes into a hole in the connector. I've never liked using it, although I never gave it much of a test. Three problems. 1 - I couldn't change instruments quickly enough when composers like Mahler or pit arrangers write as if I had four hands and two mouths (this wouldn't be a problem for a junior high school student, though). 2 - I felt often that my left thumb was somehow bumping into the strap when I released the register key - I don't know why. 3 - the leather connector didn't fit well over the rubber tubing I use to pad my thumbrests and I assume the problem would be worse with any of the commercial thumb pads on the market, which are all bigger than the rubber tubing.

Thanks again,
Karl

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 Re: Double-jointed Thumb
Author: DavidBlumberg 
Date:   2010-06-10 21:49

Ricardo's thumb bumps the strap - not a problem.

http://www.SkypeClarinetLessons.com


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 Re: Double-jointed Thumb
Author: kdk 2017
Date:   2010-06-10 22:07

That's interesting. It annoys me, although I guess I could get used to it. How does he change instruments? Separate connectors?

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 Re: Double-jointed Thumb
Author: Plonk 
Date:   2010-06-11 05:32

I have a double jointed left thumb and it does cause me some pain when I play. If I'm playing something which involves a lot of left thumb work, I have to stop and relax my thumb from time to time. I'm hoping that it will get better with practice, as when I was a kid it didn't bother me half as much as it does now (I'm 36 and have had a playing break for 3 years).

At the peak of my playing ability I took some lessons with a guy who plays for a well known opera orchestra (in England) and the first thing he did was try to reconstruct my hand position. There was no way on earth I could hold my clarinet the way he wanted me too and I quit my lessons with him, which unfortunately meant quitting my BMus course too (well, they threw me off it because I hadn't been to my lessons and transferred me to BA(mus). To this day I wonder if I would ever have been able to make it as a professional with this "disability".



Post Edited (2010-06-11 21:22)

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 Re: Double-jointed Thumb
Author: kdk 2017
Date:   2010-06-11 11:40

This is exactly what I want to avoid. Thanks for the response.

Karl

Plonk wrote:

> ...the first
> thing he did was try to reconstruct my hand position. There was
> no way on earth I could hold my clarinet the way he wanted me
> too and I quit my lessons with him...

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 Re: Double-jointed Thumb
Author: chris moffatt 
Date:   2010-06-11 13:29

The Kooiman Etude II takes the weight of the clarinet from the outer part of the thumb and places it squarely on the inner part of the thumb. This might be what your student needs. I started using this when arthritis made a normal thumbrest very painful. No problems now.

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 Re: Double-jointed Thumb
Author: kdk 2017
Date:   2010-06-11 14:13

I'll check it out.

Karl

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 Re: Double-jointed Thumb
Author: DavidBlumberg 
Date:   2010-06-11 15:14

The BG strap has a hook and the Legacy has a hole so it's quick.

http://www.SkypeClarinetLessons.com


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 Re: Double-jointed Thumb
Author: hammer_sickle01 
Date:   2010-06-11 21:07

I'm not a teacher, but as a student with double jointed thumbs and relatively small hands, maybe my experience can give some insight.

People who have hypermobility tend to have weak stabilized joints. So it's not surprising that she feels fatigue in that area as her muscles are working harder to compensate for the weakness in the ligaments that support the joints. I know for my arms, they would hurt whenever they locked out (although they can over-extend without any pain, they will become sore and tender if I "pop" it out too much) so my GP recommended to do strength exercises on the muscles specifically related to the elbow that were hyperextending. Perhaps she could do thumb strengthening exercises (if there is such a thing?) and see if that helps. In the meantime, I would just go with the other's suggestions and utilize a neck strap.

I've never had any real significant issues with being double jointed on my thumbs (as far as my playing endurance), but I have noticed when I look at other clarinet players, or any of my teacher's thumb position, that there is a difference of placement. My teacher has commented that although my fingers look fine on top, the thumb appears cramped up and stiff. I don't feel sore anywhere on my thumb, but often times after a long practice session or rehearsal I feel like my wrist needs to be cracked and/or loosened out (specifically on the left side of my wrist, where I would think my control to the thumb is stemming from). I may be wrong, but I relate the problems with my wrist due to my peculiar (as my teacher described it) thumb position. Although I'm sure the horrid adjustable thumbrest on my Buffet doesn't help.

