Right Hand Pain

by Megan

Hi! I've read your page about how to properly hold a clarinet: Right Hand Clarinet Position

I feel like I am doing everything right but, my right hand as well as my lower left arm will hurt painfully after just ten minutes of practice. I just got a new clarinet (Buffet e11), and I used to use a plastic B12. My private teacher says the pain has nothing to do with my new clarinet though.

My fingers are as relaxed as possible but my thumb really hurts and causes my other fingers to be a bit strained. I really need help because sometimes notes won't come out when I use the keys down there.
Is there anything I can do to endure this pain so that I can at least get through a 30 minute lesson? Would weight lifting help? Are there any finger exercises you recommend?


-Megan F.


Hello Megan,

I’m glad you’ve visited the Right Hand Clarinet Position page. Congratulations on your new clarinet. The bad news for you is that not every new clarinet is adjusted perfectly. It is worth a trip to an instrument repair person. If I were you, write down a list of all of the notes that will not come out when you push down keys and let the repair person check it out.

Has your private teacher blown through your clarinet? If so, you might need another clarinetist to check it out. If not, you really need them to give an honest opinion of it.

I believe your right hand pinky keys, operating the pads over the tone holes, are not completely sealing. You probably have to push harder to get the notes out. Small adjustments to these keys, by a professional, can make it better. If your lower joint on the clarinet is not sealing, it can make your right hand work harder and induce pain over a certain time.

Another thought is that the Buffet E11 is wooden and heavier than your plastic clarinet. It could take some time for you to get used to the new weight.

You should not have to endure pain to play clarinet. For many people, repetitive motion in the hands (or any part of the body) can cause major damage. Simple examples are typing on a computer keyboard or moving a computer mouse. Do you think people have to weight lift to get stronger at those activities? I would say no. However, taking proper rests to relieve any pain is a proper step. You can read more about this here and see several more links on the “resting” subject: Resting During Practice.

Another option is to get a Clarinet Neck Strap? This will take a good deal of pressure off of the right hand. These are not too expensive.

Major and minor scales are the best finger exercises. Continue to have the goal of light fingers playing scales, arpeggios, and thirds, etc…

So, to recap:

1. Have your clarinet teacher play your clarinet again
2. Have a repair person look at the clarinet
3. Read through my pages talking about taking proper rests while practicing - Resting During Practice
4. Look into the Clarinet Neck Strap
5. Practice scales (here is a good place to read about Scale Books)

Best of luck to you and let me know if any of this helps you.


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