The Thumbport - Pros and Cons of a Flute Modification Device
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Flute playing-related musculoskeletal conditions have been reported in a number of studies in recent decades (Fain 2010; Fry 1988; Norris 1996; Spence 2001; Thompson 2008). Performing arts medicine experts recommend various approaches to preventing playing-related discomfort or pain, which include improving posture and ergonomic set-up, good general fitness and conditioning, managing stress and anxiety, reassessing technique, ensuring adequate rest breaks, and gradually increasing playing intensity or load (Brandfonbrener 1991; Dawson 2008; Foxman and Burgel 2006; Lederman 2003; Llobet and Odam 2007). Instrument modifications or adaptations are suggested as one way of achieving a better match of the instrument to the physical characteristics of the musician, or a more ergonomically sound set-up (Dawson 2008; Horvath 2009; Llobet and Odam 2007). One possibility for modifying the flute is by using a flute rest, support, platform, or pad. Llobet and Odam (2007, p. 48) state that such a device "prevents the flute rolling and helps the hand maintain the correct position". Dawson (2008, p.43) suggests thumb supports "distribute the instrument's weight over a larger area of skin and protect both the skin and underlying nerves from excessive pressure". This article will focus on one of these thumb rests, called the Thumbport, designed by Taiwanese-American flutist Ho-Fan Lee.
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