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Beginner Help! Head/neck pain from playing my new Dolnet tenor!

TimG

New Member
Messages
8
Hello,

I'm wondering if anyone else has experienced something like this:

I have been playing a (Yamaha) alto for about 3 years always with the aim of also playing the tenor. About a year ago I bought a lovely sounding Dolnet M74 (the one with the offset bell just like Pete had on the site for a time).

But every time I blow this new horn I get a headache the next day, which is really intense - meaning like you would not want to have it.

I bought a jazzlabs saxholder thinking to take the weight off my neck but it doesn't help. (The horn feels quite heavy though it weighs around 5 kg which I take to be within the normal range.)

So my latest guess is that the problem is to do with how I am blowing the instrument. But I really don't know.

Any thoughts/suggestions would be very welcome. Otherwise the only thing is to let this great dark-sounding horn go.

Tim Gordon
 

Stephen Howard

Well-Known Member
Messages
3,012
Locality
UK
Are you sure it's 5kg? Most tenors hover around the 3.5kg mark.

It's more than likely going to be posture-related (though the offset bell probably isn't going to help matters).
I would suggest scouring the interweb for some simple neck/shoulder exercises (neck rolls, arm swings etc.) and do some work on making your upper body more supple.
I would also recommend having a look at a 'judo back fall' - a sort of backwards roll. These are excellent for keeping the spine in good shape...though you'd need to run through a good few neck rolls etc. beforehand to warm things up.

Here are a couple of videos that should give you a few pointers. I use these warm-up exercises regularly and consequently hardly ever suffer from neck and back strain, even when I'm toting a bari.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5emQtbU0-mA

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gjDIpUgeZd8
 

ProfJames

Elementary member
Messages
12,069
Locality
Berkshire, UK
By the way...........make sure the stage is big enough before you start your gig, then give it the full Judo back roll..!! I have heard about crowd surfing but Steve.............
 

TimG

New Member
Messages
8
Thanks very much for your reply Steve. I hadn't been expecting a reply from the author of my Haynes manual - which is a beautiful piece of work in itself.

I will check out the videos after work and maybe put the Dolnet on the scales again. I have a feeling it may have been silver plated which I guess may add weight.

Tim
 

BeBopSop

Member
Messages
274
Locality
worcester england
Hello,

I'm wondering if anyone else has experienced something like this:

I have been playing a (Yamaha) alto for about 3 years always with the aim of also playing the tenor. About a year ago I bought a lovely sounding Dolnet M74 (the one with the offset bell just like Pete had on the site for a time).

But every time I blow this new horn I get a headache the next day, which is really intense - meaning like you would not want to have it.

I bought a jazzlabs saxholder thinking to take the weight off my neck but it doesn't help. (The horn feels quite heavy though it weighs around 5 kg which I take to be within the normal range.)

So my latest guess is that the problem is to do with how I am blowing the instrument. But I really don't know.

Any thoughts/suggestions would be very welcome. Otherwise the only thing is to let this great dark-sounding horn go.

Tim Gordon

I have the same probs with my alto, it is the preasure on the back of the neck and top of the shoulder where it joins your neck, if you press hard with 2 fingers on the neck shoulder join area,it hurts like a head ache, In my opinion it is best to take all the weight away from the neck and shoulder, I use this one below, although it is elasticated it still pulls on the neck but is better than the standard strap, have you considered a harness?
DV016_Jpg_Large_367524.001.566_black_x-long.jpg


202128.jpg
this looks like it should distribute the weight more....
 
Last edited by a moderator:

TimG

New Member
Messages
8
Thanks, I will look this up. Not sure that the neck strap is the issue though as the Jazzlabs saxholder seems very good in terms of weight distribution.
 

ProfJames

Elementary member
Messages
12,069
Locality
Berkshire, UK
If you buy a Saxystrap and it doesn't help I will buy it from you!
 

Stephen Howard

Well-Known Member
Messages
3,012
Locality
UK
Thanks very much for your reply Steve. I hadn't been expecting a reply from the author of my Haynes manual - which is a beautiful piece of work in itself.

I will check out the videos after work and maybe put the Dolnet on the scales again. I have a feeling it may have been silver plated which I guess may add weight.

Cheers!

If there's that much silver on the horn you can sell it for silver scrap and buy two decent ones ;)
 

BigMartin

Well-Known Member
Messages
3,958
Locality
Manchester, UK
Trouble with those Neotech straps is there's enough bounce in them to disturb your embouchure. I used to use them but it really started to be a problem. (Luckily for me I don't have neck problems---lower back is another story, but that's more a question of posture---so a cheap Rico sling works fine on tenor).
 
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Stephen Howard

Well-Known Member
Messages
3,012
Locality
UK
Trouble with those Neotech straps is there's enough bounce in them to disturb your embouchure. I used to use them but it really stared to be a problem. (Luckily for me I don't have neck problems---lower back is another story, but that's more a question of posture---so a cheap Rico sling works fine on tenor).

I completely agree...
If a horn weighs 3.5kg then it'll weigh that whatever you hang it off - there's no strap out there that will reduce the weight.
Some will distribute it better than others, which obviously helps, but if they do so at the expense of providing a stable platform for the embouchure then I really don't see the point.
 

