How to Avoid That Pain in the Neck…Some Tips for Saxophonists
“I’m getting headaches when I play for a while.”
“The back of my neck hurts all the time.”
“My upper back and shoulder blades hurt.”
These are some of the complaints that some saxophonists have said at some point in their playing careers. These pains are not exclusive for beginners; some professionals I gig with have said the same things to me. In fact, I didn’t realize my own headaches were coming from my own neck strap until my colleagues spoke about their own situation.
Many beginning students slump in their chairs because they can’t adjust their neck strap to bring the instrument higher. They end up ducking their chin to try to reach the mouthpiece, instead of bringing the mouthpiece to them. They also slump because it is less painful on the neck, especially if their strap has no padding.
I have always known about the importance of having a padded neck strap; one that helps to take a lot of the weight of the instrument off the neck and right thumb. I have always used them and have recommended them for my students (and still do).
So why doesn’t the padded neck strap alleviate this problem? Not every saxophonist has this issue. The first thing to look at is posture. Are you seated or standing up straight with your shoulders back and relaxed, or are you hunched over? When your shoulders move forward, more stress is felt in the upper back and shoulder blades. More weight is felt on the back of the neck as a result. Your shoulders may be back, but are they down and relaxed? Shoulders that are up towards your ears also put undue stress on the neck and upper back, as well as affecting breathing.
Here’s a picture of good seated posture:
The next area to examine is the quality of your neck strap. Many times, when a student rents a saxophone, a stock neck strap is placed in the case. This strap is basically just a strap; there’s no padding at all. This I feel is not sufficient for beginning saxophonists. Read more…