All Things Saxophone

Equipment Fundamentals — Neckstraps

Last modified 02/07/09


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A saxophone neckstrap is a simple but necessary accessory for all saxophone (except the Soprano saxophone where the neckstrap is optional).  The neckstrap has two fundamental purposes:

· To hold the saxophone in place for proper playing position and to keep it from crashing to the floor (particularly in the hands of an inexperienced player).

· To provide comfort for the player when playing, especially in the case of the larger saxophones like Baritone and Bass.

Some history

The oldest saxophones I have played (made in approximately 1900) came with neckstraps made of leather with belt buckle type adjustments and a metal hook.  Although these are still available, they aren’t used much today except by loyalists.  The coarse adjustment of the belt type notches, the tedious process of adjusting the strap, and the stretching of the leather over time makes them a poor choice.

Another of the older style neckstraps is the metal bead chain with plastic neck wrap and metal hook (pictured at left).  These were popular when I started playing most likely because they were inexpensive.  This strap was prone to chain tangling and breakage, and the metal hook would wear against the brass neckstrap ring on the saxophone (I have seen some of them wear all the way through!).  Also the plastic neck wrap was very uncomfortable.  As a result they aren’t used much anymore except again by loyalists.

Today’s neckstraps

The common design for today’s neckstraps is canvas with a seatbelt-like clip that allows for continuously variable length adjustment.  The neck wrap is padded with neoprene or polyester filling for comfort.  The hook is plastic or metal with vinyl coating and sometimes has a clip which is often a good thing for the inexperienced player.  A typical modern saxophone neckstrap is pictured at left.

Straps for Baritone and Bass sax

There are special “around the back” harnesses that are made for the Baritone and Bass saxophones because these instruments are very heavy.  This harness is often called the “Bari Bra”.  I didn’t like them when I was younger because they didn’t “look good” (particularly underneath a white dinner jacket at a symphony gig) and at that age I ignored the strain on the neck that comes with using a standard neckstrap.  I now recommend this harness for all my students regardless of age because it’s never to early to take care of yourself.  Besides, as a man I can wear a black bra underneath a white blazer if I want to  :>

Caring for your neckstrap

Saxophone neckstraps are pretty much low maintenance.  The only thing that will get you into trouble is allowing the canvas to crease or get twisted in the adjustment mechanism, much in the same way that the straps on a child carseat can get twisted.  Just keep the strap straight with the mechanism and you’ll be fine.

 Picking a neckstrap

This is really a personal preference thing.  The neckstrap should be properly sized to allow for proper playing position (smaller ones are available for the young players).  Beyond that it should be comfortable.  The cost varies, so do some shopping around.  Good luck and I’ll see you on the bandstand. 









A typical modern saxophone neckstrap

A metal chain neckstrap