Slings and Arrows?

An article by Andrew Roberts

A recent article from Gerard McChrystal has prompted me to respond in defence of the Neotech slings, which are available for both the clarinet and saxophone.

After many years of problems with the ergonomics of the clarinet (well documented in past magazines and on my website I believe I have road tested most of the devices designed to help the clarinet player to achieve a pain free relationship with their instrument. To go further, I set out to make a support device of my own design, using sections of an old music stand and the centre ring clamp and post from the BG sling. The BG sling as the option of non elastic and elastic cord, which I found, Like Gerard did with the Neotech, too bouncy causing as many problems as it should have sorted.

My support worked well for a time, particularly as my right shoulder could not support the weight of the instrument, and it allowed me to get back into playing the clarinet, post operatively, much sooner than I would otherwise have managed. However, as with all new things, its use became less and less comfortable and I eventually abandoned it in favour of a new arrival in my gadget collection, the Neotech sling.

This sling has a section of Neoprene attached to the cord and hook which gives, as Gerard described, allows some movement. Where I had previously feared, when using the BG elastic sling, that one might be in danger of launching the clarinet, arrow-like, towards the ceiling, the Neotech has a much more limited and controllable movement which I found much less restricting in long term use.

The ability to not move becomes increasingly uncomfortable in time and can cause too much tension in the neck, a real problem when using any sling. It was curiously, that same feeling of not being able to move which I had made me stop using my own design of support, but it took sometime before I had come to that conclusion. In Fact it wasn’t until I was perusing the trade stands at the ICA Clarinetfest in Sweden for new gadgets, that I came across a very similar device to my own. It had been designed in Finland with some government backing, for use with many instruments such as clarinet, oboe and even the trumpet. Made of plastic, it was almost identical to my idea, but with one subtle difference, the supporting shaft was sprung allowing so small range of movement, thus avoiding the cramp like state that my design had produced.

A revelation indeed, but, and here is the bad bit, in the last few years the website offering this innovative design (curses, why hadn’t I patented it) seems to have disappeared. A further blow to this is that being made of plastic, my original has ceased to have a useful life and now rests in the bottom of my ex -gadgets drawer

This tale is in some way to explain why the different instruments will require different solutions. The sheer weight of the saxophone is more likely to stretch and cause an undesirable amount of movement in the Neotech Saxophone sling. When used on the clarinet the movement is much less and therefore more useable.

A word of caution here, any sling can cause an excess pulling on the neck, so investigate the alternatives. BG produce an excellent braces type sling, which I would highly recommend for anyone playing a larger instrument, but don’t pull too hard or you will suffer the consequences!