What does Spock, a Duck, and a Spyglass have in common?: Hand Exercises
One of the most important things I want everyone to realize is that the fingers DO NOT act independently of the rest of the body. As such, when doing these exercises please remain aware of how your entire body is functioning and how each of your arms are relating to your torso.
To maintain an awareness and create beneficial coordination of your entire system, while doing the exercises, I strongly suggest thinking the Alexander Technique directions; to allow your neck to be free, to allow your head to go up, to allow your whole back to lengthen and widen. In addition to these directions, think about width across the shoulder girdle and elbows. Finally, when I do these exercises, I like to think about length down the entire arm and through the fingers. As I tell all my students, these directions are meant to be practiced as suggestions of movement and not meant to inspire gross intentional movements.
Spock fingers, is an exercise that I playfully named after the oh so popular film and T.V. character from Star Trek. In this exercise, a student should flip their hands, so that their palms face the ceiling. I tend to work with the fingers slightly curled in this exercise in order to mimic the left-hand position that occurs while playing the violin. However, this can be done with soft but straight fingers. When doing this exercise please be careful to NOT hyper-extend your fingers. Many people will perform this action with hyper–extended fingers, at first, because it is easier.
After checking in with one’s entire body to make sure that you haven’t unduly curled or extended the back I suggest moving the hands in to the traditional “live long and prosper” hand position. This can be extremely difficult depending on an individual’s age and fine motor skill development so while performing the exercise be patient with yourself.
After playing around with this initial movement one can extend this exercise to moving individual fingers in different patterns.
I love teaching this activity to my students to improve their fingers flexibility and dexterity while playing the violin. Even though the motions are performed away from the instrument, the motor skills being established in this activity can lead to more physical awareness and control of the hand.
Duck is an activity focused around developing awareness and control of an individual’s base knuckles through movement.
To start with, one should allow the tips of the fingers to point toward the ceiling. (The wrist should remain straight) Then, move the thumb to the inside of palm so that it opposes the hand without touching the palm. The thumb motion is very slight and should not feel uncomfortable. Finally, one conducts the motion by maintaining ease in their fingers and focuses on bringing the fingers to the thumb and away. This motion centers around the movement of an individual’s base knuckles as no other knuckle on the hand should be aiding in the motion. As always while doing this motion please remain aware of your system.
I do this activity with students who are having trouble developing finger movement without the excessive use of the wrist. I find that these students deficiency with finger movements are due to a lack of activities stimulating the movement of the fingers separate from the wrist.
Like the Spock exercise the spy glass exercise focuses on building finger independence, dexterity, and flexibility.
In this activity, the fingers are slightly curved while maintaining a straight but easeful wrist. The thumb is then extended toward the palm like, in the duck exercise. Retain this position while alternating placing the tip of each finger on the tip of the thumb. All the while you should keep in mind the coordinated functioning of the entire system and the gentle curve of the fingers. Being precise about how and where you place the fingers encourages the hand to be exact in its movement.
I do this exercise with all my beginning students because, it is a spectacular exercise for the development of independent finger movements within the structure of proper left hand posture at the violin.