At a first glance, it does not look like you have to be a genius to figure out how to wear a guitar strap. You throw it over your neck, adjust it left or right a little, only to ensure the guitar fits comfortably by your arms. No one really bothers to figure out how to wear the strap by the book because it makes common sense, right?
Well, not really. Some guitarists have been wearing the guitar strap the wrong way all their lives. Some newbies are still trying to figure it out. The truth is there is always something you are doing the wrong way. In theory, it should not be too difficult, but as you figure it out, you realize that you might have made a mistake all these years. Here is everything you need to know.
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How to wear a guitar strap
There is one general rule you need to keep in mind when not sure how to wear a guitar strap. Simply put, you need to ensure that you can play every single note in the sixth string without having to bend your wrist to the maximum. Sure, a bit of bending is necessary anyway, but a slight bend is all you need to get the job done.
This statement works for most people – for many others, it is only a recommendation. Generally speaking, you need to ensure the guitar feels comfortable to wear. Wear it the wrong way and you will end up with all kinds of issues. For instance, you may experience pains in your wrist, but you may also end up with back pains in the future.
In other words, if the guitar feels comfortable, you are probably doing it right. Now, your favorite guitarists may not always do it right. For instance, if you like Slash, you might have noticed that he keeps the guitar as low as possible. While it looks cool and fun, the truth is you will end up suffering – and he definitely does not find it too comfortable either.
Now, not everyone feels the same level of comfort while wearing a guitar strap in a certain way. Some people simply get used to it. They no longer feel discomfort, especially if they only play it for a short period of time. It may look like they are doing it wrong, but the truth is they have found the perfect way for themselves.
The best way to do it is to ensure you feel comfortable, but also to make sure you can play it well, without losing quality and performance. Some people claim that you need to adjust the guitar while sitting down – basically, pretend that you are playing it while sitting in a chair. Again, what works for some people will not work for everyone else.
Most commonly, this debate is about wearing the guitar strap too high or too low. On the same note, some people may feel uncomfortable either way. This rule mostly applies to newbies. You have never worn such a strap, so no matter how you wear it, it will feel uncomfortable – you simply need to get used to it over time.
Wearing a guitar strap high
Wearing the guitar strap high comes with a few great advantages. First of all, you will be able to play every single note on the fretboard. You can tackle solos like there is no tomorrow. There is no discomfort and you can literally reach every string with no issues at all. You have full control of your notes. You do not have to worry about missing notes either.
On another note, wearing the strap high will also allow you to prevent back pains in the long run. It may seem irrelevant at the moment, but you have no idea when they hit you. If you only practice or play the guitar for an hour a day, you may not experience any issues right now. But then, try practicing for three hours in a row and you will know what it means.
If you also practice in a standing position, the experience will become painful in no time. With time, such issues will also aggravate. Since you do not have to bend your back in order to reach a note, these issues will never bother you. Over the next years, wearing the strap high will have a highly positive impact on your posture.
Wearing the strap high will also reduce the potential wrist pain, which tends to show up before the back pain. Your wrist will suffer a lot then. Some guitarists keep their guitars low, but they never play the upper strings. If you do need those strings, you will need to completely bend the wrist. How can you tell? Simply pay attention to how you feel. If it feels like you rely on your wrist a lot, wear the strap high.
With all these benefits, wearing the strap high is not perfect. It also comes with some side effects. Sure, there are no direct disadvantages because you have full control over the guitar and you can prevent various health-related issues. The actual style is probably the one and only drawback of wearing the strap high.
When learning how to wear a guitar strap, you want to look good. You want to be cool and show confidence. A very low guitar looks great – no doubts about it. Some of the world’s greatest guitarists look amazing in this position. Sure, you get some good vibes, but this position is only suitable for short practicing sessions or concerts.
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Wearing a guitar strap low
The benefits of wearing a guitar strap low are similar to the drawbacks of wearing a guitar strap high and vice versa. However, there is still room for a bit of a conversation. Generally speaking, keeping the guitar low looks great. You are cool and draw some positive attention. But on the same note, you are even cooler if you are the best guitarist in the room, so your performance is not to be overlooked either.
In terms of disadvantages, you have the impossibility to reach every note on the fretboard. Sure, you can still do it if the guitar is quite low – the problem occurs when it goes really low, under your waist. You can overcome this minus by sticking to strings below, but this limits your performance – it depends on your style and music though.
Back pains will also kick in – not now or in a few days, not in a few months either, but in the long run. You will most likely have to bend the back for pretty much every solo and not only. The stress you put on the back will take its toll after a few years. The pain is unnecessary and can prevent you from playing the guitar the right way.
The same rule applies to your wrists. Bend your wrist over and over again and the issue may seem insignificant at the moment. After a few years, it will become an actual problem that needs to be addressed by a specialist doctor. The idea is fairly simple – you should not sacrifice performance for good looks.
Now, to summarize everything, these rules are extreme only if you keep the guitar really low. If it goes under your waist and you need to keep your back hunched to reach it, you are doing it wrong. You can, however, keep the guitar relatively low – rather than around your chest. You can still look cool while reaching every note in a comfortable manner – just avoid exaggerating or trying to be Slash.
Tips and tricks on how to wear a guitar strap
Learning how to wear a guitar strap depends on how you feel – simple as that. Every guitarist has their own sweet spot – you need to find yours. Keep in mind that more positions will seem comfortable while trying to find the right position – some of them will be alright for now, but problematic in the long run, so you also need to consider the scientific research and not just how you feel.
Shoulder strength is a must
Using your shoulder strength is one of the most valuable pieces of advice when trying to figure out how to wear a guitar strap. The shoulder strength will most likely be responsible for handling the guitar strap. You must ensure you have enough to bear the load – and not just for 10 or 20 minutes, but for up to a few good hours.
In theory, this is pretty obvious and makes perfect sense. Most people get it, but they do it the wrong way. Basically, you must always keep the guitar strap on the middle side of the shoulder – be it the left or right one. This type of position gives you extra balance, but it also helps with the support – which is, basically, responsible for your comfort.
Balance comes first
Balance is a must when trying to figure out how to wear a guitar strap. Again, this is an aspect that makes sense, but people forget about it. Apart from focusing on the height – whether you want to wear it high or low, you also need to pay attention to how you actually carry it. It is obviously not just about the height then.
Reaching a balanced position is quite simple – there is only one rule to pay attention to. Avoid holding the guitar. Instead, let it loose. Is it parallel to the ground? If it is, you have achieved a balanced position. If one side is lower than the other, you need to adjust it a little. Come up with the right position by balancing the guitar in front of a mirror.
Consider the type of strap
Different guitars come with different types of straps. As you go around a local guitar store – or even as you browse the Internet, you will see different materials, padding styles, width standards, and so on. Different straps will obviously feel different as well. The width is probably the most significant factor in the process.
Some guitar straps are super thin and look light. Some others are heavier and super-wide – they often cover most of the shoulder, if not the whole shoulder. In theory, a wider strap should be more comfortable to wear. It spreads over a wider surface for support, so it will not feel like cutting through your shoulder. Try out different styles and see how they feel – not just after five minutes, but after an hour or two.
Your height matters
Last, but not least, your height does matter when not sure how to wear a guitar strap. This aspect is another simple idea that lots of people fail to think about. How do you do it? Grab the strap and stick it into the strap buttons. It might be confusing if you are new to straps – no worries at all. Find the logo or name on the strap – that side usually goes forward.
At the same time, this part of the strap will normally go in the button closer to the guitar neck. Once you get it done, throw the strap over and see how high or low it feels. To help you, try putting the guitar over as if it was a neck chain. Adjust it, then put it back again. Do that until you find it comfortable – try playing it then.
The bottom line, learning how to wear a guitar strap may seem a bit difficult, but it is not. This aspect – just like many other things – is mostly related to personal preferences. Some people can wear a guitar in any random way for long periods of time without feeling uncomfortable or facing long-term injuries. Some others can get injured in no time due to the wrong form.
In the end, the main rule is to feel comfortable and play every single note on the guitar. If you can play anything you want and you feel good, you are on the right path.