I’ve been back at university – preparing the Glazunov (on alto), saxophone ensemble pieces (mostly baritone), private lessons material (on all sizes of saxophones), as well as my gigs, and teaching has changed the intensity of my practice schedule. I’m grabbing time on all of my woodwinds whenever I can.
At the beginning of December, I started notice some muscle pain in the left side of my neck whenever I put one of my two neck straps on. They were a few years old, starting to become less comfortable, and I wanted to make sure that I could tame this pain before it actually became a real problem.
In the past, I had tried different harnesses (of most of the popular brands), but they never fit properly. I’m tall, and broad, with large shoulders. Either they were too short, or didn’t fit over my shoulders, or I had to snug them up so tight to get the horn to feel secure, or I couldn’t use them on multiple instruments on the same gig, or they fell off when I stood up to play a solo with a big band – the tenor player beside me, saved my horn, and my back! Up to that point, I hadn’t found anything that worked for me.
I decided to check out the Balam after being in rehearsal with a big band in December, and the entire sax section, excluding myself, were using Balam straps in some form – two were using the Classic, and one was using the Premium. They were all happy with them, and I tried one out as best as I could (they shaped to fit the player). We determined that it would be long enough, it would fit over my shoulders, I could use it for multiple instruments on a gig, and most important, it took off any pressure from my neck – all of my requirements.
Here’s a video of me using the Balam on my Yamaha baritone saxophone.
I ordered it, and I’ve been using it for about six weeks now. I’m really happy with the way it feels. It took me about a week to really get the fit dialed in. I love it across my baritone, tenor, and alto saxophones, as well as my bass clarinet. I was totally sold when I left it in my alto case, and had to teaching an evening on baritone sax with my regular strap (which still lives in my case, just rarely used now). I couldn’t believe the difference a few hours later.
I always thought that I could “tough out” the discomfort of long practice sessions, or intense gigs, but I’m really happy that I’ve made the switch. I feel that being more comfortable in general is going to help my playing.