Hanging ten kilograms of brass from my neck: A case study of posture problems in bass saxophonists

Judith Hills

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference contributionpeer-review


This paper records an investigation into the issues arising from playing a bass saxophone in a jazz band. The majority of bands and orchestras use a variety of brass and wind instruments from the piccolo to the tuba which are usually played while seated. However the genre of jazz music has a tradition of playing while standing or even walking which is referred to as a ‘marching gig’. Playing a bass saxophone involves supporting up to ten kilogram’s of brass at an angle across the body, to accommodate the instruments length, suspended by a neck strap. Typically a gig or music session is comprised of two 45 minute sets with a break in the middle while a ‘marching gig’ would last at least an hour. Many musicians using the bass saxophone experience pain in the neck, shoulder, left side of the rib cage as well as numbness in the left hand and arm as a result of playing. This paper discusses several issues which affect the experience and posture of bass saxophone players and reviews previous research into load distribution on the torso and into the biomechanical effects of musical performance. Other factors which can affect the experience of pain in musical performance are environment, arousal condition for performance and anthropometric variation. These are also discussed, alongside a review of medical research into muscular skeletal disorders caused by pressure from a neck strap. In order to produce a rounded holistic picture of saxophonist posture, a single case study approach is used. This allowed the author to develop a design prototype which significantly improved the posture of the participant. The participant was a 58 year old male, who had been playing musical instruments all of his life; he had taken up the bass saxophone 10 years ago but experienced pain and discomfort. As a result of the initial assessment for this research, which included the collection of anthropometric data, a harness was developed. The use of a single participant meant that the problems common to many saxophonists could be discussed, whilst the solution (in the form of a prototype harness), could be tailored to the individual needs of the participant.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationN/A
Publication statusPublished - 8 Apr 2010
Event Contemporary Ergonomics and Human Factors 2010 - Institute of Ergonomics and Human Factors
Duration: 1 Jan 20101 Jan 2010


Conference Contemporary Ergonomics and Human Factors 2010


  • ergonomics
  • musicians
  • posture
  • saxophone


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