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Beginner Thumb pain - octave key

Shorty

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Hi - I'm getting a painful left thumb (at the base joint) after about 30 minutes of playing - any advice on left hand position that could help with this? I think I'm moving my thumb more than I really need to open the pad. Anyone build their key up to be in closer contact with the pad of the thumb?
Thanks
 

jbtsax

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A lot depends on the design of the octave key, Some of the vintage designs with a small round thumb pad are especially uncomfortable for long periods of playing. As for the thumb movement, the thumb itself should be stationary on the thumb pad and just rock forward by bending at the knuckle joint to depress the key. Over time you will build up a callus which helps as well.
 

kevgermany

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Might be you're pressing too hard, possibly because the keys don't seal properly..
 

Colin the Bear

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Are you taking the weight of the insrument on your thumbs? It's usualy the right thumb that suffers.

Adjust the sling, crook and mouthpiece so that you can blow a C# no hands and play it there.
 

Jonesy

Old Fart At Play
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It's usualy the right thumb that suffers.

Adjust the sling, crook and mouthpiece so that you can blow a C# no hands and play it there.

I get painful thumbs through arthritis, and the above advice from Colin meant that I could play pain free for a lot longer.
It also means that you don't grip too hard with your top hand.
 

MandyH

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Are you taking the weight of the insrument on your thumbs? It's usualy the right thumb that suffers.

Adjust the sling, crook and mouthpiece so that you can blow a C# no hands and play it there.

In my first ever sax lesson, my teacher made me stand against a wall with the backs of my shoes touching the skirting board, and my shoulders touching the wall (ie bolt upright) she then got me to pull up the neck-strap until the sax mpc could be tipped straight into my mouth, using just a pivot motion by my right thumb.

I marked my alto neck-strap so I always get the sax in the right place.
 

ArtyLady

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Hi Shorty, long story but I started suffering pain in my left thumb base joint a few years back. I self diagnosed and decided it was because my thumb joint collapses down (on any sax I play - weak muscles the physio said).

Then the pain started to spread up further into my thumb. I rested it for a week or so and it improved but as soon as I played again it would really hurt spreading up my whole thumb. It was like that for about a year and I would play wearing a splint (awkward!) to try and keep the joint from collapsing. It didn't make any difference and the pain just kept getting worse.

Eventually it started to clunk and click until it seized up in a bent position and I would have to prize it open - very painful! So I decided to keep it splinted straight all the time (so then it was seized up straight!!) but I was still playing my sax o_O

Eventually I relented and went to the Doc who diagnosed trigger thumb and within a couple of weeks I had been referred and had a cortisone jab into the tendon sheath and then some physio exercises - job done - it completely recovered!

I had to go back and have it done again last year because it started to clunk a bit again, so since then I've been using a hand exerciser and although it still gets a bit achy, so far so good :D

Having said all that yours might not be that, but worth bearing in mind? Also I was told that was not caused by sax or flute playing and that I would have got it anyway :)
 
Last edited:

Shorty

Member
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Thanks for all of the responses - no trouble with right thumb; taking a closer look at the left one as I play I do hold the sax steady a lot with the left and have a lot of movement at the base of the thumb when depressing the octave key. Will work on just using the last joint and small movements!
 

Justin Chune

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Adjust the sling to perfection and let it take all of the weight. Only use your thumbs to balance the sax. Stay relaxed while you are playing as tension causes pain.

Jim.
 

Ivan

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I had a sore thumb thing on tenor but I rested the back of the bell against my thigh et voila no pain (and no gain but that's another story)
 

jbtsax

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Thanks for all of the responses - no trouble with right thumb; taking a closer look at the left one as I play I do hold the sax steady a lot with the left and have a lot of movement at the base of the thumb when depressing the octave key. Will work on just using the last joint and small movements!
I would still like to know which make and model of saxophone you are playing on to understand the ergonomics involved.
 

ArtyLady

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Sorry Mandy just realised someone else started this thread! will edit :oops:
 

Shorty

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I would still like to know which make and model of saxophone you are playing on to understand the ergonomics involved.
Yanigasawa alto 991 - I have very large hands, does anyone modify their octave keys to fit hand shape? I've seen palm key 'raisers' for sale.
 

Jonesy

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My belly is just the right size to put the right hand thumb hook on my belt.
 

jbtsax

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Yanigasawa alto 991 - I have very large hands, does anyone modify their octave keys to fit hand shape? I've seen palm key 'raisers' for sale.
That model has the big round LH thumb pad that should not create discomfort when playing with normal hand position and thumb movement which involves setting the "pad" of the thumb on the sax and just rocking/rolling it forward slightly to depress the octave touch. You might experiment with putting a patch of Dr. Scholls Moleskin Pad or similar product cut into a circle on the thumb pad to cushion the thumb to see if that helps.
 

ProfJames

Elementary member
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In the UK those pads are also used for "corns". A corn plaster available in most chemists
 

Shorty

Member
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31
That model has the big round LH thumb pad that should not create discomfort when playing with normal hand position and thumb movement which involves setting the "pad" of the thumb on the sax and just rocking/rolling it forward slightly to depress the octave touch. You might experiment with putting a patch of Dr. Scholls Moleskin Pad or similar product cut into a circle on the thumb pad to cushion the thumb to see if that helps.
Thanks - will try it out.
 

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