How to choose the right saxophone neck strap

Equipment Recommendations Part 6

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The Neck Strap

So here’s what we’ve covered in our Equipment Recommendations series so far:

Now, we’re moving on to the neck strap.

Rope, Leather, & Plastic

This sure doesn’t sound like an interesting topic. After all, its title doesn’t grab attention. I guess you could say that the neck strap is probably the least interesting saxophone part. In fact, in creating the list above, I’ve put them in order of interest (to me), but that was completely by accident.

Why is the neck strap a topic that is not discussed as abundantly as saxophones, reeds, and ligatures? Probably because the other items make a difference in your tone and ability to play effectively. Whether you have a cheap neck strap or an expensive one, your tone and ability to play the saxophone will most likely stay the same. However, a good neck strap focuses on an issue that is entirely different; one that should be important to every saxophone player.

Comfort

Many times comfort is not a topic that is high in priority when playing the saxophone. Why? Well, I can think of one reason.

  1. The saxophone is the only main stream wind instrument that must be played with a neck strap or harness
    • The bassoon needs a support too, but they can opt to use a strap, which they sit on

So, comfort with a neck strap is not a wide spread issue among instrumentalists, and is therefore left up to us (the saxophone world) to resolve the issue. That’s not saying that companies have not made progress is this area; they have. However, even though better equipment is available, beginners don’t always use it. In many cases, it’s simply a matter of education and breaking the 180 year old tradition of uncomfortable neck straps.

Different Neck Straps

I’ve seen neck straps made out of thick string and leather. That’s it; not very comfortable. Companies saw this as an opportunity to improve saxophone accessories and started making neck straps with a little more comfort in mind. Some began adding a little more padding to the leather (or plastic strap) around the neck. Then, that padding became thicker and even switched to softer, more flexible materials.

Now, there are neck straps made out of material that flexes. This allows some of the weight to be distributed into the neck strap so there’s less weight on the neck. There are also saxophone stands (bari) and saxophone harnesses available. But who is going to buy a harness for themselves as a beginner, especially when the saxophone comes with a neck strap? In addition, a comfortable neck strap (or harness) range anywhere from $20-$170. Who wants to pay at the upper end, especially when it doesn’t make a difference in your tone?

But is it worth paying good money for a neck strap, just for comfort? Should we just toughen up and not complain about having an uncomfortable neck strap? We’ve been doing it for years as a saxophone community, why change now? Here’s the reason: health.

Ergonomics

Think of all the advancements we’ve made with ergonomics over the years. We improve, so we won’t become injured through repetitive motion. We all understand this with computers, but playing a musical instrument is also very repetitive. Following good practices when you’re not injured is a good way to stay healthy.

Next Week

Next week we’ll talk about how the right neck strap will bring longevity to your playing and help you avoid injury. In addition, you will be much more comfortable playing the saxophone. We’ll also share our recommendations for neck straps and harnesses.

Question

Have you ever had a sore neck or felt really uncomfortable with your neck strap? What did you do to solve the problem? We would love to hear from you in our comment section below. In addition, please feel free to share this post using the social media buttons below. Thanks!

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Comments 4

  1. I converted to a Protec harness for tenor because it distributes the weight better than any neck neck strap I’ve tried. I love my Vandoren harness for baritone when playing standing up and it works well seated. But it puts too much pressure on my left shoulder when playing seated more than 30 minutes so when I play in concert band where we only stand to bow, I switch to my Protec harness. For soprano and alto I love my Protec 24″ Leather Saxophone Neckstrap with Metal Snap and Comfort Bar. While the alto and soprano are not that heavy, the comfort bar keeps the straps separated so the strap doesn’t choke you when you slide the bar all the way up.

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  2. I am 62 yrs. old, started playing a little over a year. Recently my neck started hurting after practice, couldn’t figure out why this was happening, then one day as I was playing the pain became unbearable, I had to place my horn between my legs on the stool I was sitting on and the pain went away, I went out and purchased a harness and never had that pain again.

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      Hi Noel,

      Thanks for sharing. As I was reading your post the thought came to my mind, “He needs a harness”. Then I read the last sentence; it looks like you made the right choice! What brand of harness did you buy?

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