Left hand backwards bent thumb: tips and tricks

June 7, 2021, 8:49 AM · I am a professional violinist born with thumbs that click backwards out of normal range at the second joint from top. See https://ell.stackexchange.com/questions/130225/what-is-the-soft-part-of-the-palm-called-in-english/130232 for thumb part names – I'm referring to metacarpophalangeal joint (thumb has the third joint touching the wrist).

What happens is when bending thumb backwards, the motion doesn't stop but there's a "pop" and thumb bends up to 90 degrees backwards against thenar eminence. I have had students with the exact same feature. For right hand, this doesn't have any consequences. But for the left hand, it means there is no natural support for the neck by just holding the thumb relaxed. If relaxing it, it pops to almost 90 degrees angle backwards, looking terrible. No professional violinist I've seen plays like that. So the thumb has to be kept against "popping".

Has anyone encountered this and how have you solved this problem?

I can give my thoughts about it but before that I'd be very interested if there are other opinions and thoughts about this. How can you keep the left thumb relaxed (or relaxed enough) if you have to struggle keeping it not "popping"?

Replies (2)

Edited: June 7, 2021, 10:15 AM · Two tentative ideas:
- The thumb could be placed more opposite the middle and ring fingers.
- An active thumb: let the conscious awareness of the thumb play a greater part in slow practice. Prioritise its role in absorbing finger action, and minimise its role in supporting the violin, (which can be best done through a shoulder rest..)
June 7, 2021, 7:25 PM · I knew a violinist who always played with the thumb like that (not quite ninety degrees, but back a bit). She seemed to manage fine. She also kept only the tip and pad of her thumb on the neck, and her hand frame was a rather tight V.

Maybe if you want a more conventional hold you can try raising the thumb so it peeks over the fingerboard.


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