“To master the guitar, it takes ten years per chord,” according to a Spanish proverb.
It is often said that learning to play the guitar is the work of an entire lifetime.
For there is always something to learn, even for virtuosos like B. B. King (1925-2015), Chuck Berry (1926-2017), Paco de Lucia (1947-2014) or Biréli Lagrène. Be it a Gretsch that you play or a Stratocaster, or even a mandolin, it's a lifetime of pleasure.
Nevertheless, even if we can always continue to progress, everyone can have fun even at the beginner level, as soon as we manage to string together a few basic guitar chords.
Whether we are novices, experienced, or professionals, every guitar player has already had to confront the difficulty of choosing a guitar and its accessories:
- Jack plugs for electric guitar
- A book for practicing and tablatures
There is guitar accessory that is often skipped over: the guitar strap.
However, this part is fundamental: without it, no one can play the guitar standing up, nor perform concerts for those who are in a music group.
Buying a guitar strap can become a crucial challenge, almost more important than choosing the guitar itself.
The strap must be high quality. To put it crudely, having good “stuff” allows for good playability as well as musical comfort. Imagine stand on a stage for two hours with a strap that is too short or not comfortable. What would Joe Satriani do without one, for example?
A guitar without a strap quickly becomes unplayable.
Superprof lists here all the criteria to take into account to choose a good guitar strap and properly holding your instrument before your first guitar lessons.
Five Parameters to Think about When Choosing a Good Guitar Strap
The guitar strap allows you to play music while supporting the weight of your instrument. So it’s important to take the time to get one when you buy your guitar.
Read also how to choose your guitar strings...
Without a strap, it becomes obvious that we have to carry the guitar by the hand, which impedes us from playing.
The strap is a harness attached on either side of the guitar’s sound box, worn around the neck, passing behind the back and resting on one shoulder—the right shoulder for the right-handed, the left for the left-handed—so that the hands are free to play. It will attach to the back of the headstock - the top of the guitarist's musical instrument.
An electric guitar weighs between 6.5 to 9 pounds, sometimes even more. A strap supports the instrument, so it must be of good quality.
Criterion Number 1:
A high quality strap must be solid, to distribute the mass of the guitar in order to support its weight on your shoulders.
It’s a very important accessory because when in use, the strain on the guitar is significant and the attachment of the strap must be sufficiently solid to not tear and give way over time.
Criterion Number 2:
Dimensions. The guitar must be supported at an optimal height, especially during concerts: the right strap is that of a size—width and length—that allows for a wide range of movements, and which corresponds to the stature of the musician.
You probably want one that is more than an inch wide, or one with a shoulder pad. Anything smaller than this will be uncomfortable.
Criterion Number 3:
The material of the strap. Do you prefer to play with a nylon, leather, or fabric strap? What material will be the most resistant?
A leather guitar strap might be the best option here. Leather straps are durable, and a quality leather strap - weather suede leather, buffalo leather, brown leather, vintage leather, or grain leather - will last a lifetime.
Criterion Number 4:
The look is also important, although less essential: what color best corresponds to the temperament of the player and to the style of the music played? Should you chose a hot pink strap to play heavy metal or jazz? A strap with a skull to play gypsy jazz?
You can, but it’s not necessarily the most common look. If you have a black guitar or a vintage guitar, why not get something to go with it?
Criterion Number 5:
Because the guitar can be played for several hours on end, it seems obvious that the guitar player must choose a comfortable strap that does not cause any pain, any cramps or irritation.
To choose a good guitar strap that’s comfortable, a piece of advice: bring your instrument to the music store and test the different straps to see which is the most comfortable.
Otherwise, the guitar play can also ask an instrument maker or an artisan: Jodi Head, for example, an artisan who makes guitar straps in New York City’s East Village.
Also check out this page of tips on buying your first guitar!
Choosing the Material of the Strap
The story goes that the first guitar straps were derived from clotheslines.
Worn around the neck to support heavy guitars ranging from nine to eleven pounds, they were, unsurprisingly, uncomfortable and not very ergonomic, which paved the way for the flourishing industry of the guitar strap.
Today there is a wide range of materials used to make guitar straps:
- Leather (mixed with cotton, for example the FF-15 C Jacquard or the Taylor Suede/Poly Guitar Strap Copper)
- Nylon: like the straps of Planet Waves of Thomann, inexpensive and highly regarded
- Fabric, ideal for players who sweat a lot
- Natural fibers
- Synthetic fibers
- Polypropylene (if you want a strap that’s 100% biodegradable)
The advantage of nylon or synthetic fiber is that it’s very sturdy.
