The fact is, there’s no right or wrong way to wear a guitar strap. But, if the length of your strap doesn’t match up with the way you play, it can have a pretty negative effect. In this wee blog, we take a look at the advantages and disadvantages of a super-long, super-short, or somewhere-in-the-middle guitar or bass strap.
While there are maybe billions of different guitar straps out there, it’s not necessarily wise to just grab the first strap you you like the look of. The length, width and materials will differ depending on the strap, and even the way you secure the strap to your guitar can be more complex than simply slotting the ends over your strap buttons. Strap designers like Planet Waves, DiMarzo, Ibanez and Ernie Ball have all developed different strap-lock-style approaches to the way a guitar strap is secured, so guitarists and bassists no longer need to actually install a set of strap locks to stop their instrument from coming loose and crashing to the ground. If you’re looking for a complete overview of the range of guitar straps that are out there, you’ll find it in our Guitar Strap Buyer’s Guide.
The Guitar Strap
As you’re probably aware, a guitar strap is simply a strap that can be attached to a guitar or bass at two points so you can hang it over your neck and across your shoulder, keeping it in place so your hands don’t have to hold it up. The length of your strap dictates the height at which your instrument sits, so the shorter your strap, the higher up your guitar will sit, and vice versa. However, the height of your guitar can directly affect your playing technique as well as your image, so the length of your strap basically depends on which one you value most.
There are a few good reasons why some musicians keep their strap short and hold their guitar high. A short strap used to be more common than it is these days, partly because the classical guitar came way before the electric guitar, and since the classical guitar is usually played seated – so naturally high up – a shorter strap maintains the same kind of position when you play standing. Even in the sixties, when the electric guitar was suddenly everywhere, bands would wear their four or six-string high up against the body. The reason for this is simple: long guitar straps didn’t exist yet! While longer guitar straps do exist now, there are plenty of modern guitarists who simply prefer to wear their strap short. The revered all-rounder Alex Hutchings, for example. Playing with his guitar sitting high up gives him the freedom to play anything and in any way he wants and, as a result, an ultra-short guitar strap has become part of his image. In the video below, you can see him wearing his signature short guitar strap while giving a demo of the Boss ME-25 multi-effect unit:
The benefit of wearing your guitar loose and low is that it’s much easier to take it off, which can be handy if you regularly swap guitars during the set. Another plus is that the general consensus seems to be that a low hanging guitar just looks cooler since it gives you the freedom to strike some epic poses. The downside to a low-hanging strap is that it forces you to spread your legs as wide as they’ll go, or bend right over your instrument so you can play comfortably. With that in mind, it can be wise not to go too low. Every member of the band Korn is armed with a low-hanging strap, which definitely forms part of their look, but also comes with advantages. It sets up the bassist, Fieldy with the ideal position to deliver thick slap techniques, and thanks to those ultra-long straps, guitarists Head and Munky are able to really let their singular style of headbanging loose.
Tips & Tricks
- Method 1: Let the guitar hang low enough that the bridge sits at around the same height as your pocket. This’ll give your fret hand enough freedom to move and to use techniques like vibrato. This also makes sure that your wrist can move naturally without having to strain. The same applies to your playing hand. At this height, you should have plenty of room to play various techniques.
- Method 2: A lot of guitarists practise sitting down because it gives both your fret and playing hand an immediately natural position, and your wrists are in the perfect position in relation to the neck of the guitar. The idea is to set up your guitar strap while you’re sitting down. Adjust the strap until your guitar floats just above your thigh so that, when you stand, your guitar will be held in the same position as it is when you’re sitting down.
- Method 3: Seek out guitarists that you identify with. You’ll notice that there are trends within different genres of music, so a jazz guitarist will often wear their guitar fairly high up (as described in method 2), while a punk guitarist will usually wear their guitar extremely low – sometimes as low as their knees. But if you’re playing straight-up punk, you’re usually playing a lot of fast power chords, so a punk-worthy look is more important than a playing posture that supports fast solos. Rock and indie guitarists usually go for the middle-ground and wear their guitar against the hip. It still looks cool, but improves playing comfort.
As we’ve mentioned already, the ideal guitar strap length will differ from person to person, so it’s worth experimenting with the length of your guitar strap to find out what feels right. You’d be surprised at the difference that just a couple centimetres can make when it comes to your playing technique, comfort, and posture.
Has playing with a super-short or super-long guitar strap changed the way you play? Or do you prefer to sit somewhere in the middle? Let us know in the comments!