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Choosing the Right Guitar Strap
If you ever play the guitar standing up (and most guitarists do at some point!), then a guitar strap is an essential item you will need. But with so many on the market, how do you choose which is the right one? What kind of things should you look out for and what should you avoid? How do you fit the strap correctly? Should you hang the guitar high or low, or somewhere in between?
Lots of question there that I'll try to address in this article. I've played many guitars over the years and used a lot of guitar straps in my time, so here are some of my thoughts on the subject.
Electric Guitar Strap
Electric guitar straps come in all shapes, sizes, designs and materials, so you will probably be able to find a wide range to choose from, whether you are shopping at a guitar stores or online. And even if your new guitar came with its own strap (every new Fender is delivered with a Fender strap for example), you will probably want to upgrade to something different at some point.
Electric guitars generally have buttons for attaching the strap on both ends of the body. The weight distribution depends both on the the design of the guitar and where the strap buttons have been placed. You may find that once you attach the strap to the buttons, the guitar hangs “neck heavy”. If this is the case, there's unfortunately not much you can do other than to remove and re-site the buttons so the weight distribution is better. Understandably however, most people don't want to do this because they just end up with more holes in their precious guitars! So before buying a guitar, it pays to try it out with a strap actually attached, to check the balance.
If you already own the guitar, on other thing you can do is attach the strap to the headstock rather than the body, which might look a bit odd on an electric guitar but it is better than having to hitch the guitar up all the time while you are playing (and this is what many people do anyway with acoustic guitars).
Acoustic Guitar Strap
Many acoustic guitars do not have strap buttons fitted at the top end of the body, so the strap has to be attached to the headstock because there is nowhere else to attach it. This is usually accomplished by tying one end of a shoelace or small length of string to the strap and then tying the other end around the headstock, behind the strings and underneath the nut.
When attaching the strap in this way, always make sure you tie a good, secure knot so that your guitar doesn't fall crashing to the floor as soon as you let go of it.
Alternatively, you can fit a strap button to the back of the guitar body where it joins the neck. But if you do this, you need to be VERY careful that you don't split the wood and cause irreversible damage to your precious guitar!
Bass Guitar Strap
Bass guitars are generally heavier than electric and acoustic guitars, so when playing bass, you want to choose a guitar strap that is maybe a bit more substantial. Wide straps are good for bass guitar, because they don't dig into your shoulder as much. If you play a two-hour gig on bass and you wear a narrow strap, you will definitely feel it in your shoulder afterwards.
You also want to choose a strap made of strong material, such as leather, when playing bass.
Leather Guitar Strap
Leather is probably one of the best materials for guitar straps. Strong and hard-wearing, a leather strap can also look really cool, particularly if it has a good design on it.
There are some excellent leather guitar straps on the market, available at all price points, from low-cost mass-produced straps, to custom-made hand-crafted straps incorporating some truly awesome designs.
A good leather guitar strap is like a good pair of leather boots. It might be a bit tough, hard and inflexible at first, but the more you use it, the softer the leather becomes and the better it fits.
Padded Guitar Straps
For those guitarists who are a little fragile or who suffer from aching shoulders, it is possible to buy guitar straps with extra padding in the shoulder region. Wearing a padded guitar strap can make long gigs a lot more comfortable for you if you find yourself suffering in this way.
The padding is usually made up neoprene foam, which is a soft, flexible type of sponge rubber that is also very durable.
Custom Guitar Straps
If you have some cash to spare and want something really cool, then there are a number of artisans and craftsmen out there who would love to supply you with a custom guitar strap. Custom-made to order, these straps are not cheap. But you would be getting something completely unique and with a design that is meaningful to you, not some mass-produced strap that you see countless other guitarists using.
There are some real works of art out there, some of which have the most intricate designs hand-cut into top quality leather.
Guitar Strap Locks
One thing I would always recommend, whichever strap you are using, is to fit the strap with locking nuts. These are devices that fit onto each end of the guitar strap, allowing it to click in place on the strap buttons, thereby making it much more secure. Without these, there is always the possibility that the strap might come off, resulting in expensive damage to your guitar if it falls to the floor.
There are various different types of strap lock you can buy, from inexpensive plastic ones to the more costly metal variety, but whichever type you choose, they are definitely a worthwhile investment.
Wearing a Guitar Strap
How you choose to set up and wear the strap is up to you. Some players (particularly punk and metal players) like to have the guitar hanging really low, almost down by the knees. This can look cool if metal or punk is your thing, but the angle at which you hold your wrist when playing this way can lead to long-term damage, so be warned!
Alternatively, some jazz and pop players like to have the straps really short so the guitar sits high, almost at chest-level. This is a much better position for the wrist, but it s not to everyone's taste. I personally have the strap set up so the body of my guitar is at hip-level, which I find is comfortable without looking too nerdy!