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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Kind of a weird, blue-sky question here...

I have a Yamaha Custom Z alto. Over the many years that I've had it, my arthritis has gotten worse... and especially in my left thumb.

My question is: Could the octave key be re-configured so the paddle is welded to the LEFT side of the rod, instead of the RIGHT side, which is how it is now (and how it is on probably all saxophones in the world, I'm guessing).

I realize that the rod depresses a lever on the right side, further up. So if the paddle were on the left, how would the action depress on the right? I don't know, but maybe you do.

The reason I'm asking: If I keep my left thumb closer to the hand, the base of the thumb doesn't hurt. If I stretch it across to depress the octave key, then... ouch!

Alternatively, do you know of an alto make and model that comes from the factory with an octave key that is easier to depress? (i.e., without bending and stretching the thumb)

If you have any comments for me, let me hear them.
 

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What goes wrong with the rest of your fingers if you adjust your hand so pressing the octave key doesn't require stretching your thumb across?
 

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You may be able to adjust your technique. My thumb barely moves at all to hit the octave key. I also have a custom Z alto. Try positioning your thumb on the diagonal, putting the middle joint of your thumb on the rest and the tip on the octave key at all times. Then it's just small roll or bend at the middle joint to activate, not a big stretch.
 

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One idea is to use Sugru and make a connecting thumb plate around the top of the thumb rest to the left of it. I’ve used Sugru for adjusting the octave plate on a couple of horns and it works very well once hardened. It’s totally customisable of course and you can have it exactly as you wish. Sorry to hear that such pain is causing you problems. Hope this or another suggestion will work for you.
 

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in addition to key mods to make a solution with the least amount of extra movement, don’t forget to check your posture and strap length/ instrument positioning to make sure you’re not adding extra weight/ stress due to bad body mechanics.
 

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Discussion Starter · #6 ·
What goes wrong with the rest of your fingers if you adjust your hand so pressing the octave key doesn't require stretching your thumb across?
Serafino -- I've looked at my hand when the thumb comes closer, and -- really -- nothing changes. My fingers approach the keys in the same way, and the orientation of the hand itself stays at the same angle.
 

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Discussion Starter · #7 ·
One idea is to use Sugru and make a connecting thumb plate around the top of the thumb rest to the left of it. I’ve used Sugru for adjusting the octave plate on a couple of horns and it works very well once hardened. It’s totally customisable of course and you can have it exactly as you wish. Sorry to hear that such pain is causing you problems. Hope this or another suggestion will work for you.
Sax1st -- WOW! Fascinating. I had never heard of this material, but I just spent several minutes on their website and was greatly impressed. So, yes! I will definitely look into this option. Also good to know that someone else (namely, you) has actually used it on horns and had some success with it. Thanks for the tip.
 

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Discussion Starter · #8 ·
in addition to key mods to make a solution with the least amount of extra movement, don’t forget to check your posture and strap length/ instrument positioning to make sure you’re not adding extra weight/ stress due to bad body mechanics.
SWPerry1 -- Right! Yes, definitely. These are always important considerations. Thanks.
 

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The thumb key can't be moved to the other side of the rod, but an extension can be soldered onto the thumb key or a longer key can be soldered to the hinge tube. In either case the plastic thumb pad will need to be moved or reshaped to accommodate the change. I did a mod of this type for a customer who played bari sax and was born with an excessively short thumb.
 

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Discussion Starter · #10 ·
You may be able to adjust your technique. My thumb barely moves at all to hit the octave key. I also have a custom Z alto. Try positioning your thumb on the diagonal, putting the middle joint of your thumb on the rest and the tip on the octave key at all times. Then it's just small roll or bend at the middle joint to activate, not a big stretch.
Good tip, Lydian.

I should have mentioned one other point about the arthritis: The source of that pain is at the base of my thumb. So, if you look at your own hand, you can see where the thumb base juts out from just above the wrist area. That's where the action is for me.

Also: I'm almost 73 years old. In 2019, a hand doctor told me he could fix things up with surgery, and that I should come see him "when I'm ready". I've been thinking about that, but then started wondering if surgery on the horn might be easier than cutting into my body!
 

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Discussion Starter · #11 ·
The thumb key can't be moved to the other side of the rod, but an extension can be soldered onto the thumb key or a longer key can be soldered to the hinge tube. In either case the plastic thumb pad will need to be moved or reshaped to accommodate the change. I did a mod of this type for a customer who played bari sax and was born with an excessively short thumb.
Thank you, Saxoclese! So good to know that you had success with this. It's a relief to know that this option is available. I appreciate your comment.
 

