Learning how to play saxophone starts with the right equipment–namely, a quality neck strap! Read on for some helpful advice from Brookings, SD teacher Carl S…
The saxophone is a unique instrument for many reasons. One example is that the saxophone is the only band instrument that uses a neck strap. Unfortunately, the neck strap is often the most overlooked aspect of playing the instrument. One of the first things that I stress to a new student is the importance of the neck strap and it’s effect on their performance.
Potential Issues with Your Saxophone Neck Strap
There are several considerations regarding the neck strap. First, you need to realize that the purpose of the neck strap is to hold the saxophone in its proper playing position.
If the neck strap is adjusted too low, you’ll end up adjusting yourself to the position of the instrument, instead of adjusting the instrument to yourself. This can cause the head to point down, disrupting airflow, and also causes the throat to be unnecessarily strained. Some try to make up for this by holding the weight of the instrument with the right-hand thumb, which can cause serious long-term problems. If you’re sitting, sometimes the neck strap will end up hanging loosely while the saxophone rests on your seat. This problem is easily solved by standing while practicing, even if only for a portion of the practice session.
On the other hand, if the neck strap is too tight, the angle and amount of mouthpiece in the mouth will be incorrect, causing undesirable tone issues. Young students often have difficulties adjusting neck straps. I often see tangled neck straps that are stuck in one position. To combat this issue, choose an easily adjustable neck strap that will still stay in place.
Types of Saxophone Neck Straps
There are several different types of neck straps. Some are simple and thin while others have comfortable cushions. If you fear that the saxophone will come unhooked and accidentally dropped, many neck straps have clasps instead of hooks for extra security. Some newer neck strap designs allow the weight of the saxophone to rest on the shoulders instead of the neck, which decreases strain and increases airflow. An alternative to the neck strap is the saxophone harness, which takes the weight completely off of your neck. There are even neck straps that attach to your belt loops and come over your shoulders like suspenders. I’m personally not comfortable with the idea of my instrument being attached to my pants though! Finally, keep away from stretchy neck straps. Even though they are comfortable, the fact that they are constantly adjusting is undesirable when trying to develop consistent performance habits.
Finding the Right Type
So, how do you find the right style or type? While there are several great brands out there, the most important thing is getting what works best for you and your needs. Try several out at local music stores to get measurements–everybody is different.
When learning how to play saxophone, remember the importance and purpose of the neck strap! It can cause or solve many issues! Are you really sore after practicing? Do you strain to produce a good tone? Do you feel like you use a lot of air, but your sound is still soft? Does the saxophone make your bottom lip press into your bottom teeth? The neck strap can have an effect on all of these issues and more.
Carl S. teaches saxophone, music theory, piano, and more in Brookings, SD. He completed his Doctor of Musical Arts degree in saxophone performance at the University of Kansas in 2014, and his Master of Music Pedagogy and Performance from Oklahoma State University in 2011. Learn more about Carl here!
Photo by simononly