How to Buy the Right Guitar or Bass Strap
It’s not as simple as you might think…
By Cori Gordon
Many guitarists think of straps as being pretty much all the same, but that’s definitely not true. There are significant differences, and choosing the right strap can mean the difference between a comfortable night of playing and sore shoulders—or even worse, a broken guitar as it falls to the floor. Also, a strap complements the look of not just the guitar, but the artist.
There are so many different types of straps on the market that choosing the right one can be overwhelming, because there are so many different prices, manufacturers, styles, and materials. So your first task is to figure out what will suit your needs best, and that will cut down on the number of options so you can make a more informed choice.
GUITAR AND BASS STRAP TYPES
There are three main types of straps, based on the materials they use.
Leather straps are probably the most popular and stylish straps, with the widest range of sizes, styles, and colors. They’re also similar to a pair of shoes, because if you take care of them properly, they become more comfortable the longer you wear them in. The most popular leather strap styles resemble suede, cowhide, or snakeskin. Leather straps are also fairly easy to customize, and you can often find them with monograms, rivets, metal buckles, etc.
Suede straps tend to be less expensive on average than leather straps, and although they may take up a little less space than leather straps when stored, they still form a fairly large roll. Comfortable and durable, the basic models are between 56 to 62 inches long, and 2.5 to 3 inches wide. To prevent fraying, they’re typically made of two pieces of suede leather, stitched around the edges although more expensive versions may have thick padding sewn on the inside.
Nylon straps are the most affordable variety, but they’re also dependable and you can store them easily, as they don’t take up much space. For these reasons, they’re quite popular.
There are two main varieties. Basic models are typically 56 inches long, 2 inches wide, and have triangular-shaped leather ends. These are fine for light-to-moderate use, but be aware the leather ends will wear out fairly rapidly if you use the guitar a lot. More upscale models are made of higher-end nylon and polyester, and the ends are either made of a tough plastic or heavy-duty leather. These also tend to be 56 inches long, and you can find variations like built-in strap locks, padding stitched into the fabric, and novel designs.
Style. Of course, you have to make sure that the strap matches your playing style. If you’re playing in a cover band that does pop songs, you probably don’t want a strap that’s covered with skulls giving people the finger. Note that reviews of style-oreiented straps aren’t as meaningful as reviews of the companies making them, because a strap that might look great to you might not be to someone else’s tastes—but you do want to make sure a strap is well-built and dependable.
Practicality. If practicality is paramount, go for something lightweight—like straps with leather ends and cotton, where the cotton keeps the strap from sliding around as you move. As opposed to choosing a strap for style, here’s where you do want to pay attention to what reviews say about practicality.
Importance. Don’t let straps be an afterthought—they’re as important as any other guitar accessory and in some ways even more so, because they are the gatekeepers of your guitar’s safety. If the strap ends fly off the guitar’s end pins, you’re in trouble unless you have fast reflexes.
And finally, don’t just take the first strap you find. Do some research, try out different types of straps, ask other musicians for their opinions, and research different brands to see whose products fit your needs the best. Choose your strap wisely, and your guitar will have a friend for life.
Reprinted with the express written permission of Levy's Leather
Cori Gordon is an Editor who also handles Marketing at Levy's Leathers Acoustic Guitar Straps.