While playing your saxophone may be a joy to you, this instrument may give you some physical grief if you play or perform regularly. Some players start to develop pains in the neck and upper back; others get headaches. The good news is, you don't have to give up playing the instrument you love. You just need to look at how you support your sax and your body when you play and, if necessary, make a couple of tweaks to make playing more comfortable for you.
How Do You Support Your Saxophone?
When you got your saxophone, it may have come with a simple neck strap. This strap is designed to take some of the strain of the instrument when you play so that it doesn't put unnecessary pressure on your upper body.
While basic string supports can help bear the weight of your saxophone, they may not be enough to stop you from getting pain. You may find that using an adjustable padded neck strap or even a harness strap is more effective, especially if you're playing a larger instrument or play for long periods of time. Padding makes basic neck straps more comfortable to wear; harnesses level your sax load more evenly around your neck and back. Both options may reduce the stress on your body and go some way to dealing with your pain.
What's Your Posture Like?
The way you stand or sit when you play the saxophone can also cause neck and back problems. It's worth thinking about your posture to see if this may be the cause of your problems. For example, you may naturally dip your head and neck into your sax when you play, especially if you're really into the music. Pushing your head and neck forward to play may, however, put a strain on your neck and shoulder muscles over time. The same goes if you find yourself hunching your shoulders when you play.
It's better to get into the habit of keeping your neck, head and shoulders relaxed in a straight line with your back, bringing the saxophone to your mouth rather than the other way round. Standing or sitting straight may also help and has the added bonus of improving your breathing technique. If you squish your upper body because of your body's positioning, you may impede your breathing a little.
Bear in mind that you may need to work on both your strap support and posture to finally eliminate your aches and pains. Good posture only really works if your strap does its job and vice versa. For example, you may need to tweak the adjustment of your strap or harness to make sure that your instrument sits close to your mouth so you don't have to bend to play.