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 Right Hand Tensed Fingers Solution?
Author: orichic 
Date:   2017-03-30 01:22
Attachment:  IMG_6892.JPG (333k)
Attachment:  IMG_6896.JPG (316k)

I'm currently 21, 22 in May. A Music Ed Major in a state college playing Clarinet. I have an issue where my hands are unnaturally smaller than the average male (A minor birth defect I've been calling it) so when I play, my right hand has always had an issue being tense, especially with my fingers and not being able to naturally curve them when playing a simple long tone (Forget runs, can't do them). My Private Teacher and I have been trying this year to fix this issue like buying a neck strap or pushing my arms more out in a marching band style or putting more/less fingers on the keyholes but no matter what, they just can't relax and curve properly. My left hand is not at all an issue and curves just fine and you can tell my runs on left hand is much cleaner than my right hand... Does anyone have a solution for this or know of anyone in a similar situation? I worry I may have to drop myself as a Clarinet Major because of this issue. I'm currently playing Solo De Concours and the run are very dirty with my issue.

Decade long Clarinet Player currently in college studying Music Education

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 Re: Right Hand Tensed Fingers Solution?
Author: Liquorice 
Date:   2017-03-30 01:36

Check your right thumb (can't see it in the photos). Is it locked in extension or slightly curved? It might have nothing to do with your issue, but a locked right thumb can cause a lot of unnecessary tension in the other fingers.

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 Re: Right Hand Tensed Fingers Solution?
Author: orichic 
Date:   2017-03-30 01:58
Attachment:  IMG_6897.JPG (201k)

Now that you say that, yeah my Right Thumb is locked and tensed as well

Decade long Clarinet Player currently in college studying Music Education

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 Re: Right Hand Tensed Fingers Solution?
Author: Chris P 
Date:   2017-03-30 02:13

Can you position your thumb so it's not so far round to the left? See if it's more comfortable lining your thumbnail up with the thumbrest so your thumb is directly opposite your fingers.

And also try fitting something to the body below the thumbrest to effectively increase the thickness of the joint to open up and relax your hand and fingers more. You can use cork or high density foam glued to the wood with contact adhesive as that can be cleaned up easily and won't damage the wood when you need to remove it.

Another thing that can help is to take most of the weight of the clarinet off your right arm - try playing with the bell resting on a music stand to see if that makes a difference (adjust the stand so the clarinet is at the right playing height and angle for you).

If that helps, then consider using a support whilst playing such as an RDG 'Bhob' - that's a telescopic support that clips onto the thumbrest (you may need to get an oboe one fitted that has a ring soldered to it or have someone make and solder a metal ring to your thumbrest) and the telescopic section rests on the chair cushion or in a block that attaches to your belt so you can use the support whilst standing.

Former oboe finisher
Howarth of London
1998 - 2010

The opinions I express are my own.

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 Re: Right Hand Tensed Fingers Solution?
Author: orichic 
Date:   2017-03-30 02:20

Can you show me picture examples so I can mimic better what you're saying? Greatly Appreciate it

Decade long Clarinet Player currently in college studying Music Education

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 Re: Right Hand Tensed Fingers Solution?
Author: Fuzzy 
Date:   2017-03-30 02:20

I don't know which way is officially "proper" - but my thumb is held more horizontal (perpendicular) across the instrument than how your thumb appears in the photos, and I "roll" my thumb upwards to hit the register key. If I swing my thumb down to a more vertical position to match your photos, then my fingers straighten out more too. Just an observation for what it's worth.


[Edit:] (Of course, it would help out tons if I actually learned the difference between left and right - sorry about that.)  :)

Post Edited (2017-03-30 02:39)

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 Re: Right Hand Tensed Fingers Solution?
Author: Tony F 
Date:   2017-03-30 02:24

Have you considered using a Ridenour thumb saddle? this will provide a bit more bulk to the thumb rest. I found it useful when I had hand problems. Just google it. Also, there is the Ton Kooiman adjustable thumb rest, which transfers the weight of the instrument to the hand rather than just the thumb. Again, just google it.

Tony F.

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 Re: Right Hand Tensed Fingers Solution?
Author: orichic 
Date:   2017-03-30 03:10

I've never really hard of such a thumb test but I'll look into it. But yeah, I can say now the thumb is the issue with this. I still don't know for certain how to position it properly to be comfortable and affective so I'll have to ask my studio professor

Decade long Clarinet Player currently in college studying Music Education

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 Re: Right Hand Tensed Fingers Solution?
Author: kdk 2017
Date:   2017-03-30 03:38

Especially in your second picture, it looks to me as though your left hand knuckles are hyperextended (locked) and not curved outward, either. Everyone has different hand positions and in general whatever works, works.

But I can't play with my fingers locked inward as yours are even on your left hand, and much of the time when my students are having difficulty with fast passagework, getting their knuckles to unlock helps a great deal. I try in my own playing to bring my finger pads straight downward with no sideways direction toward the hole. That means a vertical finger path, which you can't do with straight or hyperextended fingers - there's necessarily a degree of rotational movement because straightened fingers must pivot from whichever knuckle is actually flexed (curved).

All of that said, if the problem is your pinky reach, it is possible to get a skilled repair tech to refashion the keys to make the reach easier. I had a student once who had a much more exaggerated congenital malformation of the last two fingers of his right hand. Mike Hammer, who does my maintenance and repair work, rebuilt some of the keys (I forget by now what exactly he did) to make it possible for my student to reach them. It's not inexpensive work, and probably should only be done on a clarinet you intend to keep for a long time, but it might make life easier if none of the more accessible accommodations already suggested are helpful.


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 Re: Right Hand Tensed Fingers Solution?
Author: echi85 
Date:   2017-03-30 05:10

In my opinion, the problem is caused by the shape of your right hand. It really should be like you are forming a very curved letter C as if you were grabbing something with the tips of your fingers. This means you would cover the holes with the part of your finger closer to the nail than it looks like now. If your first knuckles are collapsed, you are out of a position.

A good exercise would be to take something like a sharpie or mouthpiece cap and put it in between your thumb and first finger on your right hand. Practice for a while and then take it away, the goal being to not drop the object. Eventually, you should move towards something thinner, like a pencil to increase the curve of your hand.

All of this applies to your left hand as well.

As for the pinkies, you should be hitting the edge of each key with the tip of your finger. This will give you the most leverage with the least amount of force. Again, knuckles up.

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 Re: Right Hand Tensed Fingers Solution?
Author: ClarinettyBetty 
Date:   2017-03-31 00:43

I agree with the others; your hand position looks off.

I have small hands too (most 6th graders' hands are larger than mine) but reaching everything has never been a problem.

Fwiw, when your future students complain about not being able to reach the keys, put your hand on theirs and say "See? Mine are small. I can do it, so you can too!" Never hear a peep after that. 😉

Eb: 1972 Buffet BC20
Bb: Selmer Paris Presence
A: Selmer Paris Presence
Bass: 1977 LeBlanc


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 Re: Right Hand Tensed Fingers Solution?
Author: jonnyswife 
Date:   2017-04-01 13:40

I use a ton kooiman thumbrest which I have found helpful in freeing my RH fingers and stabilising the instrument generally. This is particularly helpful if using double lip.

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