When it comes to choosing the best saxophone strap, your main concern should be comfort. Straps come in a variety of designs and materials that can help to alleviate pressure on the neck and back. Many straps are designed for use with specific woodwind instruments; be sure to choose a model appropriate for your type of saxophone. Reading user reviews and comments on blogs, forums, and sites selling musical equipment as well as talking to fellow sax players can help to pinpoint the right saxophone strap for you. Keep in mind, however, that the strap should be more of a safety precaution, and your arms and muscles should primarily hold up the instrument.
Saxophones, especially baritone and tenor instruments, are quite heavy and a well-designed strap can help bear that weight while minimizing fatigue and pain. Well-designed straps have strategically placed padding in the load-bearing areas of the strap — typically the widest area that rests on the back of the neck and shoulders. The best quality straps employ highly resilient memory foam for padding that shapes to the contours of your body. Cheap saxophone straps often have minimal padding that can lose its resilience over time, making them a poor investment.
If you shop in person for your saxophone strap, bring your instrument along so that you can assess how well the strap works with it. After attaching your instrument, notice how well the strap distributes the weight of your sax across the back of your neck and shoulders. Be sure there are no areas digging into your flesh and that the strap does not apply pressure to the carotid artery in your neck. Keep in mind that during a lengthy playing session, minor discomfort can turn into a major neck ache.
Many manufacturers size their straps to match both the player's stature as well as the specific type of saxophone. Well-stocked music stores and online music gear sellers typically offer several sizes based on the height of the musician and the size of the instrument. Straps designed for tenor and baritone saxophones are usually heftier in construction and have a wider, thicker padded area. A saxophone strap designed for alto or soprano saxophones will typically be less heavily padded. Most designs incorporate an adjustable cord lanyard with which to set the resting height of the instrument.
Saxophone straps are made in a variety of materials, with leather and nylon being the most common. A nicely tooled and stitched leather saxophone strap can add an elegant touch to your instrument. If you play in a marching band or often perform outdoors, you may want to consider a strap made with nylon or polyester webbing that resists moisture. Synthetic strap ends can also prove more durable than leather in outdoor settings. Straps made of cotton or polyester webbing often have colorful designs printed on them that can add some flair to your onstage presence.