Collapsing 4th Finger Problem

Ergonomics and Posture for Classical Guitarists, Aches and Pains, Injuries, etc...
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remmus
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Collapsing 4th Finger Problem

Post by remmus » Thu Feb 18, 2010 2:00 pm

One of my students is a 12 year old boy whom I've been teaching for about 2 years now. His collapsing finger problem has greatly improved over time with the only one still consistently collapsing is his 4th finger on the left hand. Yesterday during his lesson he told me that his finger hurt and wanted to use his 3rd finger instead of his 4th. We tried various ways to see if he could fret with his 4th finger and yet keep it from collapsing straight but he could not keep it curved. He says the pain is between the knuckle of the hand and the middle knuckle on his 4th finger. I thought I would post a couple of pictures of his finger while fretting and see if anyone had any suggestions on what might be tried to improve his situation. I was hoping that over time he would build enough guitar muscles to finally stop this from happening and it seems to have worked for his other fingers but not for his 4th finger. Does anyone have any ideas what he could be doing to help prevent his finger from collapsing?

Thanks
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Anthony Campanella
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Re: Collapsing 4th Finger Problem

Post by Anthony Campanella » Thu Feb 18, 2010 11:32 pm

Finger exercises away from the guitar?
Squeezing a rubber ball used to be recommended to develop finger strength

wianno

Re: Collapsing 4th Finger Problem

Post by wianno » Fri Feb 19, 2010 12:07 am

Here's a second for squeezing a ball. Try a WTA QuickStart low compression (foam) ball. They come in two sizes, the smaller one should do the trick. They are available in any sporting goods store that sells tennis equipment.

Jack

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Matt Molloy
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Re: Collapsing 4th Finger Problem

Post by Matt Molloy » Fri Feb 19, 2010 1:51 am

Forgive me for being the dissenting voice here but I wouldn't normally think that lack of strength is the problem.

My daughter had this problem and, after seeing her swing from the branch of a tree and thinking about how much strength we actually need to fret a string, I didn't see strength as the deciding factor.

Perhaps go gentle (from looking at his hand, it looks as though there is a fair amount of strength being used there). Possibly try getting him to place the finger on the string with the right shape to fret it but without any pressing down so that all he hears is the dull thud of a guitar string being touched but not fretted then slowly get him to apply weight to the finger (not arm weight but the idea of weight - violin vibrato fashion) till it is fretted satisfactorily.

Hope this is of some help.

Cheers,

Matt.
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goni

Re: Collapsing 4th Finger Problem

Post by goni » Fri Feb 19, 2010 7:28 pm

I agree with Matt, I don't think it's strength...
Does he have VERY flexible joint in his fingers? I tried replicating this myself and can't do it even if I try.
The thumb looks a little high, maybe if you move it down a little he won't have to extend the pinky so much, it looks like it is at 90 degrees to the palm.

Regards

G

pmiklitz
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Re: Collapsing 4th Finger Problem

Post by pmiklitz » Sun Feb 21, 2010 10:17 am

On both pictures, I can see the little guy's LH thumb peeking over the neck of his guitar. Lowering the hand should lead to a better angle of attack for the LH little finger, thereby preventing the problem. If he feels pain in his middle joint, it indicates that he is pressing too hard, so I would work on precise positioning (just behind the fret) and making him aware of the fact that the string does not even have to touch the fretboard to get a clear note.

Hope that helps,

Peter
Last edited by pmiklitz on Sun Feb 21, 2010 2:55 pm, edited 1 time in total.
Dringt durch des Aberglaubens Nacht, die Euch zu finstern Köpfen macht. Christian Fürchtegott Gellert (1715 - 1769)

Tom Cunliffe

Re: Collapsing 4th Finger Problem

Post by Tom Cunliffe » Sun Feb 21, 2010 2:34 pm

I really don't think this is necessarily a problem. I've had the same thing for over 30 years and have never found it affected my playing. I've tried many times to correct it but it seems to be a congenital "feature" of my hand and I don't even notice it these days. I'm rather worried that by trying to correct it you may harm the players progress by giving him the impression that there's a problem when in fact its just how his hand is made.

Tom

pmiklitz
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Re: Collapsing 4th Finger Problem

Post by pmiklitz » Sun Feb 21, 2010 2:49 pm

Tom Cunliffe wrote:I really don't think this is necessarily a problem.
It may not necessarily be a problem, but it's a scientific fact that the transmission of energy is most efficient, when all finger joints are bent (see Charles Duncan's discussion of this topic in "The Art of Classical Guitar Playing"). Hence, collapsing LH finger joints require more energy, which is especially detrimental for slur technique.

