Topic: Double Jointed Bassoonist


I have discovered that one of my new students appears to be double jointed in his hands (not sure if that is the correct medical term?).  When he uses his thumbs to make the transfer from the whisper key to the low-note keys, he sometimes gets a "pop" where the finger resets the joint.

Currently we are trying to work around it by approaching the low C, B, and Bb keys with the same hand position as depressing the whisper key (he has to use the side of his thumb instead of closer to the tip).

I was wondering if other teachers have had similar students or if there are any performers who have had to overcome this issue.  I am open to ideas on this matter, as it is beginning to frustrate my student. 

Thanks, and I look forward to your replies.

Scott Pool

"The Ornaments look pretty, but they're pulling down the branches of the tree." - Cake

Re: Double Jointed Bassoonist

Scott, you didn't mention whether your student's thumb assumes unusual postures, such as hyperextending at the middle or outer joints. Hypermobility is present normally in 5-8% of people, more in the young and more in females. The popping sound you hear is likely the same as when a person cracks his/her knuckles, and is not directly related to the hypermobility.

I agree with your idea of using the thumb in a sideways motion for the lowest keys. This gliding motion from whisper key touch to the low Bb comes from the base joint of the thumb and provides a smooth transfer from key to key. The low C touch should be played by the side of the thumb, not on the full section of the key but in the crease between D and C keys. I have used this technique for years and teach it to my students. It makes the playing of low B and Bb simply a matter of flexing the outermost joint of the thumb.


Dr. Bill Dawson, bassoonist and teacher
IDRS medical consultant
Past President, Performing Arts Medicine Assoc.
Author of "Fit as a Fiddle: The Musician's Guide to Playing Healthy"


Re: Double Jointed Bassoonist

Ooh! I have this problem, I'm so happy I'm not the only bassoon player in the world to be so misunderstood.

My thumbs 'hyperextend' at the knuckle, so the natural position for me is to have them back more than 45º past parallel, especially when I reach up for the thumb keys. Personally I've found that the low register D, C, B, and Bb keys are the hardest to maneuver, especially quickly, with less of a problem on the Bb, E, and F# right-thumb keys. I often hear a small pop when I reach for the keys, and yeah, it's usually just a normal knuckle crack in the thumb.

That's awesome advice, Bill, thanks, my teachers have never known what to tell me. I bet it's better than scrambling to fly from low Db to Eb.


Re: Double Jointed Bassoonist

I found this site when researching for an oboe student.  I believe it has to be ordered by an orthopedist, but its worth looking into.