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Omobono

That darn'd fourth finger............

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Can we use 30 violinists we found to extrapolate into a broad conclusion?  I say no, you probably say yes because to you it makes sense because the doctors said so.

 

Unless we’re reading a different paper, 

 

This study estimated the prevalence of independent flexor digitorum superficialis function in the small fingers of 90 violin and viola players.

 

It also states:

 

If absent FDS function is confirmed, an explanation about why certain movements are difficult to execute might be more helpful than giving the advice to practice more.

 

Yeah, OK, not handled well.  Unless the only acceptable goal is superstardom.   :rolleyes:

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Unless we’re reading a different paper, 

 

 

It also states:

 

 

Yeah, OK, not handled well.  Unless the only acceptable goal is superstardom.   :rolleyes:

stand corrected:)  

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The other thing is how strong the association is between having FDS and having certain finger movement.  If someone can bend the pinkie certain way, how reliably can we determine that FDS is indeed present?

 

For violinist training for years with the fingers,  we need to entertain the possibility that some folks, despite not having FDS, may learn to train collateral musculature to perform similar function as FDS.  

 

In this study, those docs assumed that if a person can bend the pinkie certain way then FDS is present.  Not necessarily a great assumption.  There could be a bunch of false positives in that 90 subjects.   Better assumption would be in a virgin population without much prior fingering experience :)

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Actually the one single most important conclusion of the paper, and in my opinion the only one that should be memorised, is that the 2 out of 90 players showing no independent FDS (but retaining common FDS) were actually first violinists... :)

Who knows, maybe heifetz, Oistrakh or Milstein had no FDS :)

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Actually the one single most important conclusion of the paper, and in my opinion the only one that should be memorised, is that the 2 out of 90 players showing no independent FDS (but retaining common FDS) were actually first violinists... :)

Who knows, maybe heifetz, Oistrakh or Milstein had no FDS :)

but first violinists are not top notch soloists :)

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Whoever did the study was not aware that if a player has a problem executing a trill with the fourth finger, all he has to do is move to a different position and execute the trill with other fingers.  If you set up stupid problems, you will get stupid answers. A good player does not have to worry that he/she will have a problem. To become a good player, one has to practice.

 

Ben

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Not particularly relevant to the paper, but this thread is the closest for the vignette.  My mom worked for a hand surgeon who did work with NBA players and other sports medicine stuff.  When I went to him with tendinitis in my hands, he commented that he considered the symphony people he saw as athletes, just the same as the NBA players. They were just small motor athletes.  But as far as what they asked of their bodies, they were just as demanding(and just as difficult to treat, due to stubbornness and being unwilling to rest).

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Not particularly relevant to the paper, but this thread is the closest for the vignette.  My mom worked for a hand surgeon who did work with NBA players and other sports medicine stuff.  When I went to him with tendinitis in my hands, he commented that he considered the symphony people he saw as athletes, just the same as the NBA players. They were just small motor athletes.  But as far as what they asked of their bodies, they were just as demanding(and just as difficult to treat, due to stubbornness and being unwilling to rest).

So true, other than the fact that symphony musicians don't have personal trainers,  massage therapists, psychologists, nutritionists at their disposal, and 5-10 mil per year :) 

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Whoever did the study was not aware that if a player has a problem executing a trill with the fourth finger, all he has to do is move to a different position and execute the trill with other fingers.  If you set up stupid problems, you will get stupid answers. A good player does not have to worry that he/she will have a problem. To become a good player, one has to practice.

 

Ben

As a kid I had considerable difficulties with my pinkie. I'd use all sorts of caterpillar fingerings to compensate and avoid use of the pinkie. I suppose I did it sufficiently well that none of my teachers at the time even bothered to address my pinkie issue.

All that changed in high school, when I encountered repertoire that required trilling with double stops (or playing double stopped scales in thirds or octaves, 1-3 2-4 patterns). It was then my teacher noticed my anemic pinkie and provided simple guidance that made my playing considerably less contorted. If someone had noticed such basic problems earlier my playing could have been way better early on. In a month my left hand technique improved by leaps and bounds.

That said, neither my teacher or I had to rely on FDS for an effective pinkie.

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On the other hand, what is imo much more important for a proficient use of the pinkie is actually on the other side.  

 

The agility and control of a muscle called extensor digiti minimi is very important in developing a pinkie that is functional for high level playing, a point not addressed in that study and very much should be.

 

Its muscle action is to "extend" the joints of the little finger, to pull the pinkie away from the string so to speak.

 

Many beginners or those not familiar with this muscle action may regard the "less developed" pinkie as weak, cumbersome or simply not listening to command.   There is more to that.

 

Imagine a boxer who is not capable of winding up his upper limb before a strike.  

