Playing w thumb collapse

Posted In: How To Play

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    goatberryfarm2010 on #219578

    I have arthritis & all 3 thumb joints have given up the ghost, with my thumb now lying on the inside of my hand. This affects both hands.
    First surgery failed.

    Sylvia on #219591

    What kind of surgery did you have? Trigger thumb?

    Sylvia on #219693

    I was hoping you’d fill in the details on this.

    goatberryfarm2010 on #219706

    I have osteoarthritis. I had the basal thumb joints replaced, but that failed within a year.
    All 3 joints on both thumbs are severely damaged, with a structure pulling my thumbs toward the palm & often cramping.

    carl-swanson on #219707

    Jennifer- So sorry to hear about this. How do your other fingers function? What level are you used to playing at? Maybe you could try refingering what you play using only 2,3, and 4. Reinhart Elster, who was the principal harpist at the Metropolitan Opera for many many years, had arthritis in his fingers towards the end of his long career. He managed to continue playing by changing fingerings. I think by the time he retired, he wasn’t using much more than his two index fingers! The great American pianist Byron Janis had the same problem and had to refinger everything he played, but continued to play in public.

    • This reply was modified 2 years, 11 months ago by carl-swanson.
    goatberryfarm2010 on #219714

    I’m sending the check for my first harp, on Friday.
    This is a lifelong dream.
    I plan to speak w my physical therapist for help.
    I have arthritis in all my joints. I’m 62. I don’t doubt I’ll have to work up to a decent practice time & I plan to tape my finger joints..
    Suggestions welcome!

    Alison on #219718

    I’m getting occasional twinges in my thumbs which can last a few days I suspect due to over use of the swiping action on a tablet. It is a warning to all of us to work protectively.

    Gretchen Cover on #219720

    Alison, I have a friend who had surgery on her thumb. It was from years of overuse made worse by swiping her iPad. The hand therapist said to never use your thumb for any swiping. You can buy a little soft plastic iPad swiper. You hold it with your fingers so you do not use your thumb joint. It also limits your wrist movement. BTW, women are more prone to a thump joint injury or deterioration than men.

    Biagio on #219721

    We are usually taught to “collapse the thumb to the harper’s fist” but that is not the only way to use the thumb. Another is to simply slide the thumb forward. We usually encounter this in texts or lessons as the “thumb slide” but it can be applied to an individual string as well.

    That approach is more common with South American and wire strung harps but you might try it and see it this solves the problem. To see what I mean, watch videos of Cynthia Cathcart (wire harp) or this by Jonathan Fanganello (South American – and an interesting music choice ):

    The technique may or may not be difficult depending on your harp, as it requires some force on a concert tension instrument.

    Good luck and best wishes,

    Alison on #219755

    This is my reason for avoiding a smartphone, so not a lame excuse.

    Gretchen Cover on #219756

    Alison, once you use a smart phone or iPad you will wonder how you survived without it. I hold my thumb and middle finger together with the index finger on top like a finger triangle. By doing so, you have no thumb movement and very little wrist movement. It is so automatic that I had to swipe my iPad to write about it.

    goatberryfarm2010 on #219761

    Gretchen, this sort of thing is often hereditary, passing from Mother to daughter. I know where my fingers will go & I’m planning for future fusion of the top finger joints, in time.
    It frightens me, somewhat, to spend so much money on a harp w deteriorating joints, but I’ll be damned if I’m going to quit living just because I have multiple chronic health conditions.

    Allison: I’d be lost without my smartphone, but that’s only because I’m a shut-in most of the time.

    Gretchen, great tip!

    Lauren on #220489

    A related topic…does anyone have any exercises targeted for double jointed thumb? It tends to bend backwards while playing and I’m trying to be mindful of striking the correct way while keeping it higher. My right thumb is especially prone to this and aches in the first joint (nearest nail). Appreciate any tips!

    Elizabeth Volpé Bligh on #221318

    Biagio makes a good point. Not everyone plays their thumbs the same way. It is quite possible to play the thumb without bending it. Watch virtuoso Sasha Boldachev’s thumbs on this video, among others. He closes them sometimes, but not all the time. He’s got one of the most impressive techniques I’ve ever seen.

    Alison on #224019

    Ouch, I’ve sudden!y experienced tendon inflammation in the top thumb joint in the tendon that bends the thumb as you play, very painful.

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