There are three segments of bones for all fingers (except the thumb which has two), and these segments are called “phalanges” (or “phalanx” in singular form). The joints that connect the bones are “knuckles”. So there are two finger knuckles (to join three phalanges) for all the long fingers and one finger knuckle (to join two phalanges) for the thumb.
They must be activated (or protruded) so that one can control and manoeuvre the finger movement effectively with the palm.
I think this is easily understood and probably reminded by many teachers (and I must be one of the many), but today I want to emphasis the importance of the palm knuckles and the activation of them.
The palm knuckles are the knuckles that connect the fingers and the palm together (very obviously). They help, along with the palm muscles, control the fingers’ extension and contraction motion. For instance, in order to grab a ball, one must move the fingers inward with the control of the palm muscles and hence the protrusion of palm knuckles (moving upward towards the ceiling). And in order to release the ball, one extend the palm outward and the palm knuckles go down and each knuckle forms a straight line with the correspondent finger (or the knuckles might even go down lower than the level of the fingers when excessively stretching the palm and fingers outward, to the extent that the palm might be pressed downward, thereby creating an indention to the palm knuckles).
I see a lot of students who have played the piano for long time yet still unfortunately suffer from the wrong use of ineffective technique. Having the indented and inactive palm knuckles must be one of the most common factors (other than the indented and inactive finger knuckles). In order to activate the palm knuckles (and in some way this goes for finger knuckles as well), I suggest my students to purchase a palm grip trainer, which is a squeezable plastic sponge (or can be a metal one – but I must prefer the “squishy squish” as what my young students call it). It comes with different levels of firmness, and I suggest getting the softest one (if you find there are three levels of them in the store). You can find them in gymnastic equipment supply store, which strangely is the kind of store I frequently visit (for teaching purpose and personal use). You only have to squeeze the sponge a few times a day to train your palm and activate the muscles and the knuckles. In fact, a lot of technical skills is acquired away from the piano, as I always say (and will show you more how that is done in future posts).
Happy Easter Everyone!
More about palm muscle strengthening: