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Beginner My thumbs hurt!

VirusKiller

Member
Messages
449
This is weird. I changed from alto to tenor ten days ago and have been practicing every day. By the end of an hour's practice session, both my thumbs are really aching. My left thumb clearly is having to cope with a different octave key mechanism on a bigger bore, and my right thumb is having to support the not-inconsiderable weight of the Walstein. Even now as I'm at work, they both feel slightly numb.

Has anyone experienced this? If so, how long did it take for it to sort itself out?!!!
 

dooce

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1,419
Might be you are a bit tense? A bit like when first riding a motorbike, your wrists and hands hurt like hell because you are gripping the bars so tight, so you have to learn to relax. And yeh, tenors are heavier - my Cannonball weighs not that much less than my JP bari. Having said that, I guess you get used to it because the only time I get noticeable pain is towards the end of a gig by which time I will have been playing for over 2 hours.
 

thehunt

Member
Messages
785
I've been playing 2 1/2 years now and also had a problem at the beginning even though i am physically strong, i think your body and thumbs need to adjust. From my martial arts training you can strengthen your hands by stretching your arms out in front of you and moving your hands up and down slowly, stretching them to their limit, do this 10-20 times take a break and do it again, then you can also do the same but moving your hands horizontally. I also suggest that you clench you fists and stretch your fingers. It may not seem a lot but when we have to wield long staff and swords these little exercises do help, it is just like the sax you have to strengthen your embouchure but if your body and arms/hands get tired it will reflect in your playing. Hope this helps.
Oh! just to make you feel better, my neck has become sore hanging my tenor round my neck so have also added neck stretches to my routine, but that is most probably my age more than anything. The soreness should go away though. Phil
 

Pete Thomas

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Your right thumb shouldn't have to do any heavy lifting. Maybe your strap or harness needs an adjustment for height.

I agree with this, the strap should be taking the weight.

The left thumb should get used to the new mechanism.
 

VirusKiller

Member
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449
Ok, I may have overplayed the "support" the weight of the horn. I think I'm struggling with how to hold a tenor so that it's stable. i.e. When my hands are moving from front keys to side keys, I feel that the horn moves a bit too much.
 

kevgermany

ex Landrover Nut
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YOu might be pressing too hard on the keys, this puts a lot of stain on the thumbs. And if the sax is moving a lot, just relax more and do things a touch slower until you get used to it - it'll only move if you unbalance it by excessive/inappopriate movement.
 

BigMartin

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3,904
This is off-topic, but one thing that's been really annoying me since I started on the tenor is that, when I'm reading music on a stand, the neck is always in the line of one or other eye. Is there a trick to get round this or do I just have to put up with it (or get better at memorization)?
 
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dooce

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1,419
This is off-topic, but one thing that's been really annoying me since I started on the tenor is that, when I'm reading music on a stand, the neck is always in the line of one or other eye. Is there a trick to get round this or do I just have to put up with it (or get better at memorization)?

Move the stand? How do you hold your tenor then? Mostly they, ahem, hang to the right of the player, so the neck goes out to the left, ergo you should be able to see pretty much straight ahead.

You think tenors get in the way - try a baritone. Periscopes should be provided as standard...........

:)
 

Pyrografix

Senile Member
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1,026
Going back to the 'thumbs' issue, when I first started playing I was gripping the sax too tight with my thumbs straight which caused them to hyper-extend ie.bend backwards a bit - relax the hands and rest the instrument against the upper pad of the thumb (towards the tip) with your thumb bent slightly!
 

BigMartin

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3,904
Move the stand? How do you hold your tenor then? Mostly they, ahem, hang to the right of the player, so the neck goes out to the left, ergo you should be able to see pretty much straight ahead.

Yep, I do that. But I'm beginning to suspect maybe I have the thing at too high an angle in my mouth. It looks a bit odd on the video I just posted. Will have to experiment.

You think tenors get in the way - try a baritone. Periscopes should be provided as standard...........:)

I can imagine! Don't think I'll be facing that problem for a while yet, though.
 

Nick Wyver

noisy
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Ok, I may have overplayed the "support" the weight of the horn. I think I'm struggling with how to hold a tenor so that it's stable. i.e. When my hands are moving from front keys to side keys, I feel that the horn moves a bit too much.

You've probably done this anyway, but make sure that you angle the crook on the sax so that when it's just hanging on the sling and balanced by your thumbs the mouthpiece actually points at your mouth and not to one side. That way you're not constantly trying to twist the sax just to keep the mouthpiece in your mouth. Beginners often just put the crook on so that the top octave mechanism is nicely symmetrical. It's usually not the best position.
 

thomsax

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Messages
3,819
Your right thumb shouldn't have to do any heavy lifting. Maybe your strap or harness needs an adjustment for height.

