The Kooiman FORZA thumb rest
Making playing easier It's actually surprising that no-one thought of this before: Saxophone players use a neck strap to carry the weight of their instrument, so the right thumb shouldn't play any role in that sense. Still, the traditional thumb rest looks as if it should. The Dutch instrument technician Ton Kooiman designed an ergonomic alternative.
The Kooiman Forza Thumb Rest, a thumb rest that actually supports the thumb.
The main thing a saxophone thumb rest should do, is offer the right hand thumb a point of reference, allowing you to easily and correctly place your fingers on the right hand keys. The traditional thumb rest does so, of course, but the design tends to make you force your thumb under the large hook. This pushes the joint that connects your thumb to your hand downward, which in turns limits the freedom of movement of the other fingers. On top of that, the pressure exerted by the traditional thumb rest tends to cause a painful callous on the thumb, especially if you play a lot.
The correct position
If you use your left hand to vertically hold a tube in front of you, and you place your relaxed right hand loosely around the tube, you will see that the soft pad of your thumb, opposite the nail, points slightly downward. Ideally, this is the way you should hold your thumb when you play. The traditional thumb doesn't allow for this position - but the new Forza Thumb Rest does. The concave design also offers you plenty of room to vary the position of your thumb and to find the best way to position your right hand. What's more, the Forza can be adjusted to fully support the thumb from the inside: the thumb rest now makes the thumb rest, rather than having the instrument resting on it. Of course, the rest has been designed so that it prevents your thumb from sliding upward when operating the side keys.
A better, relaxed position of the right hand thumb enhances both the relaxation and the freedom of movement of the other fingers, making technical phrases easier to play. The Forza also reduces tired fingers and other symptoms of the right hand, and callouses will be prevented.
Initially, the Forza was designed in response to players who had developed serious symptoms. The current model is not only intended to help prevent such problems, but mainly to make playing easier and less stressful. Players in any style and at almost any level have experienced the difference - and they all love the Forza. Replacing your traditional thumb rest by a Kooiman Forza Thumb Rest couldn't be easier: you simply remove your old thumb rest and use its screw to fix the Forza to your horn.
Kooiman also makes ergonomic thumb rests for flutes (the Prima), clarinets (the professional Maestro and the Etude), and oboes (the Oboe).