Woodwind & Brasswind Contributing Writer - Greg Vail
The new Vandoren Saxophone Harness looks to be a great option for those having neck issues from standard straps, and those looking for a better harness.
I have a few saxophone harness/straps now, and have learned first hand what the benefits and limitations are with the harness. Every sax harness is designed with the same basic premise; remove weight and stress from the neck by shifting it to the shoulders. The problem with many of the traditional harness's now available is: they are very uncomfortable to wear for very long, they restrict diaphragm muscles making breathing for those large instruments more difficult, they have a short, center chest cable hanging off the harness that make off axis playing an issue, they can require a few attempts at getting them on, and they feel more crunched over. The benefit of these sax harness's may be offset by a few new issues they introduce to playing the saxophone.
The Vandoren Harness has addressed many of these concerns by developing a harness that takes the pressure off the chest area and centers to weight lower, along the waste and mid shoulders. The chest is totally free from that bound feeling. The waist is familiar pants and belts in normal clothing, and there is no feeling of stress from the harness strap at the waste at all. I love the adjustment space around the waste, and this was my first concern when I saw this harness. I am happy to say it fit great with plenty of room to spare.
The weight of the saxophone seems to be distributed along the shoulder blades and shoulders, and the feeling of freedom around the chest is amazing. Larger saxophones will never feel weightless because a bari sax is just big and heavy. But, the weight shift away from the neck is always a great choice, and the shoulders are a much stronger area of the human body with less concern for damage than a neck might be, with the central nervous system running though it.
Getting the harness into proper adjustment is important, and each player will find a combination that will work best for his or her shape. Setting it up for alto or tenor is easy, but baritone takes a little more experimentation since the bari is so much heavier.
I like the fact that it can be worn under a coat, and it looks jut like a standard sax strap at that point. Some uses may require some planning since a marching band uniform will require the harness to be completely visible.
The harness works well, sitting or standing. With a long throw strap and hook in front of you, you can comfortably use a playing position in front of the body, or off to the side. The backside braces are hard but flexible plastic and sitting with the harness on is much more comfortable than I first though it might be. I think this may well be the only saxophone strap to ever encourage better posture, since the center of gravity seems to rest on the shoulders, pressing them forward and fighting the traditional slouch so many sax players have.
I believe that anybody with neck or back issues would benefit from trying out this harness. There is nothing like it on the market and it does deliver hours of heavy saxophone use, with no physical cost to your spine. I love my new Vandoren Saxophone Harness and I will continue pain free tenor and bari sax playing for years to come.