What’s out there now.
Many baritone saxophonists use a harness or an elaborate saxophone stand to help cope with the sheer weight and size of the big horn. There are a number of harnesses and special neck straps out there, and each has its own set of drawbacks. Using a saxophone stand while playing has some obvious problems. Awkward to handle, difficult to move, extremely inconvenient to transport, and lacking the option to play standing up are among them. Many traditional harnesses force you to hold the saxophone dead center instead of to the side as some people prefer. And even with some adjustment to get the horn in the right place players may find that they can’t move the saxophone without adjusting several straps. Placement aside, the next big concern is breathing constriction. Some harnesses fit well until the player takes in a large breath and then they find that the harness is constricting their lung expansion, or worse, their diaphragm. On a big horn that needs a big sound this is one of the worst handicaps a player can face. A number of players that use harnesses don’t actually prefer them, but find they need to use something other than a neck strap for physical reasons, either neck pain, or lower back pain.
New Solution, what is it?
Vandoren, the renowned reed, mouthpiece, ligature, and accessory maker has jumped into the fray with a new solution. Their offering is unlike most harnesses and neck straps out there now and features some very new and exciting solutions. For a full rundown of all of the features and a demonstration, check out the video from Vandoren below. The harness works by transferring the weight of the saxophone up through the shoulders, and uses a counter-lever system to absorb much of the weight to the belt where it unlikely to cause injury. The harness is adjustable in front just like a neck strap, and the slats in back automatically adjust for the player’s height. The belt strap is also adjustable and comes with an optional extension.
The harness folds up very impressively, and fits in its sleek carrying bag that will easily fit in to the bell of a baritone, and even a tenor saxophone.
Does it work?
In a word, yes. The way the harness suspends the saxophone allows just as much freedom of motion as a traditional neck strap, if not more, since weight distribution is not an issue. You can play with he horn in the front, to the side, lifted up, sideways… whatever. As for the weight distribution, the harness was very comfortable to use. I recently had a chance to use it on a 4 hour gig, standing the whole time and was pleased with how well I felt at the end. But the benefit really hit the next day when I put my horn together for rehearsal. As soon as I put my old neck strap on and clipped into the horn I immediately realized how much more comfortable the harness was.
The production manager of Vandoren explains and demonstrates the new harness:
JazzBariSax.com curator, Andrew Hadro takes the new harness out for a spin: