New instrument stand to help prevent injuries

24 August 2016

This is one of those beautiful innovations that happens when technical excellence meets unmet need.

Musicians and engineers at The Australian National University (ANU) have invented a new instrument stand designed to prevent injuries for saxophone players and musicians who play a range of heavy wind instruments.

The stand was invented by musician John Mackey from the ANU School of Music and engineer Stephen Holgate from the ANU Research School of Physics and Engineering (RSPE).

Professional musicians suffer a range of spinal, neck and back problems due to weight of their instruments and the repetitive nature of their work, forcing many to limit their playing or even end their careers prematurely.

"Wear and tear is definitely a huge issue in the music industry," said Mr Mackey.

"There's lots of spinal injuries, neck problems, shoulders, and lower back problems. This stand is a great way to alleviate all the pressures that people will be facing."

The new stand helps take the weight off the necks of musicians and can be used in rehearsals and performance.

Mr Holgate said the stand would benefit young musicians who are going to move through the industry.

"Prevention is far better than cure," said Mr Holgate, Engineer and Technical Officer at the RSPE Mechanical workshop.

"It's not dissimilar to a large balance scale. You've got the weight of the instrument at one end and then a balance arm and counter weight at the other."

Mr Holgate and Mr Mackey have spent 18 months refining and testing the instrument stand. It was tested extensively by Mr Mackey, a professional saxophonist who plays around the world.

The stand can also be used for a range of heavy instruments, including the bassoon, the bass clarinet, oboe, and clarinet, and research will be conducted into usage for other instruments including brass, strings and piano.

"It lifts the whole weight off, so you have to remind yourself that there's actually a saxophone around your neck," Mr Mackey said.

RSPE Director Professor Tim Senden said the stand was a great example of two schools within ANU working together to produce an invention that would be beneficial to musicians.

"This is one of those beautiful innovations that happens when technical excellence meets unmet need," Professor Senden said.

"I'm thrilled to see physics support music, one of those uniquely ANU opportunities."

Pictures of the instrument stand are available upon request.

A video showcasing the instrument stand and the story behind its production is available on the ANU TV YouTube channel.