The job of a sax neck strap is simple; hold the saxophone secure, in a good position to play the saxophone. There are many different features to consider, all designed to accommodate the individual player's needs.
There are basic neck straps, over the shoulder straps, harness straps, thin and wide straps, simple saxophone hooks, twisted hooks, deep hooks, and clasps with a release all made in a variety of materials. My favorite basic strap is the Rico Saxophone Strap with a lightweight band and a simple hook.
Choosing the right neck strap involves a little experience playing the saxophone and time to find out what works and what you specifically need.
For instance; if your neck hurts after playing the saxophone, you will want to look into padded straps or a yoke design that spreads the weight of the saxophone over a larger area. If you have ever dropped a saxophone due to the hook popping off of the sax, you will see the need for a clasp style hook. If you have back or neck problems, you will want to look into the shoulder or harness straps that move the weight of the sax off the neck and spread it thru the back and shoulders.
The various designs available address real issues that real saxophone players have encountered over the years. A good look at the individual saxophonist should help determine the style of strap you should use.
I have found, younger players benefit from a padded strap with clasp hook. Most young players need the clasp to ensure they don’t drop the sax. They won't need to switch quickly between saxophones so the clasp works great. The padding will help with long rehearsals at school, and marching band can mean long periods of time, outdoor, holding a saxophone. A padded strap can be a real help.
The Neotech Soft Sax Strap and the Protec Padded Saxophone Neck Strap are 2 examples of padded straps with slightly different clasps. They both are designed to limit the amount of stretch and play potentially caused by the softer padding, by extending the strap around the outside of the padding. I dislike when the strap bounces or stretches when playing, preferring a more solid feeling strap.
The hooks and clasps create different helps and potential issues. Hooks can pop off and saxophones can be dropped if the player is not careful. But clasps can be awkward to hook and release and a player that has to change saxophones quickly will get in trouble if they missed the next entrance because they couldn't get the clasp open. I don't use clasps for that very reason. I need to be able to make quick horn changes. Twisted hooks or longer hooks have been my sax strap solution for years now.
As we get older and play longer periods of time, our strap needs may change. The BG Yoke Strap moves the weight from the neck and is designed to spread the weight over the lower neck and shoulders for greater comfort and less fatigue. Since the shoulders are stronger than a neck, many of the newer strap designs move the weight off the neck all together.
The BG Shoulder Strap and Walt Johnson Shoulder Strap are simple solutions for neck pain, moving all the weight to the left shoulder. These straps are a great relief to the neck, but I prefer using them to give the neck a break, and seldom play all night with a shoulder strap due to the position they place the sax in while playing. However, I do recommend them as an additional strap.
The best strap for heavier saxophones is a harness strap. My favorite is the Neotech Soft Sax Harness Strap. They work great for the baritone saxophone and can be used all night, sitting or standing, with minimal fatigue.
As you can see, there are many styles and types of sax straps available. Each individual player will have needs that are specific to their playing situation. With a little thought and experience playing a saxophone, you will find the perfect sax strap for your playing needs.