Review by Andrew Roberts, originally published in CASS magazine, Spring 2001
TON KOOIMAN THUMB REST
I seem to have a reputation for being into gadgets. Having experienced some difficulty with the weight and stability of the instrument, partly through injury, I knew that I had to try the new Kooiman Etude thumb-rest.
When I received the thumb-rest, I found it easy to fit it to the instrument. One simply has to unscrew the original, attach the plate with the screws provided into the existing holes (the original screw heads are not big enough for the job) and then the thumb-rest simply slides down onto the plate. It is easily removed for packing in the case. The position is adjustable and the hook, which actually takes the weight, can be swung around for further adjustment, though you will need a small Allen key to do this.
The rest itself has two main advantages. Firstly the weight of the instrument is transferred to the first joint of the right thumb. This is a much more sensible position as the instrument feels more secure and allows the player to relax their grip. Secondly the rest also makes the instrument wider so the hand is slightly more open. In this position the fingers feel much freer, and stability is improved. It will definitely feel strange at first, however, it is worth the effort to get used to the new position. One may even find that it is slightly uncomfortable at first, as the muscle groups recruitment is altered slightly. This soon disappears and one is left with a feeling of freedom, which is a joy to anyone who finds the clarinet to be heavy and awkward to play.
Some players look on such ‘gadgets’ as pointless as they have never experienced a problem with their playing. It is curious to me therefore, that many such players find it necessary to rest the instrument on their knee, even when standing! I had tried one of the original aluminium rests (Maestro) a few years earlier. This design has more adjustability, but in principal is the same as the Etude. It is beautifully made in high quality materials and extremely comfortable. With so much adjustment available it should be possible to accommodate any hand shape with comfort. The aluminium version will retail at just under £100, the Etude is extremely good value at under £20.
The web-site refers to the hook as being made of thermal plastic. In reality the hooks are not, at present, made in this useful material. Ton explained to me that there were too many concerns about having to use very hot water to help mould the shape. I have experimented in the past with this material, to make a thumb support, and have now used a small amount to modify the Etude to fit the exact shape of my thumb. With this ‘improvement’ I am sure that I will continue to use this excellent design.
The only other improvement I would like, would be a ring to attach a sling. Perhaps we will see this on a mark 2 model? You can check out the web-site for yourself at www.tonkooiman.com