I first approached Ton Kooiman to ask if his clever clarinet thumb rests would work with the soprano saxophone. Like most soprano players I know, I have acute problems with pain in my right thumb and wrist; transferring the weight down to the joint of thumb and first finger might have been a good solution. Ton explained why this wasn’t practical but that I should try his Forza Thumb rest.
I managed to fit the Forza to my Selmer MK VI tenor easily. The first thing I noticed was that it allows the thumb to lie in a natural position; at the same level as the first finger, as it would if you were holding a paper cup full of hot coffee! The thumb rest of most saxophones forces the thumb downwards. Indeed, my perceptions of most saxophone design is ‘the tone holes must go here, here and here so we will just have to stick the thumb rest wherever there is space left for it!’ I bought a second Forza for my Yanagisawa curved soprano and found that I could position my thumb over the top of the F# trill key tone hole; just where it should be. Because of the positioning and shape of the Forza, the thumb is concentrating on pushing forward rather than upwards which is exactly what it should do! The ‘lift’ is provided by the sling! There is no need for the ‘hook’ as on conventional plastic thumb rests. The Forza offers an increased element of flexibility to my overall playing posture. It is not cheap but it is beautifully made and set against the cost of a professional saxophone worth every penny. Indeed, it should be standard on all new saxophones! I have been using the Forza for over two years now and haven’t given it a second thought! Just what is required from such an important ‘man-machine’ interface! However, I’d still like to find a soprano saxophone which weights the same as a clarinet!
Mike Hall is Professional saxophonist based in Manchester, UK. He is Head of Jazz Studies and Tutor in Jazz Saxophone at the Royal Northern College of Music. mikehall.co.uk