How does your hand work?

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The more I learn about piano performance, the more I’m becoming fascinated with how on earth my brain and fingers do what I need them to do, and often at lightning fast speed. It’s really quite remarkable to think that even the typing I’m doing now is caused by my brain causing a muscle to contract in my forearm! It’s unbelievable really.

So I went searching for interesting information online to help me understand it all, and here are a few of the things I found. Firstly, a 3D animation of the construction of the hand from bone to flesh. I hadn’t realised how much like a robot our hands look when you take away all the flesh, tendons and muscles. But I guess that makes sense given that robots are obviously modelled on our skeleton!!

WARNING: This next video is NOT for the squeamish. It is a dissection of a human arm and hand which I must say I found a little unsettling, but utterly fascinating at the same time. And it answered one big question I’ve always had: are there muscles in the hand? Yes, there most definitely is – in fact most of the palm area of the hand is muscular.

On the lighter side, here is a 3D animation showing the same thing and particularly explaining carpel tunnel syndrome. Can you believe that the main nerve running into the hand starts in the neck? I also can’t believe how all the separate finger tendons which are required to lift and curl the fingers all seem to merge into one muscle connected near the elbow. It’s amazing that it works at all!

So there you have it! I still don’t know how our brain tells our arm muscles to pull all 10 fingers in the right direction and at the right speed to make the sound we want, but at least I know something about what’s going on in my arm. Also, knowing more about the carpel tunnel will definitely remind me to always ensure my wrist is in a natural, neutral position when I practise.

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Tim Topham

Lead blogger and coffee snob
Best-known for his blogging and teaching, Tim is also a well-respected presenter, performer and accompanist based in Melbourne, Australia. You can check him out on Google+, Facebook and Twitter.
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