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So, this soprano thing has been a blast except for right thumb pain. After trying different angles on the thumb hook, I decided to try something different. I found some pretty dense foam in my shop that is firm enough to shape and attached it with some double-sided tape (pretty strong stuff I use for attaching router templates). Anyway, great improvement and over time I expect the foam to conform a bit to my thumb position. After reading some other threads on this issue, it seems the two biggest causes of discomfort for me (besides the unavoidable weight of holding a straight sop) are the curved hook and the lack of angle on the body of the horn. You can see in the pictures, I left the top to basically just fill in the curve, creating a flat surface to allow for a bit of mobility, while the vertical part has an angle to allow for a more natural angle of the thumb to the body tube. Anyway, it's pretty easy and cost effective to try out, so I thought others might benefit from this. Merry Christmas all!







 

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Very ingenious! It is smart to use such a "non-invasive" method to attach the felt. My private teacher suggested I try using a neck strap on both soprano sax and clarinet, and I will never go back to playing without one. It makes the thumb much more comfortable by taking most of the weight off of it. When I taught beginning band, I would cut short pieces of rubber "surgical tubing" for the clarinet students to put over their thumb rests to achieve a similar effect. An enterprising young girl in the class began crocheting little "booties" in bright colors to fit over the thumb and selling them for $1 each. She did quite well and ever started getting "orders" for them from the junior high and high school as well.
 

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I am just an amateur and a hack at that, but my professional field is biomechanics, and I get a little into ergonomics. The thumb is just not designed to take pressure from the side. The rubber pad will distribute the pressure around the thumb a bit and if it relieves your pain, that’s brilliant.

This post is for reference if it does not work and for others seeking relief. The thumb is really strong through its length but weak from the side. I’ve known guys that could do push ups on their thumbs and one could do one-arm push ups on his thumb! I also know a thumb lock from martial arts that only requires perhaps 5 to 7 lbs. of pressure on the side of the thumb to bring someone to their knees.

My first sax teacher was a retired woodwind professor. I picked up my alto and lifted it up to my mouth leaving the strap a little slack. He said, “No, no, no, let the strap carry the weight. Gently push the sax away from you with the pad of your thumb.” When I got a soprano, however I basically held it like a clarinet, which had required that I get a “Thumb Saver" to help with the thumb pain from bearing weight on the side of my thumb during my brief tenure playing clarinet. I too experienced a lot of thumb pain on soprano.

I started watching some of my soprano exemplars, especially in the way they brought the soprano to their mouth. Two used neck straps, and in slow-mo you can clearly see that their thumb pushes out pivoting on the neck strap as the mouthpiece comes toward the mouth. After getting a Brancher Crescent neck strap, which puts the weight on the stable thoracic rather than the unstable cervical vertebrae, I was very happy with this position. My only comment is that the neck strap length has to be perfect, and so a lot of people will not like this method.

Since I became used to this position, however I’ve found, without the strap, if I simply hold the soprano on the pad of my thumb as I would with the strap and rotate my wrist to let the mouthpiece come to my mouth, this is also a comfortable position that I can maintain for a long time. I still think of the thumb as pushing the bottom of the sax away from me rather than lifting the sax by the hook with the side of my thumb. This change in thought pattern alone will change your mechanics enough that it should make a difference in your comfort.
 

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Like said above, the thumbrest shouldn’t carry any weight at all and simply act as a floating fulcrum. The strap (or better still the SAXHOLDER should put all the weight onto neck or SHOULDERS) Adding felt will distribute a weight which shouldn’t be there in the first place but add friction.

The weight on soprano is distributed on the elbows resting on the body and the strap preventing the horn going forward. In the olden days no soprano had a strap ring and all were held like a clarinet.

If held correctly there is little to no weight on the thumbrest.
 

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Like said above, the thumbrest shouldn’t carry any weight at all and simply act as a floating fulcrum. The strap (or better still the SAXHOLDER should put all the weight onto neck or SHOULDERS) Adding felt will distribute a weight which shouldn’t be there in the first place but add friction.

The weight on soprano is distributed on the elbows resting on the body and the strap preventing the horn going forward. In the olden days no soprano had a strap ring and all were held like a clarinet.

If held correctly there is little to no weight on the thumbrest.
Tucking the arms in and resting the elbows on the body would create tension IMO. In my experience, the shoulders, arms, hands, and fingers should be as relaxed as possible while playing. The use of a neckstrap on clarinet and soprano works well for me to take the weight and pressure off the RH thumb.
 