Cheers,

Peter
Dringt durch des Aberglaubens Nacht, die Euch zu finstern Köpfen macht. Christian Fürchtegott Gellert (1715 - 1769)

JohnRoss

Re: Collapsing 4th Finger Problem

Post by JohnRoss » Sun Feb 21, 2010 3:11 pm

remmus wrote:One of my students is a 12 year old boy whom I've been teaching for about 2 years now. His collapsing finger problem has greatly improved over time with the only one still consistently collapsing is his 4th finger on the left hand.
I'm not claiming any voice of authority but, as others have said, it looks to me as if his thumb might be too high behind the neck, it's more visible than I would have thought desirable. This is pulling his wrist back and twisting his hand round and obliging him to overstretch his fingers - with the LH in that position, his fingers can't separate easily, it's remarkable that he can get them as far apart from each other as they are. If I'm right, perhaps you should get him to try to move his thumb down and his wrist forward to turn his hand back the other way so that his fingers can be more perpendicular to the neck and open more easily.

Robbie Flamerock
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Re: Collapsing 4th Finger Problem

Post by Robbie Flamerock » Sun Feb 21, 2010 4:50 pm

Try this- have him flex all of the fingers to the flexion limit. Bring this over to the strings and uncurl them the least amount possible. He isn't flexing enough, I would say.

Tom Cunliffe

Re: Collapsing 4th Finger Problem

Post by Tom Cunliffe » Tue Feb 23, 2010 1:08 pm

pmiklitz wrote: It may not necessarily be a problem, but it's a scientific fact that the transmission of energy is most efficient, when all finger joints are bent (see Charles Duncan's discussion of this topic in "The Art of Classical Guitar Playing"). Hence, collapsing LH finger joints require more energy, which is especially detrimental for slur technique.

Peter
Absolutely, my only point is that it may not be fixable.

Get him to hold his hands palms towards him and then bend the first joint of the fingers down. If he's like me, the fingers will form a semi-circle rather than a straight row, with the fourth finger on the left having a particularly pronounced lean. In my case its worse on the left hand than the right, implying that years of playing fretted instruments have actually made the problem worse - so much for exercises!

I wonder what an orthopaedic professional would say?

Tom

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remmus
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Re: Collapsing 4th Finger Problem

Post by remmus » Tue Feb 23, 2010 2:08 pm

Thanks everyone for your helpful replies. Normally I would not be as concerned about his finger except he says it hurts when he uses it to fret with. I've tried all the ideas offered and I think that with time and patience it may improve. Here are some more pics of his fingers and the uniqueness of them. His hands and fingers though are quite normal when he isn't flexing them. Also, and I should have stated that when I took the earlier pictures I was not thinking about his thumb at the time. I noticed too that it was peeking over the top of the guitar too much.
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Blondie
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Re: Collapsing 4th Finger Problem

Post by Blondie » Fri Feb 26, 2010 4:58 pm

Ok, the guy clearly has hypermobile joints which tend to be weaker and will collapse more easily when too much pressure is applied.

Altering the thumb position and easing off with the pressure as mentioned should help, but let's take the guitar out of the equation here and see how his hand works.

Post a picture of him holding a pencil between his LH fingertips and thumb pad, with a straight left wrist. Tell him to hold the pencil very gently, just enough to stop it from dropping to the floor.

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senunkan
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Re: Collapsing 4th Finger Problem

Post by senunkan » Mon Mar 29, 2010 2:10 am

I compare with my own LH I did notice something different:
The boy's knuckle joint is bending too much; almost a 90 degree.
My own LH's knuckle joint is almost straight, the finger curve will span over the next few joints instead mainly on the 1st joint after the knuckle joint.
I think the tendency to collaspes is due to the knuckle joint bending too much cause a straighter middle 2 joints.

Also try the buzzing technique, i.e. lightly touching the string and play to make the sure the string buzzes and slowly increase the LH pressure until it just stop buzzing.
This will ensure that he doesnt exert too much pressure with the LH.
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Re: Collapsing 4th Finger Problem

Post by ramsnake » Wed Mar 31, 2010 6:29 am

I will vouch that there is too much of the palm of his hand in front of the neck and this is further evidenced by the fact the 2nd and 3rd fingers first knuckles appear to high relative to the frets they are playing on.The remedy is to move the forearm back a little so as that more of the palm of the hand is under the neck rather than in front.

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