My Musical Equipment Closet

An opinionated collecton of short reviews of saxophones and woodwinds and the accessories which they require.

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Location: Santa Cruz, California, United States

"Other cultures are not failed attempts at being us. They are all unique manifestations of the human imagination and the human heart." Wade Davis

Sunday, November 06, 2011

Brave New Neckstrap

Consider the lowly, under appreciated neckstrap. (I've tried with limit success the various harnesses. The simple ones are better. Anything else I can't seem to get on and off without getting something cinched or a clasp out of place.)

I remember how in the 1970's every saxophone player had to rush to get a Ray Hyman strap from Selmer. These were the wide ones, with the very wide hook. They looked pretty classy up against the clothes of the day. This was around the time that Dexter was returning to New York frequently and I recall he had a Hyman around his neck (of you'll forgive the expression) in his publicity photos. The result was every person occupying every level of the saxophone ladder had to have one of these, not just because Dex (at the top of the ladder) favored them, but because this was a radical new design which eclipsed the Micro saxophone neckstrap and its string-going-to-a-felt-pad look-alikes. This was a bold departure in neckstrap design.

Cut to the nineties and we find the Hyman largely extinct. There's a new high end emerging with the Oleg designs, but they cost plenty. The Neotech neckstraps have evolved slightly from their wetsuit-material roots, and Rico is building some string-and-pad things which I for one succumb to. (There was a galley helper who used to call me Rico when he served me on the QE2 because I'd show up with my neckstrap on–emblazoned with the RICO logo–just after our gig.) More recently, Neotech had build a neckstrap of more stable material than the wetsuit stuff, which lets the horn rest a good deal more. Rico had built a padded version of the one I used on QE2 which uses memory foam against the neck.

But there's a new neckstrap in town, and it's got a very special feature that makes a big difference when you have to have a saxophone around your neck for 3 or 4 hours at a stretch. That neckstrap is the Revelation Ergo Strap from Hollywoodwinds. Oh, it's lavishly padded all right. It comes with two choices of hook, either a twisted metal hook reminiscent of the Rico, or a clicking swivel hook. It sits low on the shoulder–not as low as the Olegs, but enough to take some stress off the neck muscles. But the real revelation of the Revelation is its removable piece of rubber insulation, about the size and shape of a 35mm film can, which slides into and out of the center of the neckstrap's inner pad.

Feel your neck. Go ahead. I can wait.

Did you notice the knob a bit higher than the level of your shoulders? That knob is where this rubber piece does its thing. As Shun-Hwa Chang, the Revelation Ergo's inventor, explained to me, the knob on your neck is a accupressure point and the mistake designers have made is to ignore this fact.

Well, I'm here to tell you this neckstrap has it all over every other design. I've been playing gigs for the last couple months using the Revelation Ergo and even when I'm playing baritone sax for extended periods I've really noticed a difference in the fatigue factor when the gig's over.

If I had a gripe it would be that the Revelation Ergo comes in two lengths, each of which is available in the aforementioned two hook styles. The long style (SNS-EX and SNS-EMX) are a little long–too long for alto, while the short versions (SNS-E and SNS-ME) are a bit too short for playing tenor comfortably. But this is a minor quibble, something sure to be worked out in the fullness of time. Meanwhile, I'm packing both sizes, and if the gig calls for extremely different, I'll use both sizes.

The Revelation Ergo lists for $25 and you can see it here, on Hollywoodwinds' site. We have a bunch of them in Santa Cruz at Thomas Musical Instruments.


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