Kingsleyhk

Senior Member
Messages
507
Locality
Nr. Bandung, Indonesia
Try a Cebulla. I don't have - touch wood - any neck/back problems but I do find it more comfortable than any others I've tried.
 

noelweston

Member
Messages
49
Locality
Hessle, East Yorks
Been there, done this. When I was playing a lot of tenor (Selmer SA80II), I would routinely get backache and headaches following a gig. In the end, a few things worked for me:

1) A full harness (e.g. http://www.gear4music.com/Woodwind-Brass-Strings/Neotech-Soft-Saxophone-Harness/E3V - this is the best one I've found) did make it easier, but with some restriction on movement / posture which I decided wasn't good in the end. (Still use this on bari, but I'm now using a Cebulla strap on alto & tenor).

2) My posture was odd on tenor - did some work with an Alexander Technique teacher to identify this and change as far as possible to minimise the effects. The exercises were also useful to straighten out and de-tense after playing so I didn't suffer as badly the next day.

3) I now play a lot less tenor - organised things so that I play mainly alto & bari, with only an odd gig on tenor every now and then

4) The biggest change, however, was moving from a modern keyed instrument to an older American make - in my case a Martin, but the late 1940s Kings were good too. What I find now is that if I pick up any modern horn (Tried most of them at one time or another), the position of the right hand key stack instantly puts my wrist, shoulder and neck on that side under tension. Due to the time I spent having Alexander lessons I can now recognise this, but can't compensate to play a modern horn. With the Martin, the right hand key stack is further round the body, which straightens my wrist and drops my shoulder. Since I made the change I've tried Selmers, Yamahas, Yanagisawas, and all manner of budget / mid-priced tenors, and they all have the same rotten hand position.

So, try a harness, and look at posture / exercises - possibly with the help of an Alexander teacher or similar - and also consider visiting one of the bigger shops and trying a load of different shaped, modern and vintage tenors.

Hope this helps. I have to be even more careful nowadays because my tension headache meds of choice (Syndol) are no longer available... :(

Noel
 

Tenor Viol

Full of frets in North Shropshire
Café Supporter
Messages
6,400
Locality
Whitchurch, North Shropshire UK
I have the same probs with my alto, it is the preasure on the back of the neck and top of the shoulder where it joins your neck, if you press hard with 2 fingers on the neck shoulder join area,it hurts like a head ache, In my opinion it is best to take all the weight away from the neck and shoulder, I use this one below, although it is elasticated it still pulls on the neck but is better than the standard strap, have you considered a harness?
DV016_Jpg_Large_367524.001.566_black_x-long.jpg


202128.jpg
this looks like it should distribute the weight more....

I use the above strap on an alto and it's fine. However, it was not fine for tenor as there was too much pressure on the joint at the top of the spine. I've opted for a Cebulla strap - which is an improvement, but not a complete solution (for me).

I suspect you may have some posture issues to look at too. Do yo sit/stand with your head balanced on your spine, or is your head leaning forwards? If so, you are putting a lot of tension on the tendons in the neck. Is your head level? There is often a tendency to tilt head down slightly when putting mpc in mouth.

You might be carrying a lot of tension in your neck/shoulder which you've not been aware of and which this has highlighted. A visit to an osteopath will check out and look at any joint issues, or a sports massage therapist will give deep tissue massage to loosen things up and get the blood circulating properly. Both may suggest some exercises if there is an issue to address. You're likely to pay between £30 and £50 for a session to have it looked at (they're the prices round here anyway).
 

TimG

New Member
Messages
8
Thanks, yes the word is building up - look into posture!

Think I'll get somebody to check it for me - my teacher possibly when he's back from France. Or get an Alexander lesson.

Also I weighed the horn again and at 3.4 kg it is not excessively heavy.

Hans Dulfer the Dutch player said to me one time that you should be in charge of the instrument, not the other way round. So maybe I am being too tentative with the tenor and that is affecting my posture. Possibly Pete had something like this in mind when he came up with his 'taming the saxophone' phrase. Something to look into.

Thanks very much for all of the thinking and advice.

Best regards,
Tim
 

ArtyLady

Well-Known Member
Messages
1,028
Locality
Essex
Just a thought - it's not because you're having to blow too hard? ie too open tip/hard reed?
 

noelweston

Member
Messages
49
Locality
Hessle, East Yorks
Hans Dulfer the Dutch player said to me one time that you should be in charge of the instrument, not the other way round. So maybe I am being too tentative with the tenor and that is affecting my posture. Possibly Pete had something like this in mind when he came up with his 'taming the saxophone' phrase. Something to look into.

Certainly the work I did with my Alexander teacher focussed on finding a comfortable, non-stressed standing or sitting position, then introducing the horn to that - rather than adapting myself to the instrument.

I don't know whether that makes any sense - it's harder to explain than to do - but essentially someone else holds the instrument, you stand / sit "properly", and then before you take the weight of the sax you play with arm & shoulder positions, slings/harnesses, crook & mouthpiece angles to try and find a playing position that doesn't pull you around too much.

Noel
 

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