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not for a great many players, even those who use the strap use it mostly only for safety or to create a pivoting point





 

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Discussion Starter #8
all good points. in my case, the foam was used for the purposes of shaping into alignment rather than padding. first, the curvature of the hook “pinned” my thumb in tight to the body tube, causing an unnatural angle at the base of the thumb. by flattening the top and, more importantly, creating the angled vertical part against the body tube, my hand now rests in a much more comfortable position and i can now support the instrument pain free.
 

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I like your ingenuity but you may be re-inventing the wheel. I was having a lot of pain playing my clarinet. They make a nice little gel pad that slips over the metal thumb rest. And it's cheap. I don't know if they make one for soprano sax but you might be able make the clarinet pad work on sax.

Pro_Tec_Thumb_Rest_Cushion.jpg
 

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Well, the thumb pad is ok, but the biggest difference maker for me is shown in this picture. It's the vertical part that keeps my thumb at a more natural angle.

 

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I had tendonitis at the base of my thumb, and it was incredibly painful to play. I tried all manner of straps and even a Claricord. As an engineer I had a "Guinness" moment - rather than the weight of the horn being reacted out at the end of the thumb (putting the maximum torque on the base of the thumb) move the support closer to the base of the thumb (minimizing the torque). Worked phenomenally well and also steadys the horn.


http://i174.photobucket.com/albums/w85/parts_pics/sax/20170109_170830_resized.jpg
https://i174.photobucket.com/albums/w85/parts_pics/sax/20170109_170859_resized.jpg
 

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not for a great many players, even those who use the strap use it mostly only for safety or to create a pivoting point





Note how all three players pictured hold the horn much higher than is typically seen. If you hold the soprano sax close to horizontal, the load on the right thumb from the weight of the thing is now resisted by a "clamping" of the thumb (similar to the muscles you would use to pinch something between your thumb and the side of your index finger). The thumb is much much stronger in that direction than in a straight side load.

A secondary benefit to playing the soprano more horizontally is that it gets you further from the clarinet embouchure and closer to the embouchure of the other saxophones. I find that everything on the soprano responds better with a more horizontal position.

If you hold the soprano out more horizontally, the benefit of the strap kind of disappears, because the strap is no longer working against gravity.

Even with a better playing position, the shape of the part that touches your thumb is important and I wouldn't hesitate to alter it so edges aren't digging into the thumb.

Long ago someone told me, or I read, "play the soprano straight out, it's not a clarinet" and that's what I've done since.

I am sure, now, that lots of people will post pictures of high grade soprano saxophonists holding the thing downward. I'm just telling you what has worked for me.
 

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Saxophone mouthpieces all should come close to coming straight into the mouth rather than down at an angle as on clarinet---however there are a few well known players who are the exception. With regard to the straight soprano, tilting the head down a bit can achieve the dual purpose of having the instrument tilt down and the mouthpiece come straight into the mouth at the same time. Sopranos with a slightly curved neck permit the head to be more erect keeping the sax at this downward angle.
 

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This is great! Any idea what type of foam it is? I'm browsing around at the min, found somewhere to buy but not sure what type to choose.
 

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Discussion Starter #16
This is great! Any idea what type of foam it is? I'm browsing around at the min, found somewhere to buy but not sure what type to choose.
not specifically. it was used for packaging. it is firm enough that it makes a distinct sound when tapped or dropped on a hard floor.
 

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I never use a neckstrap on soprano. That’s the advantage of the Mark VI design. The meckstrap makes you play at a clarinet angle. Not good.
I have a Balanced Action tenor where the previous owner had a Mark VI thumbhook instslled. It was really uncomfortable and I’ve been thinking about having it removed. Instead I bought a cheap plastic Yamaha thumb hook and opened the slot to bring it up where it should be. Since the Yamaha hook is narrower it’s more comfortable.
Whenever I see that Music medic hook it looks like it won’t swing much to the right or left.
Protec makes a rubber slip on pad but the rubber irritated my callous.
 

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I never use a neckstrap on soprano. That’s the advantage of the Mark VI design. The meckstrap makes you play at a clarinet angle. Not good.
Agreed. Unless you have a curved neck or if your aiming for a specific "dark" colour you want to give to your sound, Soprano should be played with a position relatively close to horizontal, which negates all the weight a sax Strap can carry. The way I've been taught is to balance the weight of the horn between your two hands, with the top tooth acting like a pivot: kind of tricky to find the balance first, but works great.
 
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