 

A good functional pinkie allows some degree of "winding up" through extensor action before it is released into the string through flexor action.  A good player, therefore, by definition or testing, will  have this muscle action well developed.

 

When people do different pinkie exercises, more or less, it is training this balanced duo action of both flexion and extension.  By anatomy we favor flexor action over extensor action.  We grab, squeeze, hold, twist.  We rarely stick out our hand, extend the fingers and say: STOP.   I suspect we spend over 95% of daily living with our pinkie in flexion.  The extensor action is going extinct.  

 

As teachers or players, this is some basic stuff that warrants some level of understanding.   If you do not understand, you cannot possibly effectively help students or yourselves with a muscle imbalance.

 

After all, we have the reputation of being elitists to keep :)

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I found the whole study on another site, and it didn't make much sense to me. I've always found it important to keep the fingers relaxed, and curved, and to move them as little as possible in playing music. My teacher called it "quiet hands".

 

I do agree on the importance of the extensor muscles; they are frequently neglected. However the boxer analogy doesn't work.  Punches originate from the feet in boxing or any other martial art, and they need to be sudden, without any warning or "telegraphing". Anyone who takes the time to "wind up" is going to get beaten to the punch.

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lol, ok Michael, you are right. Under the circumstances,  they don't have the luxury to retract and then release, thus the 1 inch punch made famous by Bruce Lee.  

 

Still, the fundamental physiological principle applies, although those in combat mode need to perform it in an abbreviated and efficient manner.  

 

Some of the best soccer players also employ this move, like Messi, who kicks without winding it up, to mix kicking into running,  to maximize the surprise element.  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MjaF26OYOps

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Lee's punch is an example of fa jin, or fa jing, (produce power) and is common in many Chinese internal martial arts. Nothing mysterious, can be applied with any part of the body. "Any part of skin is weapon", according to my teacher.

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No it isn't that silly, because in the hand study they  identified a relevant anatomical feature that would cause someone with that anatomy to struggle. And there isn't any anatomic reason why a non black kid would struggle with basketball.

 

 

 

 

I'm no great expert on the design of scientific studies, but this one seems to follow exactly the pattern I would expect, in fact it seems quite elegant to me, whereas your suggested approach would seem likely to lead to chaos.

 

 

 

If you don't think someone understands what you are saying in a discussion forum, the proper thing to do is to explain where you think they are misunderstanding.

 

 

Will you give an example of what you mean, where it looks like they don't know what they are talking about?

 

 

 

I would not comment the study as silly, but I can see a couple of flaws both in the setup and in the conclusions.

(I also have no access to the publication, so please take what I say with a grain of salt)

 

1) Seemingly there has been not testing of the right hand of the test persons. I can give you some "anectotical evidence" that this is a serious flaw:

I have studied violin, but never used it as profession and so I practiced im my childhood an in my teens about 3 hours every day. As a result (?) the fingers of my left hand are almost totally independent. Not so the fingers of my right hand, they behave exactly like the fingers of friends who do not play an instrument. 

Furhtermore in the last ten years, where I had no time to practice more than few minutes average per day I developed serious contractures on both hands. Now, since 1 year I am retired and started practicing for about three hours every day again and I am surprised and happy, that these contractures disappeared almost completely on my left hand, but remained on my right hand.  I take that as a hint, that systematic exercises can have surprising positve results and that the positive tests of the violinists in the study may be the result and not the cause of their success in playing the violin.

So maybe the conclusions and partly the setup of the study is doubtful, to say the least

 

2) Pianists must have totally independent fingers on both hands. The study should have been extended to pianists and both hands. It looks, thet the authors of the study fell for an egg/hen problem.

 

As far as the necessity for independent left hand fingers is concerned - I think there are certain playing techniqes wher independent fingers are mandatory, for example to play a good left hand pizzicato or trills with the fourth finger fixed on a higher string like in Pag 6

 

Finally for now: Since I discovered, that the contractures on my left hand almost disappeared I started an experiment to find out if the reason is really the practicing. I am now every day playing scales on the piano with the right hand (no, I never learned piano, it is just a training session) and I will see in a few month if that helps. If yes, this will be a stron hint, that exercises can help in such cases.

 

Just my $0,02

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@Bernie R...

 

On those cuts and rolls in Irish music, I really think the fourth finger isn't entirely isolated (especially on the rolls), and a lot of players whose ornamentation I admire don't actually go up-and-down with the fourth finger as much as it curls and strokes across the string, barely touching it.  It can be a very beautiful movement, actually.  A lot of people I have heard/seen struggle with getting the roll right seem to think of it as this-note-then-that-note as opposed to one continuous relaxed gesture.  And to get it to "pop" properly, the bow needs to speed up a bit mid-ornament, a little swell in there.

 

Cheers, Paul

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