The soprano saxophone is a brilliant, noble and expressive instrument. It is also a gigantic pain in the neck. Or, in my case, pain in the hand. For the past year, I have been suffering from severe Carpal Tunnel in my right hand. This makes playing the soprano saxophone somewhat of a challenge. My plight is not new, yet there are not many devices on the market that address this issue. Until recently the only device I've known about was the Pittel Handeze.
The newest addition to the market is the saxophone support system by ERGObrass called the ERGOsax Support System. Ergo brass offers a variety of weight assisting devices for many instruments including trumpet, trombone, French horn, and euphonium. The ERGOsax device is a two-piece rod system, constructed of aluminum, attaches to the saxophone's neck strap ring via a spring-loaded, mechanism. The rod may be placed on a chair (when sitting) or using a belt pouch (NOTE: the pouch is included, but the belt is not). The entire unit can be adjusted using a large ergonomic adjustment screw.
From the moment I unboxed the unit, I could tell that a great deal of thought and engineering went into the crafting of this device. The materials are excellent being crafted from aluminum, quality rubber, and high-density plastic. The pieces fit with precision and security. There is much I liked about the ERGOsax support. The first is the ease in which the unit can be attached to the saxophone. One squeeze of the quick-release mechanism and the unit can be connected or removed. I also like that the support rods are complimented by a large spring that allows for movement and flux. This element is particularly useful when giving musical cues to other musicians. The ability to adjust the overall height is simple and secure. I experience no slippage or movement once the desired placement was reached. The total length of the unit will adapt to even the largest of torsos. Additionally, if you need for the system to be smaller than what is designed, you can easily trim the main support tube using a hacksaw. Just cut to the desired length, replace the rubber end cap, and you are in business.
The ERGOsax support system delivers as advertised, removing the majority of the weight of the soprano saxophone. Due to the thinness of the easy release system, there is some lateral play with the unit. This takes some getting used to as the player must learn to balance the soprano saxophone between the two thumbs. I can't say this was a negative as it did allow me easy mobility. If I needed to turn to the side to view a cue, I could tilt my head without having to move my entire body.
If there was any part to the unit I am critical of it might be the rubber and plastic support pouch and the neck strap loop. Like the unit itself, the materials used are substantial and well constructed. I did find that using it with my pants belt created two problems. First, it limits the functionality of the belt itself. Due to the thickness of the plastic and the design of the unit, it will shorten your belt one to two inches. Additionally, if your favorite dress belt is too thick or has a tip buckle, you are going to be out of luck. I found that the design of the plastic housing (designed with a blunt point) can dig into the abdomen or pelvis if the placement is ideal.
Additionally, I found it could be somewhat, shall we say, "uncomfortable" when sitting (cough, cough). I found the best way to use the belt unit is to buy a black nylon belt, used for football or baseball pants and wear it on the natural waist. This way the belt can remain attached to the unit for more natural use.
I would love to see ERGOsax develop a plastic or rubber plate that could be attached to the bottom of the unit that would eliminate the need for a belted holder.
The system allows the player to attach their neck strap to a small ring that is part of the housing. When I say small, I mean small. Nothing about this ring causes me concern, however, if you have a large metal hook or have dexterity issues you may consider replacing this ring with something like a key ring. (UPDATE: The newest version of the ERGOsax has addressed this issue).
Removal and stowing is a breeze. In less than 10 seconds, one can remove the system, take the rods apart and place it in the case. As my soprano case does not offer much interior space, I adapted a neoprene snorkel bag to hold the system and placed it in the bell of the saxophone.
The ERGOsax system sells for around $160 which is in line with similar products on the market. Given the quality of materials, uniqueness of design and ease of use, this is a tremendous addition to the market and one that is most welcome by those suffering from hand and arm issues.