Doctor of Musical Arts (DMA)
Clarinetists bear the weight of their instrument on their right thumb using a small metal attachment called a thumb-rest. The soprano clarinet weighs only two pounds, but many hours of playing can cause general discomfort to severe overuse injury throughout the upper right limb. There is a debate within the clarinet community about the best position of the thumb-rest, yet no quantitative research has been conducted on this issue. This document establishes a historical and modern context for the use of the clarinet thumb-rest. It reviews traditional and non-traditional medical approaches that individuals use to help clarinetists with supporting the instrument. This document presents data and analysis from an electromyography &40;EMG%41; study of 20 healthy student and professional clarinet players. It discusses current approaches to supporting the instrument with after-market products and modifications to the instruments and addresses the implications for the pedagogy of clarinet right-hand support. Surface EMG recordings of superficial muscles that control the right thumb, wrist, and arm were taken during held note and finger exercises trials at three different thumb-rest position heights. Hand size and experience level were considered. Researchers found a significant main effect of rest position in the biceps brachii, abductor pollicis brevis, abductor pollicis longus, extensor carpi radialis and flexor carpi ulnaris. There was no main effect of hand size in the muscles. Because opposing muscles had contrasting patterns of activation regardless of hand size, there is no conclusive support to change the standard position for thumb rests. Some interactions between variables such as exercise number, position, and size enrich the understanding of the biomechanics of clarinet playing. Future research avenues are proposed.
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Young, Kathryn Elise, "Clarinet Thumb-rest Function: The Pedagogy of Positioning and Electromyography Evidence" (2014). LSU Doctoral Dissertations. 691.