Guide to Guitar Straps for Comfort and Performance (Tutorial How to for Beginners)

07/02/2020
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So what do you think…a strap is a strap, right?

It doesn’t affect your sound, so who cares, right?

And all those really fancy straps just make you look like a douchebag anyway, right?

All great arguments.

And I mostly agree…up to a point, that is.

Because while guitar straps MAY be one of those things that you don’t really notice…

That’s only true if it does its job well.

Because if it’s NOT, you notice it A LOT.

  • Some start to feel annoying if worn for extended periods.
  • Some feel annoying the moment they touch your shoulder
  • And some feel fine, but just don’t last very long

And if you’re reading this now, chances are you currently suffer from at least one of these problems.

So to help you find a solution and get back to playing…

For today’s post, I’ve compiled a list of the most popular and universally loved straps on the market…at each price point, to accommodate all budgets.

But there won’t be any artsy boutique straps here.  Just pure comfort and performance.

If that sounds good…then let’s begin.

First up…

Acoustic vs Electric vs Bass

At some point, every player wonders to himself…

Wait…is there even is a differencebetween these straps?

And the short answer is…NO.  Almost any strap can work with all 3.

But it’s also true that certain strap models generally work better with certain instruments.

With bass players, you typically find that longer, bulkier, and typically more expensive straps work better to support their larger heavier instrument.

With acoustic vs electric guitars, the biggest difference here is the method of attachment.

  • For electric guitars – there will almost always be two strap buttons on the body, so attachment is easy.
  • For acoustic guitars – most will only have one strap on the bottom of the body.  So you’ll need to attach the other side of the strap to the headstock using a string.

If you don’t know how to do this yet, check out this video:

The problem here is that many players (including myself) find it uncomfortable to play this way.

The strap doesn’t balance very well, and it sorta gets in the way of your playing.

So the solution is add a second strap button to the base of the neck.  But doing so requires a bit of “guitar surgery”.

Moving on…

The 4 Strap Features to Look For

So there are 4 key things to observe when deciding if a particular strap is right for YOU:

  1. Length
  2. Width
  3. Locking Mechanism
  4. Material

First up…

1. Length

Standard straps lengths are adjustable between 40-60 inches or so, which is a suitable range for almost anyone.

However, if you play bass, are exceptionally tall, like your guitar hanging low, or any combination of these…

Choose an extra long strap, which typically extends up to 70″ or more.

2. Width

Guitar straps widths typically range from 2″ on the thin side, to 4″ on the thick side.

As a general rule of thumb, thicker straps are designed mainly to:

  • support heavier instruments
  • offer added comfort for extended play

…and as a result, are usually more expensive as well.

However…thicker doesn’t ALWAYS mean better, as many players with lighter instruments find thick straps to be unnecessarily bulky, and actually LESS comfortable to wear than something thinner.

3. Locking Mechanism

The problem SOME players have with those standard leather loops that connect to the guitar is…

They CAN have a tendency to slip off sometimes, based numerous factors such as:

  • the movement of the player on-stage
  • the weight of instrument
  • the wear n tear on the strap end itself

Which is why many players will ONLY use straps made with custom “locking mechanisms” such as strap locks or clip locks, that make it virtually impossible for the guitar and strap to separate accidentally.

On the other hand…many OTHER players find such gimmicks to be totally unnecessary.

4. Material

The combination of materials used in making a particular guitar strap is perhaps the most important detail of all…

Because it’s what ultimately determines comfort, performance, and durability, and of course…price.

The 4 most commonly used materials for guitar straps are:

  1. nylon
  2. cotton
  3. leather
  4. neoprene and/or memory foam

And coming up, as we compare the best straps on the market, you’ll see how a similar combination of these materials is used at each price point.

So let’s get to it…

The 3 Major Price Ranges

After endless market research…

I determined that there are 3 major price ranges to consider when shopping for a strap:

  1. Budget straps – under $30
  2. Midrange straps – under $30-$70
  3. Premium straps – $70+

Of course, these numbers are just general guidelines…but as you’ll see, they’re actually quite accurate.

So up first…

1. Budget Guitar Straps

With most good straps under $30…

What you tend to notice is that they are made of either nylon or cotton, with cheap leather ends.

The first common complaint with straps in this price range is…

They are uncomfortable to wear for extended periods, as they have a tendency to dig into your shoulder.

The second complaint is…

If you move around a lot when you play, it’s possible that the strap could slip off, causing your guitar to fall to the ground.

But despite what haters may argue…

The truth is that as long as you aren’t playing a heavy instrument such as bass…an 8 dollar strap CAN last you years without any problems.

In the links below, there’s the Ernie Ball Polypro, and Dunlop D-38, which feature a typical nylon strap with leather ends. These are probably the two best-selling guitar straps on the market.

There’s also the Fender Vintage Tweed, which has a cotton strap and a unique vintage style.

And finally, there’s the pricier DiMarzio Cliplock, which replaces the standard strap button entirely with a clip-locking mechanism that is easy to detach and reattach, and arguably safer for the instrument.

Personally, I believe that for the price, the DiMarzio Cliplock is among the best straps you can buy…period.

Now here are the links:

Up next…

2. Midrange Guitar Straps

For MOST of you reading this article…

I’d argue that this middle price range, between $30-$70…

Is exactly where you should be shopping.

Because straps at these prices will likely be the difference between:

  • a short term fix, and…
  • a long term solution

They’re more comfortable, they last longer, they look cooler, and they’ll keep your guitar safer.

And while none of these are “must-have” benefits on their own…

Together…they make a pretty strong argument as to why it makes sense to spend the extra money.

Now here are the specific straps I recommend:

First there’s the Fender Artisan, which is a simple no-frills strap, made entirely out of fine leather.

Then there’s the DiMarzio Custom Italian which is similar, but adds a cool nickel-plated buckle.

And finally there’s the Mono M80 Betty, which is clearly less stylish than the previous two…

But undoubtedly much more comfortable, as it features neoprene and memory foam, which are two materials normally only used on more expensive straps.

For the average guitar player, I’d say it’s my top recommendation in this entire post.

Here are the links:

Up next…

3. Premium Guitar Straps

As you may have noticed in the previous section…

With $50 straps, you must basically choose between optimal style, and optimal comfort.

However…

With premium guitar straps around $100…you get BOTH.

Not only do they look amazing, but they are extremely comfortable as well.

For bass players especially, these straps have can have the effect of making the instrument feel lighter than it really is.

As you’ll notice, every option listed below is a Gibson, simply because they make the best high-end straps period.

The Modern Vintage, Fatboy, and Edge are all similar variations of the same basic design…combining fine leather with a super thick memory foam shoulder pad.

And then there’s the Gibson Switchblade, which is the most expensive of the 4, but adds a quick release mechanism which the other 3 don’t have.

And since it combines virtually every desirable feature into one beautiful strap, there’s no doubt that it’s the very best strap on this entire list.

Now here are the links:

One Final Question…

So what about more expensive boutique straps?

The fact is…it’s actually not uncommon to find custom boutique guitar straps costing $300-$400 and sometimes more.

But once you get above the $100 price range, any added cost is basically going towards someone’s artwork, and not the actual comfort and performance of the strap itself.

Which is fine if that’s what you want, as long as you know that ‘s what you’ll get.

And if that is in fact what you want, I’d recommend trying these out in an actual store rather than buying them online, because there’s a good chance that they won’t be entirely what you’re expecting.

But anyways…that concludes the article.  Hope you found it useful.

‘Til next time…