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not for a great many players, even those who use the strap use it mostly only for safety or to create a pivoting point

Note how all three players pictured hold the horn much higher than is typically seen. If you hold the soprano sax close to horizontal, the load on the right thumb from the weight of the thing is now resisted by a "clamping" of the thumb (similar to the muscles you would use to pinch something between your thumb and the side of your index finger). The thumb is much much stronger in that direction than in a straight side load.

A secondary benefit to playing the soprano more horizontally is that it gets you further from the clarinet embouchure and closer to the embouchure of the other saxophones. I find that everything on the soprano responds better with a more horizontal position.

If you hold the soprano out more horizontally, the benefit of the strap kind of disappears, because the strap is no longer working against gravity.

Even with a better playing position, the shape of the part that touches your thumb is important and I wouldn't hesitate to alter it so edges aren't digging into the thumb.

Long ago someone told me, or I read, "play the soprano straight out, it's not a clarinet" and that's what I've done since.

I am sure, now, that lots of people will post pictures of high grade soprano saxophonists holding the thing downward. I'm just telling you what has worked for me.
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