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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
After even a short amount of practice, my right thumb really hurts!

I've gone to clarinet from sax so that i can teach it to the younger kids that can't hold the sax - but first i've got to learn how to play the thing. Not too much difficulty so far, i've even started to go over the break fluidly without squeaking sometimes, but i'm thinking maybe my thumb/thumbrest isn't positioned correctly.

I know that having the right hand positioned correctly will reduce squeaks, especially going over the break, and will also make those horrible cramps go away. Any tips for knowing how to position thumb and thumbrest (aside from getting a teacher, which i can't afford atm)?
 

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theres a new ergonomic thumb rest made in germany...its very advanced and GREAT...let me find the brochure
 

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Use a strap and check out some instructional videos on youTube,
If that doesn't help, get an advanced clarinet player to give you a quick lesson on hand/horn position, or take your clarinet to the tech and have them relocate the rest or install an adjustable one.

Eventually the thumb will get stronger and holding the clarinet becomes easier.
 

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Discussion Starter · #4 ·
thanks for the replies guys, i already have a (somewhat) adjustable thumbrest with about an inch of leeway, i was wondering if there was a hard-and-fast rule on where to have it (i.e. thumb exactly under first finger, just between 1st and 2nd etc.)

Also, a strap, bandmommy? i didn't know they existed, i'll have to look them up!
J
 

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Yes, they make straps for clarinet!
As for where to position the thumb. I don't know who told you that it had to be between the first and second fingers.
I was taught to have the thumb at the bottom of the first finger. The hand is in a more 'natural' position.
Then again everyone is different!
 

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I've played clarinet for years and maybe your thumb will get stronger, but it's also likely that you'll introduce long term problems or just get used to playing with pain. If you play much, it's just not worth worrying about, since there is gear you can use to eliminate the issue. I personally recommend the Kooiman Maestro thumb rest:
I've got one of those Ton Kooiman thumb rests, and it helped me immensely. Without it, I was getting to the point where my thumb was more or less constantly hurting. Now it doesn't bother me at all.

About the only downside (apart from the fact that they're expensive) is that it can be pretty frustrating to set up. And once you get it set up the way you want it, make sure to tighten everything up, or one bump will send you back to square one. That all said, having to fiddle around with a bunch of adjustment screws is a heck of a lot better than constant pain.
 

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Take the hook off and try playing without it
 

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also look at those really inexpensive foam cushions. They really help eliminate the soreness.

as for the position of the thumb .. you really have to look at the position of the hand and especially your pinky in relation to the spatula keys.

With you thumb away from the clarinet, Position your hand first so you pinky can get to the spatula keys without puling your 3rd ring finger off the tonehole [ this consists of rotating your hand to find a good position, considering your fingers are of unequal length you'll see the situation quite quickly ].

Then put your thumb on the clarinet and your thumb should be positioned properly. Interestingly enough, for me, that position usually isn't where the thumbrest can be adjusted without repositioning it. Many times it is right ON the thumbrest.

I also like it raised too but then that requires either like the Koonan or other thumbrest or other solutions.
 

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If I have to play the stick for more than 10 or 15 minutes I use a strap. Then I can play for hours with no problem. The strap took some getting used to but it's doable. And if anyone tells you that you're a weenie for using a strap they're an idiot.
 

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I teach clarinet to many, many kids of differing ages and hand size. This issue comes up all the time. For what it's worth, here are a few observations and possible cures.

1. You're new to clarinet and consequently, your hands are far more tense than necessary. The tension alone will give you soreness. I know you're coming from the sax and you might think you've learned to relax your hands but the clarinet is a different kettle of fish. In a few years, you'll look back and wonder how you ever played the clarinet with such stiff hands.

The cure here is time.

2. The angle at which you hold the clarinet.

Most beginners are guilty of looking down, dropping their head and consequently dropping the clarinet into a straight up and down position. Aside from ruining your tone, this puts all the weight of the clarinet on the side of your thumb where the thumb-rest contacts your thumb and bends your thumb away from your palm and fingers at an angle for which the human thumb was never designed to accommodate.
If you keep your head up and the clarinet out, most of the weight is taken not on the side of your thumb that contacts the thumb-rest, but on the "thumb-print" part of your thumb where it contacts the body of the clarinet. The higher your lift the clarinet, the more the weight is transferred from the side of the thumb to the thumb-print part of the thumb.
Our thumbs are designed to work in this "opposing the fingers way" and can comfortable support far greater weight than a clarinet.

The cure: Sit up straight.

3. Final thought. Instruments are designed by people who don't have to play them. If you hold your hand in front of you, as if you were holding an imaginary beer glass, you'll notice that your thumb naturally wants to point above your index finger at an angle. Your thumb points to 10 o'clock or thereabouts.That's one reason most people adjust the thumb-rest to its highest position. The problem is though that the thumbrests are designed in a way that forces your thumb into that uncomfortable 9 o'clock position. As others have mentioned, you can buy an obscenely expensive after-market thumbrest to counter this. Or, you can take 20 seconds of your time and simply bend the thumbrest in a clockwise direction until it approaches a 10 minutes to 4 o'clock position. I've done this safely on dozen of clarinets without a problem. On the older clarinets, you can unscrew the thumbrest first if you're worried about damaging the body. On the newer student models, just disassemble the thumbrest and then use a pair of padded pliers. This small modification has made a huge difference for literally scores of my kids.

The cure: Make the clarinet fit you rather than damaging yourself to fit the clarinet.

Best of luck.
 
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