Right! Your neck is supossed to hold your sax!! And I think thats wrong as well! To put a heavy alto in a neckstrap and hang it around a childs neck is insane!! If you're using a neckstrap I think you must do some training like wrestlers and boxers! Or get used to shoulder straps/harnesses. After reading the the article below I throw away my neckstraps. If it’s leather, snake skin, padded ... I don’t think you should lift your sax with your neck!

Here is an article (in Swedish, from 1995 )Right! Your neck is supossed to hold your sax!! And I think thats wrong as well! To put a heavy alto in a neckstrap and hang it around a childs neck is insane!! If you're using a neckstrap I think you must do some training like wrestlers and boxers! Or get used to shoulder straps/harnesses. After reading the the article below I throw away my neckstraps. If it’s leather, snake skin, padded ... I don’t think you should lift your sax with your neck!

Here is an article (in Swedish, from 1995 ) http://s297.photobucket.com/albums/mm201/thomsax/?action=view&current=musikstudenterryggnacke.jpg The study is about ergonomic and health hazards among students, teachers and pros. The article says short:
• Arms, shoulders, necks and backs can hurt when you play an instrument!!
• More than 50% of the students and teachers in Gothenburg have afflictions(?) caused by thier playing. The afflictions leads to ”stydy-interruption”, ”sick listening” and even early retirement pension.
• Professional players don’t suffer from this as much as the other group. They assumed that have learned right ergonomics.
• In Norway they founded out that fluteplayers, celloplayers and saxplayers (!) often had more troubles than other musicians.

Back to your thumbs: Don’t play to long ”seanses”. You get used to the new position. You can also have an adjustable rh thumbrest mounted on your sax. Or by a Martin sax. They have adjustable thumbrests. (Comm I (some), Comm II and Comm III). I better stop now. Maybe you put me on the wanted list. The heavy Bahaus-Walstein saxes and Cebylla straps treads are popular.

Off topic and sorry for my English!

Thomas


http://s297.photobucket.com/albums/mm201/thomsax/?action=view&current=musikstudenterryggnacke.jpg
 

Sue

If at first you don't succeed try try try a Gin
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Interesting article Thomas. I most definitely have alto players shoulder! But back to the thumbs - IMHO I'd say it's tension caused by gripping too hard. Wriggle your fingers to relax them before you play and rub your lower arm with your knuckle to release any tension in your muscles.
 

RedBottom

Member
Messages
191
Similar here, not the least because my tenor is a beast of a thing and weighs a ton. I had thumb, wrist and neck problems when I first started playing it. I experimented with one or two different straps and harnesses before settling on the one I have now, an over-the-shoulder design which seems to do the trick. I still have sore thumbs, but this is more about the very angular nature of the thumbrest combined with the knobbliness of my thumb joints.

You think tenors get in the way - try a baritone. Periscopes should be provided as standard...........
:) Guy I used to know purloined a 'mind your head' sticker from work to stick on his bari case - most appropriate.

And is it an unhappy coincidence that so many bari players are retired old boys who shouldn't even be carrying a piccolo, never mind something the size of a bari. ;}
 

singlereed

Member
Messages
124
Hang the horn on its strap and bring it towards your mouth. Pull the strap up and adjust the neck and mouthpiece so it goes into your mouth, level without moving your head - in particular, you do not want to be reaching forward with your head. Many (most?) players are inclined to have the horn too low on the strap whilst others fit themselves around the horn rather than the other way round - this is why the neck swivels in its socket. With tenor, try playing it in front of you as opposed to by your side. All of this will help ensure the horn sits comfortably in your hands with less inclination to rotate and you can alleviate tension and take the weight off your RH thumb. While you're at it, it can be worth moving the thumbhook too. Finally, consider taking a lesson with a good teacher as they will surely sort out any of this - we often can't see it in ourselves.
 

dubrosa22

Senior Member
Messages
413
This is weird - I was getting a sore left thumb joint from pressing the octave button on my modern Yamaha (this was after about an hour and half practice) but since moving onto a vintage SML with the pearl style octave button I have had nary a pain in my thumb joint even after playing for twixce that duration!

Yay! I thought I was getting arthiritis! :)
 

VirusKiller

Member
Messages
449
Well, my right thumb is getting better as I get to grips with holding the tenor, and I think I've figured out what is going wrong with my left thumb.

My alto octave key operates as in the photos below (pinched from another thread):




But the tenor key is less raised and requires a lot more movement beyond the thumb rest to open the octave pad(s) fully. In other words, I think I'm over-extending my thumb... Solution, get the key position tweaked.
 

RedBottom

Member
Messages
191
This thread reminds me of the playing positions of a couple of alto players I know - one who is very proficient and another not so much. They both seem to play with their left hands in a sort of 'cocked' position, as though the arm's too high and they have to bend their wrist down/sideways to meet the instrument. It's a bit like a reverse of the position I've seen in the spastic wrist joints of some hemiplegics.

Surely this cannot be a good playing position? Both have lessons with decent local teachers who would surely have pointed this out to them.
 

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