This only began after I tried to adopt a more, curved, relaxed finger position on the keys. In result, I have to push my thumb up into the thumbrest on the first joint to prevent my knuckle thumb joint from going in. In result, my knuckle joint is elevated higher than the rest of my thumb when supporting the instrument (it juts out). I never thought of it as a problem, but by now I just think I'm used to it.

Since there are so many varying degrees of flexibility and level of hypermobility, it's hard to pin one solution. I just hope she stays motivated enough to stick through the trial-and-error phase of her double-jointed problem.

**Your topic interested me in looking more on the subject so I found a thumbrest that I believe would suit someone with double-jointed fingers. I searched for it in the archives, and someone posted about the product who coincidentally is double-jointed. Hope that helps.

http://test.woodwind.org/clarinet/BBoard/read.html?f=1&i=218684&t=218684



Post Edited (2010-06-11 21:10)

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 Re: Double-jointed Thumb
Author: MarlboroughMan 
Date:   2010-06-14 00:58

I have double jointed thumbs too, and it only now occurred to me that they might have influenced my decisions a bit concerning equipment.

I agree with David that comfort is essential, and that unorthodox hand position can work just fine--it doesn't pay to enforce a rigid conformity to clarinet playing. My penchant was to always hold the instrument out more, balancing it in more relaxed fashion and therefore not really putting much pressure on the joint.

This, and other things, however, lead to a search for a more naturally responding instrument at that position (and otherwise), which lead to my playing Selmers and, ultimately, Wurlitzer Reform-Boehms. So players with this issue might consider some serious equipment changes as well.

(Disclaimer: I now work for Wurlitzer Clarinets America, so my opinion is not the slightest bit unbiased!)

Eric

******************************
The Jazz Clarinet
http://thejazzclarinet.blogspot.com/

Post Edited (2010-06-14 01:12)

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 Re: Double-jointed Thumb
Author: DavidBlumberg 
Date:   2010-06-14 01:47

Eric - cool Job!

http://www.SkypeClarinetLessons.com


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 Re: Double-jointed Thumb
Author: MarlboroughMan 
Date:   2010-06-14 01:58

Thanks, David...it really is a fun gig.

******************************
The Jazz Clarinet
http://thejazzclarinet.blogspot.com/

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 Re: Double-jointed Thumb
Author: MarcyH 
Date:   2022-06-29 10:41

I'll reply separately regarding double jointed thumbs, but first, I want to reply to the issues I've read concerning neck straps.

The point of the neck strap is to hold the weight of the instrument (both clarinet and saxophone) so, if further pressure is needed outside of stabilizing the instrument, the neck strap probably isn't tight enough.

I used a neck strap on clarinet for awhile as I injured my right hand years ago and lengthy rehearsals were painful for a long time. While it can be awkward, it definitely helps to take the pressure off the right hand. Becoming acclimated is tricky and there's a fine line between too low to hold the weight and too high causing squeaks.

As for switching between instruments, I never used my cushioned thumb rest when using the strap. It can be switched relatively quickly if that is not an obstacle and, if the strap is worn properly as to carry all of the weight, the extra cushion shouldn't be needed. However, the switches weren't always ideal.....sometimes I had to remove the clarinet strap early so I could switch to saxophone.

Each player is different and what works for one may not work for another, but this is my view from my experience and maybe it will be helpful to someone.

Marcy Holub, BME
Instructor, Halpin Music Company
Alton, IL 62002
(Notes and Rhythms, Key of Steam)

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 Re: Double-jointed Thumb
Author: MarcyH 
Date:   2022-06-29 10:59

I have acquired an "epidemic" of double-jointed students, this year: 3 clarinets and 2 flutes! Seems to be more of an issue for my clarinet students and I have suggested the neck strap to them (glad to know I'm on the correct path). Only one has utilized the neck strap so far, but she says it helps. I only recently remembered that I once tried a thumb rest that extend out from the clarinet, but didn't know if that would necessarily help. After reading these replies, I'll definitely look further into that option.

I have noticed 2 of these students are actually resting the clarinet on top of their thumb nail rather than the side of the thumb. I agree with those who said something about "not fixing the position". Everyone's hands are different. My only concern is that the different thumb position is preventing them from effectively covering the holes with their other fingers and sometimes interferes with fluidity of movement in changing notes. Several people on this thread said they just got used to it so I may need to break the "bad news" to my students. I would think that in the 21st century there would be SOME type of solution to this, but it might be that the condition is too different between each person to identify a specific correction.

