Slip sliding away: Taming wobbly recorders with thumb rests

Does your recorder threaten to slip out of your hands as you play? Having (or feeling like you have) a wobbly recorder is a  very common problem, and can cause players to use excessive amounts of muscle tension in their fingers to try to grip the recorder and stop it sliding away.

There are a couple of different things you can try to solve the problem: changing the way you hold the recorder, and adding a bit of support to the instrument. Let’s examine both options.

1. Holding the instrument.

When a student has trouble with a slippy instrument, very often they are holding it quite low and close to their body. They may even be lowering themselves down to the recorder, rather than raising it to their lips.

Spend a little time assessing where you hold your instrument. Try raising the end so that you are closer to parallel with the floor than perpendicular. And make sure you are using your arms to raise the instrument up to your mouth.

2. Adding support to the instrument.

Some people get very sniffy about adding thumbrests to their recorders, as though using one is tantamount to admitting defeat or inability. But I strongly encourage you to think differently. Adding a thumbrest to your recorder adds a level of comfort and security; it is not for nothing that Suzuki Method teachers recommend even descant recorders have thumbrests. 

On a purely physical level, you give yourself a ledge to rest on your right thumb which helps you to stabilise the recorder. This means that you’ll be far less tempted to use tension in your fingers to hold the instrument steady. On a  psychological level, you feel less worried about whether the recorder will slip, which means you’ll have more brain space to think about the music you’re playing.

thumb rest screwed into recorder
Thumb rest screwed into a wooden recorder. It’s very adjustable.

You can buy plastic thumbrests for plastic recorders; there are thumbrests that you can stick or screw onto wooden instruments (I recommend you send your wooden instrument to a professional if you want a rest screwed on, so that it is properly fitted). You can also be creative: I have used  O rings from a plumbing supply shop on my recorder, and often resort to a piece of Blu Tack stuck onto the instrument!


An o ring functioning as a thumb rest
An O ring functioning as a thumb rest! Even a little support helps.

Give it a try, and see how you get on. No one needs to put up with a wobbly recorder!