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Serafino -- I've looked at my hand when the thumb comes closer, and -- really -- nothing changes. My fingers approach the keys in the same way, and the orientation of the hand itself stays at the same angle.
Okay but my question was what if you adjust your hand position so that you do not have to move your thumb to press the octave key, which you describe as stretching your thumb across. If you change your hand position so that your thumb barely has to move to press the key, what goes wrong (if anything) with your other fingers?
 

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I glue wine cork and shape it to suit me. Basal Thumb Arthritis sucks big time!
The wedge on the round thumb rest is designed to force my thumb to a new and different angle from angle it's been at for 50 years that wore it out - it makes my grip open wider and puts the grindy bits in the thumb joint in an unused spot that hasn't worn thru the cartilage yet. The wedge on the octave lever is so my thumb barely has to move a millimetre to activate the octave.
106333
 

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I had the same issue thumb pain playing a Selmer serie 111 alto till i fully adjusted the L/H pinky table. Before adjusting playing low Bb would cause the discomfort and i have average size hands the stretch with good hand position wasnt possible before the adjusting slide was fully adjusted .
 

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Discussion Starter · #15 ·
I glue wine cork and shape it to suit me. Basal Thumb Arthritis sucks big time!
The wedge on the round thumb rest is designed to force my thumb to a new and different angle from angle it's been at for 50 years that wore it out - it makes my grip open wider and puts the grindy bits in the thumb joint in an unused spot that hasn't worn thru the cartilage yet. The wedge on the octave lever is so my thumb barely has to move a millimetre to activate the octave.
View attachment 106333
Brilliant! Many thanks, Blaine. This looks like it could also be done with Sugru. (See one of the other responses above if you (like me) had never heard of that material.
 

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Discussion Starter · #16 ·
Okay but my question was what if you adjust your hand position so that you do not have to move your thumb to press the octave key, which you describe as stretching your thumb across. If you change your hand position so that your thumb barely has to move to press the key, what goes wrong (if anything) with your other fingers?
Thanks, Serafino. I went back to my sax and studied the effect that different hand positions had on my other fingers.

What I noticed actually surprised me. The positioning and shape of those fingers really didn't change much... BUT... I saw what I think is a big part of the problem: That black, circular thumb rest is too high! It forces my thumb back, and that puts pressure on the base joint (or whatever that part of the hand is called).

I'm going to talk to my local repair guy (Ed Fleming here in Houston) to see if he can modify my sax. Reducing the thickness of that plastic thumb rest will definitely be at the top of my list.

And if anyone from Yamaha is reading this thread, consider the possibility of helping out aging members of your target market. You could offer thumb rests of different heights, as well as different configurations of the octave key.

After all... the name of your product is CUSTOM Z. A few customizing options would be most appreciated, especially if they improved ergonomic comfort.
 

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Brilliant! Many thanks, Blaine. This looks like it could also be done with Sugru. (See one of the other responses above if you (like me) had never heard of that material.
search for sugru here at SOTW and you will see many applications for it on sax mods. that'll give you a better idea of what can be done with it (pretty much any shape you want, with ease).
 

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Sugru certainly looks better and I assume people like it because it's easy to apply/remove etc. --- but I much prefer working with cork. I like the texture and I enjoy the smell of sanding cork - and I enjoy emptying the wine bottles to get that cork :p
 

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I glue wine cork and shape it to suit me. Basal Thumb Arthritis sucks big time!
The wedge on the round thumb rest is designed to force my thumb to a new and different angle from angle it's been at for 50 years that wore it out - it makes my grip open wider and puts the grindy bits in the thumb joint in an unused spot that hasn't worn thru the cartilage yet. The wedge on the octave lever is so my thumb barely has to move a millimetre to activate the octave.
View attachment 106333
This is such a good thought!
 

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Sugru certainly looks better and I assume people like it because it's easy to apply/remove etc. --- but I much prefer working with cork. I like the texture and I enjoy the smell of sanding cork - and I enjoy emptying the wine bottles to get that cork :p
Yeah, my Sugru attempts look like a 6-year-old's Playdough creation. I'm encouraged to think of using cork for modifications, which I can shape more carefully with sanding, and not have to shape it within a certain time.
 
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