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THE SOAPBOX !

The Soapbox is an area in which ideas, personal opinions, reviews of instruments or performances, observations or gripes can be aired.
All are invited to participate!

Almost any ideas etc, directly or indirectly to do with wind instruments, can be discussed freely and openly. The page will be moderated, but the only restrictions on content will be that it must be respectful of others - and legal!


In the light of Covid-19, Rolling Stone magazine has produced a great article on America's situation, as seen from the point of view of a Canadian anthropologist.


As this page is new, your moderator is kicking things off with a couple of his own personal prejudices.

1. Young students playing wind instruments.

A wonderful idea, but ... I believe that starting students on certain instruments at too young an age can be a health hazard.
This applies to young students, whose bone and teeth structures have not firmly settled, who are learning to play the clarinet or oboe.
In the case of the clarinet, the weight of the average (wooden) instrument is around 0.8kg.
Not much weight, no, but when that weight is concentrated around the top joint of the right hand thumb for lengthy periods, some injuries to the hand, wrist, elbow or shoulder can result - the real problems not showing up for maybe decades afer the original injury occured. I know of at least two professional clarinet players in Australia who had to curtail their performing careers due to such injuries.
For clarinet [and sax] students there is another potential problem if extended periods of playing happen before the 'adult' (permanent) teeth are firmly established. The pressure on still-developing teeth can result in mal-formation. [This can also apply to the higher brass instruments (more pressure) as well.] The solution is to avoid starting students at too young an age. All adult permanent teeth are often not firmly established until the age of twelve or thirteen.
For oboe players the pressure on teeth is not so great, but the thumb, wrist, etc. problems are there for them too.
The simplest way to reduce joint problems is to use a neck sling to support the instrument. This takes all the stress away from the right thumb, and any pressure is then reduced to a small 'horizontal' push away from the body. Often, young players, in an effort to relieve the pain and discomfort on their right hand, will get themselves into amazing positions, most of which mean that they will never have correct posture or hand position for playing their instrument!

2. Deafness resulting from noise in music work (and play) environments.

In recent years the professional music industry has become very aware (in many cases due to insurance companies bumping up employers' premiums on policies covering musicians) that there are significant hazards in the music workplace.
The standards have now been set (around 95-105db maximum) for safe noise levels, above which permanent hearing loss will result.
The sound levels in symphony orchestras, in bands, and anywhere close to the loudest instruments (drum kits, some percussion, directly in front of monitor speakers, trumpets, trombones etc.) can easily exceed safe thresholds. Most professional orchestras now fit acoustic screens to the backs of the chairs of vulnerably placed musicians, in front of brass sections, and around the loudest percussion. These solutions cost an organisation many thousands of dollars, but otherwise, the costs due to litigation over loss of hearing and greatly increased insurance premiums were much greater!
The situation in professional groups has largely been fixed. But where does this leave non-professional groups?
I have experienced noise levels in non-professional groups which were dangerous and would just not be tolerated in a professional environment.
The hearing injuries are real, and, especially for musicians, the resulting deafness (often many years after the injuries have been sustained) can be devastating - physically, emotionally and economically.
A whole industry has now developed around musicians' injuries.


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© Alan Bray - Windsongs Music Foundation, 2016-2020