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Players are becoming ever more aware of the problems caused by excessive tension and physical strain when holding and playing the trombone especially in situations such as marching or simply performing for extended periods without a break. It can affect a wide range of players, from young children to those with conditions such as arthritis. The Michael Rath hand support system is a very simple yet very effective way of reducing, and in many cases eliminating, physical tension in the hand, arm and shoulder.

Musically, the benefits of being able to perform free from unnecessary tension can be considerable and often this can also lead to a reduction of excessive pressure on the embouchure.

Attaching to the main bell stay of the instrument, the pad of the Michael Rath hand support fits snugly across the back of the left hand, providing all the necessary support needed to eliminate tension from the fingers. When properly adjusted a player can even remove their fingers from the slide stay completely leaving the hand support to take the full weight of the instrument.

The Michael Rath hand support has been designed and successfully tested with a number of different makes and models of trombone, in addition to all Rath instruments, and, as well as its popular use with bass and contra bass trombones, the hand support has proven to be equally as successful with Bb/F tenor and even straight tenor trombones.

The Michael Rath hand support comes as a very simple kit which is easy to fit and adjust though care should be taken to not over tighten the screws as this may damage the bell stay. For Michael Rath hand support assembly see our fitting instructions

 

REVIEW: RATH HANDBRACE

I started playing the trombone at the tender age of eight. My first instrument was a small-bore children’s trombone but at the age of around thirteen I was fortunate enough to move onto a large bore professional standard trombone with a trigger. I loved this instrument and played it regularly through my teens and early twenties. I played in a wide variety of ensembles but the ones I enjoyed the most were my local authority youth brass band and a local amateur brass ensemble which was called The English Brass Group. When I started university, I wanted to continue playing with other brass players and so I founded The University of Warwick Brass Society. However, later in my twenties I started to find it very difficult to hold the trombone in my left hand. I suspected that the trigger was causing the problem and perhaps being slim build, the weight was too much for me. So, I decided to exchange my trombone for another large bore professional standard instrument but this time without a trigger. This seemed to work for me for a while. But later into adult life, I started experiencing uncomfortable symptoms in my left hand again.

 

During brass band rehearsals, I would get pins and needles in my left hand and finger tips. This was followed by numbness and tingling at night. The more I played the trombone, the worse it got and I noticed that there were signs of muscle wastage on the palm of my left hand. I sought medical attention and was diagnosed with carpal tunnel syndrome by the hand unit at my local hospital. It seems that whilst holding a trombone, I had been crushing a nerve which was getting damaged. I was given the option of surgery which I am still considering, but in the meantime looked at other options for musical output. For the last two years I have been playing an alternative brass instrument (with valves) that doesn’t cause any left-hand strain.

 

More recently however, I have discovered Michael Rath’s hand support. At first, I was a bit sceptical because I had already tried a hand support made by another brand to no avail. But, I have now fitted the Rath hand support to my trombone and I am delighted to report that I can hold it comfortably again. I would say that my hands are smaller than the average trombonist’s and I have fitted it quite tightly against the back of my hand. It has enabled me to loosen my grip on the instrument significantly and for moments at a time I can take the whole weight against the back of the hand rather than down the palm of the hand or wrist. I am now looking forward to having many opportunities to play again, perhaps for short periods to begin with.

 

I am curious about how many other trombonists have had similar issues. After all, the trombone is not an ergonomically designed instrument and most players would not have the opportunity to acquire a bespoke instrument. I highly recommend Michael Rath’s hand support for any trombonist needing to manage carpal tunnel syndrome or even trying to prevent it from developing. I know that the other trombonists in my current band are curious about trying it for themselves. Thank you Michael Rath for coming up with such an ingenious solution!

 

Sarah Sterne

Chairperson, The Putney and Wimbledon Brass Band

 

Handbrace detail

How to order

If you’re in the UK, please contact us to order a hand support, or alteratively if you’re outside the UK, please contact your nearest Rath dealer .

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