A few years ago I tripled my daily playing hours. With three hours of practicing, countless hours of reed making, rehearsals and performances, my right arm staged a rebellion.
Pain can be a fantastic motivator. Truly, this was the beginning of my interest in oboe health. With the help of a physical therapist and my professor’s recommendation to read Oboemotions by Stephen Caplan (to be discussed in a future post), I was able to identify my postural issues and work to correct my body alignment. But it wasn’t enough.
My poor thumb needed extra reinforcement. This is where the Kooiman came to play. The design of the thumb rests move the weight distribution of the instrument from the Interphalangeal (IP) Joint
closer to the Metacarpophalangeal (MP) Joint, where the metacarpal bone of the thumb attaches to the trapezium bone of the wrist. If you press down on these two joints, you will most likely find that the MP Joint is much sturdier, especially if you have loose ligaments. Moving the weight of the instrument closer to the MP joint can reduce strain in the soft tissue of the thumb, subsequent inflammation and possible repetitive use injuries.
There are two Kooiman thumb rest designs for oboists, the Etude 3.
and the Oboe.
Due to my student and parental status at the time of purchase, I chose to give the $40 Etude3 a try before investing in the $270 Oboe model. Three years later, I still use the Etude3 and love it. The Oboe model does have a place, especially for an oboist with long fingers because it is more capable of fine tuned adjustment. But for this post I will focus on my experience with the Etude3.
First and foremost, if you are not confident in your instrument maintenance skills, seek out the nearest oboe technician for help with installation.
If you look closely you will notice that the holes of the original Loree AK thumb rest are further apart than the holes on the Kooiman thumb plate.
The instructions recommend drilling the holes in the instrument. I would like to propose a better, less anxious option. Thanks to the inspiration of my genius technician, we drilled the plastic of mounting plate instead. It has been a successful solution.
The instructions say to use screws included in the package. I highly recommend you use the original screws from your instrument to prevent the holes from being stripped and the need to drill deeper holes to accommodate longer screws.
There are three ways to adjust the placement of the thumb rest for ideal hand positioning.
- Three different holes on the mounting plate (see photo above.)
- When the thumb rest slides onto the mounting plate from above, it will click into place multiple times, once at each groove.
- The height of the swiveling attachment of the thumb rest can be adjusted by turning the screw underneath.
Most likely, it will take a few weeks to get comfortable using the Etude3. Be patient and adjust the height of the attachment as well as the placement on your thumb as needed. Now, after long term use, my thumb rest is just a mindless extension of my arm.
Most simply put, the Etude3 has proven to be a valuable tool for those looking for relief from oboe induced thumb pain and tenderness.
Health and Healing,