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playing comfortably in a tux


xdmitrix420
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Hello all - does anyone have recommendations on how to play more comfortably with a tux? Normally when I practice I play in a thin t-shirt, which is what i'm most comfortable in. The tux jacket I use though has thick shoulder pads built in and it pushes my instrument much higher than it should be. Also the collar for the shirt and bow tie tend to push the instrument out by half an inch, which also changes the way my left hand hits the fingerboard.

This has always been something that bothered me, but I would always just deal with it and adjust during a concert. I've seen artists like Gidon Kremer or Nigel Kennedy who wear non-tux outfits for performing, but since I'm not as famous as them, I can't really do that. I don't stress out about it when I play in an orchestra, but when I do solo or chamber concerts, it starts to get on my nerves because the last thing you want before playing publicly is to feel out of alignment with your instrument.

I'm guessing the best route would be to order a very thin tux jacket with no shoulder pads, but I'm not sure if anyone does it or if it looks too odd.

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A custon coat is going to be quite costly. It sounds like you may have a "rental type" of tux, which is going to have more padding (and the material is going to be heavier, just so that it stands up to the rigors of rental). You might just want to try what might be a better quality "off the rack" coat. My experience is that Bill Blass coats (1 button) have less padding, and the sleeves are also cut more fully.

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Sometimes an older style of tux available at vintage clothing places has less shoulder padding (the rounded lapel style). The lapels can be thinner too which is critical if your shoulder rest lies across it. I had one of these that I liked very much for playing. The other thing I recommend would be to get a boys size bow tie at any tux shop. It's not so small as to look funny when an adult wears it, but the difference when holding the instrument is noticeable.

I've also noticed the difference between the less expensive and more expensive tux shirts. In the wingtip collar style which I use, the less expensive shirts always had a thicker collar - maybe that's how they're supposed to hold their shape between washings? I finally splurged on a nicer quality shirt. The collar was definitely thinner (pushed out the instrument less) and the quality of cotton kept me cooler when I played.

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If you own the tux jacket, I'm sure a tailor can remove the padding from the shoulder quite inexpensively. As for the shirt, I purchased a nice straight-collar shirt for about $25 and had my wife sew on black buttons. It looks like a formal shirt, but the collar and bow tie sit much flatter.

HS

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I bought my last 2 tuxes at Men's Wearhouse - I think they are a national chain - because it was very lightweight, good looking, and well priced. I must hold my instruments (violin and viola) more on the shoulder than you, because my tie and coller never bother me at all. Make sure the coat is fitted with plenty of room in the shoulders, tell the saleperson that you are going to play an instrument in it. (Too bad tails aren't used much any more, the cutaway jackets were almost made for playing a stringed instrument) I've bought many tuxes and suits, you can find ones that are cut loose enough in the shoulders, but still fit well, though I have found with suits that you often have to look harder. Remember to bring your arms up to playing position when trying them on and don't settle for a bad fit. When playing, never button the coat.

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I still miss my first tux, which was actually the one my Dad got married in. He purchased it at a shop that made tuxedos for the Metropolitan Opera orchestra (and, I assume, singers as well), and it was extremely thin with almost no padding. I literally wore out the left lapel playing in that tux (I guess that's a knock against playing with a shoulder pad).

My modern replacement tuxes have all had much thicker shoulder padding and do not "move" with me as I play. I agree with others that more expensive tuxes may not have quite as much padding. Another hint is to buy a jacket that's 1-2 sizes too big (chest size) so that you have a bit more room to move without shifting the shoulder padding. Most tuxes are designed for people who don't ever move in them, except to walk up and down aisles. They really splay out when you start to move your arms in unexpected (string instrument playing) directions.

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Do you have any idea what the name of the company is that makes tuxes for the MET? I'm sure they'd know how to make a tux for a musician, those operas can often be 3-4 hours of constant playing, so you'd have to be pretty comfortable. Now I'm wondering how many companies are out there that make tuxes specifically for musicians. I obtained my current tux from men's wearhouse, but most of their tuxes seemed similar (pretty thick - designed for wedding use).

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You bought yours from Men's wearhouse too? Mine is the lightest one I ever bought. Maybe because I am in the South (Texas) they stock lighter weight designs.

The last time I played in a pit opera orchestra we didn't wear tuxes - pit black. I guess I'd be mildly surprised to find out that even the Met orchestra wears tuxes.

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My husband had his custom made. He actually took his violin with him to fittings so that they could see how he moves and accommodate that in the cut. He was also able to select exactly what fabric he wanted -- they had walls of bolts of fabric to choose from.

It does cost more, but if you do much playing it pays off in the long run.

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