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Vol. 49, No. 3, 22 February 2006, 316-322 Taylor and Francis Group
Hand and arm problems in flautists
and a design for prevention
S. KOPPEJAN, C. J. SNIJDERS*, T. KOOIMAN and
B. VAN BEMMEL
Erasmus MC, University Medical Center Rotterdam, Dept. of Biomedical Physics and
Technology, PO Box 1738, 3000 DR Rotterdam, The Netherlands
Hand and arm problems are frequent in flautists. Severity is greatest in professional
players, which can result in being unable to work. Based on a
biomechanical analysis a support for the right hand was designed, which can
be easily clipped on to the flute. Tests by professional flautists demonstrated
that the right hand thumb support prevented rotation of the flute about its
longitudinal axis. The latter reduces tension in forearm, wrist and fingers. This
is the most important result of the study, which led to the introduction of the
right hand thumb rest on the market.
Keywords: Flute; Flautist; Biomechanics; Injuries; Ergonomics; Pain
The New Forza Thumb Rest for Saxophone.
I first approached Ton Kooiman to ask if his clever clarinet thumb rests would work with the soprano saxophone. Like most soprano players I know, I have acute problems with pain in my right thumb and wrist; transferring the weight down to the joint of thumb and first finger might have been a good solution. Ton explained why this wasn't practical but that I should try his Forza Thumb rest.
I managed to fit the Forza to my Selmer MK VI tenor easily. The first thing I noticed was that it allows the thumb to lie in a natural position; at the same level as the first finger, as it would if you were holding a paper cup full of hot coffee! The thumb rest of most saxophones forces the thumb downwards. Indeed, my perceptions of most saxophone design is ‘the tone holes must go here, here and here so we will just have to stick the thumb rest wherever there is space left for it!' I bought a second Forza for my Yanagisawa curved soprano and found that I could position my thumb over the top of the F# trill key tone hole; just where it should be. Because of the positioning and shape of the Forza, the thumb is concentrating on pushing forward rather than upwards which is exactly what it should do! The ‘lift' is provided by the sling! There is no need for the ‘hook' as on conventional plastic thumb rests. The Forza offers an increased element of flexibility to my overall playing posture.
When it comes to holding the flute, the main problem is to balance it when going from one octave to the other: at that point you hold the instrument with no more than the tip of the right hand thumb and the side of your left hand forefinger. As the keywork, which is located on the upper side of the tube, makes the instrument top heavy, the flute now wants to roll toward you - but it shouldn't.
Making playing easier It's actually surprising that no-one thought of this before: Saxophone players use a neck strap to carry the weight of their instrument, so the right thumb shouldn't play any role in that sense. Still, the traditional thumb rest looks as if it should. The Dutch instrument technician Ton Kooiman designed an ergonomic alternative.
The Kooiman Forza Thumb Rest, a thumb rest that actually supports the thumb.