Saxophones are heavy instruments to be carried, let alone carrying them while playing at the same time. Saxophone neck straps allow sax players to concentrate on the music they produce without the fear of dropping the instrument or the added strain to the arms and hands’ muscles.
In this article, I share with you all the different details that you need to know when looking for the best saxophone neck strap.
What is a Saxophone neck strap?
A saxophone neck strap is like a belt that supports the saxophone securely in position so you can play more comfortably.
There are different types of saxophone straps depending on your needs and preferences, such as: basic neck straps, over the shoulder straps, harness straps, as well as different kinds of hooks and clasps.
Neck Straps that comes with the saxophone
Okay it should be mentioned that nowadays new saxophones include a basic neck strap; however, those are made from cheap materials, unpadded and may not be the most comfortable.
If you could spare a bit more money, you should invest in a strap made from better and stronger materials, more padding and better protected hooks to prevent them from scratching and damaging the saxophone.
Medical concerns using a bad neck strap
Besides supporting the sax, neck straps are used to prevent placing extra weight on your neck and spine which could lead to a lot of pain and possible long-term issues with your column.
Basic neck straps can put a lot of pressure on your spine and press the sides of your neck restricting the blood flow to your brain. A saxophone weighs around 30 pounds, so hanging it with a thin strap supported by your neck may not be the best idea for your health.
If you are using a basic neck strap, beware of signs of restricted blood flow and if you experience any symptoms get a different one.
Different Types of straps
Understanding that everybody’s need may vary, different types of sax straps have been designed to provide comfort and allow the sax player to perform without straining his/her hands, elbows, and wrists.
Choosing one will depend on personal preferences, health recommendations and how much you can afford to invest
Basic neck straps
We’ve already talked about these, and although they may not be the best option, if you focus on getting one made with quality and strong materials, is well padded and the design of the belt helps distribute the weight around your neck, it will get the job done.
Over the shoulder straps
Our shoulders can hold more weight than our neck, so if you are experiencing neck pain from a saxophone neck strap, favor an over the shoulder strap. This option is more comfortable and will reduce strain on your muscles and fatigue, allowing you to play for longer periods of time.
A saxophone harness is overall the best option available because it distributes the weight of the instruments on the shoulders and the abdominal muscles. This type of saxophone strap makes it comfortable to play all night long with minimal fatigue no matter if you are standing or sitting down.
Hooks and clasps
What holds the instrument to a saxophone neck strap is a hook or a clasp and choosing one or the other will depend on your experience and what works best for you.
The main goal is not dropping the instrument, so if you choose a sax strap with a hook you need to be aware that they can pop off and if you are not careful you will drop the sax. However, hooks allow you to switch saxophones quickly, so if you need to do this during a performance, clasps won’t help because they are trickier to hook and release.
There’s a hybrid of both a hook and a clasp designed to release easily, explore that option, and get familiar with it if you need to make fast switches so you don’t miss your cue to play and get in trouble for that.
The material hooks and clasps are made from is also important. Look out for those made from metal but covered with plastic to ensure durability without the risk of accidentally scratching and damaging your horn.
So, in conclusion, choose hooks if you need to switch instruments quickly but beware it doesn’t detach from the sax and drops it. For peace of mind, choose clasps to secure the instrument.
Versatility you need to be looking for
The purpose of a saxophone neck strap is to make your life easier while playing the sax, so the selection should be based on what fits you and only you.
There are many options with different levels of padding, different weight distribution techniques and a variety of hooks and clasps. When buying a saxophone neck strap, you should consult a more seasoned sax player or a specialist so they could recommend what’s best for you according to the type of sax you play, if it’s just for practice or long-playing sessions and your anatomy, as well as your budget.
Level of comfort with various neck straps
Comfort from a saxophone neck strap comes from the belt width, padding and the distribution of the instrument’s weight so it doesn’t hurt your neck and/or shoulders.
Wider belts distribute the weight over a wider area, making it more comfortable. Straps that rest on only one shoulder or on the higher part of the neck can be uncomfortable and do more damage than good.
Padding on the belts, whether is made from foam or gel, helps prevent chafing and irritation on your neck.
Finally, you should feel confident while wearing it because insecurity will show and affect your performance.
Playing position (not all fit all)
Comfort from a sax strap is key, but something to take into consideration is how it affects the position of the instrument while playing so it doesn’t add unnecessary strain to your neck. The saxophone neck strap should hold the instrument high enough, so the top of the mouthpiece touches your top teeth.
If you choose to use a shoulder strap that holds the instrument only on one shoulder, while it will be a momentary relief for your neck and spine, it could place the instrument in an awkward position and make it harder to play, especially for long sessions.
The best alternative for long sessions sitting or standing is the harness.
Saxophone neck straps are not big or bulky and there are a variety of pouches to store them safely. For smaller neck straps, you could place the storage pouch inside the sax case, but if they don’t fit you could use the drawstring to strap it to the case outside or place it inside the sax bell.
Depending on the features and specific details of the saxophone neck strap, prices can range from as low as $20-$40 for a basic strap, to as high as $150 – $200.
Remember that expensive doesn’t necessarily mean it’s the best fit, because it will all depend on your needs and how it feels. Sometimes simpler designs are more affordable and do the job perfectly for the type of player you are. So, take into consideration what your real needs are and choose accordingly. Maybe going for a middle price range is not a bad idea.
5 best saxophone neck straps we recommend
If you are going for the traditional saxophone neck strap, the Neotech Classic Strap is one of the most popular on the market because of its durability, reliability, and endurance. It comes with padded straps.
Another basic alternative is Protec LC305M Neck Strap which, although is on the cheap side, the attention to details and material quality certainly goes beyond its price. It features leather neck padding that makes it look stylish and comes with clasps that secure the sax in place.
Just Joe’s Saxophone Strap takes the traditional neck strap to another level by making the straps wider therefore distributing the weight over a wider area. It’s padded with gel inserts and fits either side of the spine, making it more comfortable and reducing potential health problems.
Then we have the Balam Back Strap, it rests on your shoulders instead of your neck, and comes in 3 different ranges: Standard (with synthetic leather), Classic (full grain leather and pouch) and Premium (with foam padding, locking mechanism and made from premium leather).
Jazz Lab Saxholder Harness is lighter than traditional harnesses, with padded shoulder handles and made from lightweight aluminum and Kevlar. The weight distribution on this harness is simply amazing.
There are a lot of options on the market if you are looking for the best saxophone neck strap, but the decision of which one to choose will depend on your standards and what makes you feel good while playing the saxophone.
Even with the use of a neck strap, experienced sax players recommend not to rely on the strap to fully support the weight of the saxophone. Carry some of the weight with your hands to avoid the sax to not only fully rest on your spine, but also to prevent the sax from knocking into objects that could damage it.