Meri’s Musical Musings

The use of neckstraps by clarinetists

Posted on: May 25, 2009

Much has been touted in the last few years about the use of neck straps by clarinetists. While clarinetists who use one praise it and encourage others to use one, there are several reasons why most clarinetists (I have only had one student in which this was the only solution to the weight of the instrument, but he was small for his age , very advanced for his age and length of study on the clarinet (he was playing early advanced clarinet pieces at an age where most students of similar age had barely started learning to play the instrument), and he was playing on an entry-level professional model instrument)  should not be encouraged to do so.

            One reason one might not want to consider using a neckstrap is the inconvenience of constant unhooking and rehooking. It is especially inconvenient if you like to use a clarinet stand when switching between pieces in concerts or rehearsals or when the conductor is not working with the clarinet section for a long time. In addition, in an orchestral situation, it is annoying to have to switch between two clarinets, and impossible when you only have two bars to do it.

            A second reason clarinetists might not want to consider using a neckstrap is that some of them do not allow at least one of the standard rest positions. Many do not allow the instrument to be placed across the lap, which is a rest position commonly used.

            A third reason for not considering using neckstraps is if and when clarinetists decide to purchase another instrument, they will likely have to install another ring for the neckstrap.

            A fourth reason for not using neckstraps is that they don’t usually give enough freedom of movement, something some clarinetists desire.

            A fifth reason for not using neckstraps is the risk that they can become twisted, which may result in strangulation.

            A sixth reason is the problem of a few threads coming loose, and getting caught on the keys.

            A seventh reason is what happens if one should accidently take both hands away from the instrument while using a neckstrap. Considering that a wood Bb weighs about 1 lb, 11 ounces, and an A weighs about 1 lb 13 ounces (The Clarinet, June 2000) there is the problem of straining the neck and a badly-damaged instrument.

            An eight reason is that if one pulls the neckstrap too far out, while playing, there will be neck strain.

            A final reason for not using neckstraps is that it does not solve the real problem, which has to do with the too-low position of the thumbrest, and the semi-compressed position of the hands. Fixing the first problem can result in a better hand position, while the second problem can be counteracted by stretching the hands every so often. 

            One may think that the fact other instrumentalists use neckstraps is a good reason for clarinetists to consider doing the same. My reply to that is that most other instrumentalists who use neckstraps in conjunction with other forms of support, such as a peg, the neckstrap does not reduce the weight of the instrument, and that saxophonists have a brace that fits over the shoulders and back that supports the weight of the instrument better than any neckstrap.

            So, if you are considering using a neckstrap, think about whether the trade-off is worth the inconvenience and dangers.

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  • None
  • V V: Wish I had read this before I fell for their scheme ! Oh well - have posted my experience on Yelp and N49 and hoping others can avoid the pain of fal
  • clariniano: Thanks for the additional information. It was actually Yelp that deleted my reviews, because of so-called bias. I too have seen the horrible technique
  • No Thanks: Former Teacher at the Ontario Conservatory of Music I took lessons at the Ontario Conservatory and when I left for private lessons from another tea
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