One of my students (who does have small hands) is having a horrible time with the left thumb and is seriously on the verge of quitting! She has 2 joints affected on each thumb: base (palm bottom) and middle (palm top) - I'm in no way terminologically accurate. I was so happy when she figured out how to place her thumb so she could cover the F hole and press the register key for the higher notes. However, she has to reposition her thumb in such a way that, when going over the break, it delays her response time to quick changing notes. I've tried multiple ideas, including using medical tape around the affected joint and even tried a thumb stabilizer (not the best idea, but I didn't know what else to try). Regardless, none of those worked.

I fear that the student I started last week with similar thumbs may also have issues in the future so it would be nice if I could find a solution for (potentially) both of them. If anybody has any new ideas (as I see this conversation is 12 years old), I would greatly appreciate any help you can offer! Until then, I'll continue with the neck straps and alternate thumb rests to see how they work, as well as researching the exercises one suggested. Thanks for the input!

Marcy Holub, BME
Instructor, Halpin Music Company
Alton, IL 62002
(Notes and Rhythms, Key of Steam)

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 Re: Double-jointed Thumb
Author: MarcyH 
Date:   2022-06-29 11:24

Hey! For anyone interested, I found this violin website with an exercise for double-jointed fingers! It should work for clarinet, too!

https://www.reddesertviolin.com/how-to-correct-double-jointedness/

Marcy Holub, BME
Instructor, Halpin Music Company
Alton, IL 62002
(Notes and Rhythms, Key of Steam)

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 Re: Double-jointed Thumb
Author: SunnyDaze 
Date:   2022-06-29 11:45
Attachment:  clarinet.png (630k)

I'm not able to support the weight of the clarinet with my right thumb at all, but I have a sling that holds the whole weight, so I can even play no-hands. It's one of these:

https://www.wwr.co.uk/daniel-s-claritie-clarinet-support-that-takes-all-the-weight-off-the-thumb-aclarinetsupport.html

I don't use a neck strap with it, but a shoulder strap like this:

https://www.dawkes.co.uk/bg-sax-harness-support-sling-s40m-male-large-metal-hook-harness/250

I chose that sling because it gives me more freedom to move my neck when I'm playing.

I also have a kooiman thumb rest so I can control the rotation of the clarinet while playing.

I will attach a photo so you can see.

I had to have my register key extended so I can reach it with my other thumb, but it works fine now the extension is in place.

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 Re: Double-jointed Thumb
Author: eac 2017
Date:   2022-06-29 16:51

An oval eight finger splint might help. Readily available on Amazon and probably other sites as well. See picture for “How to wear for Trigger Thumb”. I used one for a dislocated finger. A physical therapist gave me one but one can easily purchase them. They come in different sizes. Not expensive either.

https://www.amazon.com/3-Point-Products-Oval-8-Finger-Graduated/dp/B00GK8XC6U/ref=mp_s_a_1_17?crid=1XC5RSR2WKXN3&keywords=finger+splints&qid=1656504872&sprefix=finger+%2Caps%2C227&sr=8-17

Liz Leckey

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 Re: Double-jointed Thumb
Author: MarcyH 
Date:   2022-07-15 12:07

SunnyDaze and Liz,

Thank you for those links! I'll have my students check them out and see what they think. The Oval-8 splints look promising. However, I'm not sure they'll help with the the one student having the most trouble. The base joint connecting the thumb to the wrist is more the issue. I don't believe I've seen those slings before, but that might be beneficial, as well! I never considered the shoulder straps for clarinet, but I can see how that would be more comfortable. I'll let you know how these suggestions work out. Thanks again!

Marcy Holub, BME
Instructor, Halpin Music Company
Alton, IL 62002
(Notes and Rhythms, Key of Steam)

Post Edited (2022-07-15 12:08)

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 Re: Double-jointed Thumb
Author: SunnyDaze 
Date:   2022-07-15 13:42

Hi MarcyH,

I'm glad that might have helped a bit. The claritie sling was designed by the man who owns my local woodwind shop, to help players with arthritis. It's only available from that one shop. I'm sure they would be happy to ship it though. We are in the UK. The sling is really brilliant, and I wouldn't be able to play at all without it. I switched from violin to clarinet because of tendonitis in my wrist.

Jen

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