The fibers don’t deteriorate over the long term. This material offers a better quality-price ratio: sturdy, and also inexpensive.
The strap material of the electro-acoustic or electric guitar also depends on the type of wood of the body of the guitar: rosewood, linden, mahogany, spruce, maple…
It will also strongly depend on the comfort: a plastic or nylon strap risks being more rigid and colder than a cotton strap.
As for leather, it will entice musicians in search of durability, prestige, and high quality: more costly, but it can be expected to last several years.
On the Thomann website, the indecisive will find a wide array of brands and materials for all tastes, from cotton to suede, and for all price ranges: the famous German purveyor of musical instruments and accessories offers a range of prices from four dollars to 300+ dollars per strap!
Choose a Guitar Strap of the Right Size
Can you easily perform a chord chart or a solo with the bridge by your ankles? Inversely, can you carry out a concert with a strap so tight that you can hardly strum the guitar?
Certainly not, in either case!
You have to choose a guitar strap suited to your stature and to your build.
In the music store, before buying your guitar strap, Superprof recommends that you measure the distance that separates your shoulder from the two knobs on either side of the guitar to which the strap will be attached.
Even if all guitar straps are adjustable, you should ask which corresponds the most to your own style.
Do you like to:
- Strum down by your knees?
- Have your sound board at your hips?
- Play the guitar horizontally, or with your handle tilted upwards?
- Feel your guitar pressed against your stomach?
- Be able to do rocking motions with your instrument?
You will need to buy an extra-long XXL strap if you prefer to play with your arms extended relatively far.
Inversely, of course—if you like to have your guitar pressed against your stomach—you should opt for a shorter length strap.
The key is—like for a sweater or a pair of jeans—to know what size strap to choose between S, L, M, XL, or XXL. To figure it out, it’s simple: all you have to do is measure the distance from the guitar to your shoulder!
Different sizes of straps are all adjustable to different degrees. The smallest are around 30 inches and the XXL can reach 78 inches.
And while we’re on the subject of size, let’s also talk about the width of the strap!
The heavier the guitar, the more weight your shoulders have to support. It’s logical.
Should we play guitar with a clothesline or kitchen cord as a strap around our shoulders? No.
So, a large strap will help to support a guitar or a heavy bass without causing pain or irritation due to friction.
Generally, the wider guitar straps range from 2 to 3 inches. But it’s really up to the individual player to decide what he or she prefers.
Find a guitar tutor or online guitar lessons to learn to rock that guitar strap!
The Fastenings and Attachments of the Guitar Strap
This is one of the most important criterion when buying a strap for string instruments: the fastening or strap lock!
It is always vexing to buy a guitar strap of bad quality that slackens, comes undone at the end, just a few months after purchasing.
This happened to me personally. I invested in an expensive strap, which ripped soon after.
Since then, I always pay attention to the sturdiness of the attachments of the straps and I take the price into account when I’m looking for a new strap for my Ibanez electro-acoustic guitar.
It can be useful to protect yourself with some “lock-it straps,”those little guitar accessories initially commercialized by the Gibson brand.
These are fasteners for straps with a locking system: they can be found at any price, from 3 to 30 dollars, and have a small screw that fastens at the end that attaches to the new guitar strap.
The strap is thus locked in to the knob, and the guitar player doesn’t have to worry about their many movements; even if you are playing on a beginner guitar, the strap won’t come undone during a concert, a jam session, or a rehearsal.
Choosing a Guitar Strap According to Aesthetics
String instruments undoubtedly reflect a certain style: the guitar player is often at the front of a stage, everyone watching him or her although there are numerous instruments behind them, such as brass instruments, percussion, wood, wind instruments, etc.
With the guitar or bass strap, the musician gives himself a certain look depending on the different patterns, inscriptions, and colors of the strap.
Personally, I wouldn’t opt to wear, for example, a pink guitar strap decorated with skulls or flags.
It’s a matter of personal taste.
None of the guitar straps for sale at the music store are attractive? Are they too colourful? Not original enough?
And does the array of guitar strings on display boggle your mind?
There is a site, Strap Graphics, where you can design your own strap that matches your particular look. Cool, right?
Start taking guitar lessons for beginners today with Superprof!