JazzBass

A Few Tips for Guitar Straps

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Although I'm a relative newcomer to leather crafting, I'm a professional musician who's been playing since age 9 - I'm 56 now. =:O

Preface all of the following with "Unless your client insists" , of course. ;)

1. Use a soft, SMOOTH liner (back), whether it's pig, calf, doe, etc. Never use suede, or any "rough-out" material. 
    a) even those who don't jump around on stage, need it to move SOME, without noticeably sticking to clothing. It's common to pull the neck a bit towards you when playing in the lower range, and allow it to come forward when playing on the higher end of the neck.
   b)- The suits/tuxedos I often wear,  cost a lot more than the strap. Keeping abrasion to a minimum is a rather good idea.

2. NOBODY that I've EVER known in the business, likes the "slot" type of adjustment system. I have no idea how or why this became "standard", but it just plain SUCKS!
Some folks use buckles for adjustment, but the problem here isn't when it's being worn -  when you pick it up, put it on, or take it off, that buckle can bang against the instrument. NO!

Sure, we could try to invent a better system for adjustment, BUT - because my two electric basses (fretted and fretless) are nominally identical, I haven't needed to adjust a strap in over 30 years!
We're talking "custom" here, right? Why not just get it right from the get-go? The one I'm making now will have 2 holes on the tail (bottom) side - one for standing, and one for sitting, to keep the strap from falling from the shoulder when it's not holding the weight. A few inches of the tail will hang while sitting. Big deal. Different guitars/basses? Well...there's no time to readjust on stage. A different strap IS the ONLY practical option, adjustable or not. IMHO, measure it, make it, and leave it alone!! A "non-adjustable", custom measured strap IS the best way to go for professionals who want a custom strap. "Adjustable" straps should be reserved for "stock" items.

3. Stitching -
   It seems (and please feel to correct/disagree) that stitch length and thread size are most often chosen based on how it looks on the front. Sure, that's always a consideration, BUT - a chunky thread will will create "wear channels" on whatever clothing is being worn. Consider either using a fairly fine thread, or a recess groove on the back side to lessen wear to clothing. Again, it's cheaper to restitch, than to buy another suit jacket because your strap wore it out prematurely.

4. Shoulder pads and internal padding -
    No, no, NO!
A wide shoulder pad on a thinner strap (like we see on many luggage shoulder straps), STINKS!. You're constantly moving it to keep it in the "right" spot, as the instrument moves while played.
Internal padding is NOT necessary, and as it compresses, it makes the guitar want to "stick" to that spot. It must be able to move some, and, as I said,  having the thinner strap sliding through a shoulder pad is a bad solution to what should be a non-existent problem.

5. Stiffness -
    Most "favorite" straps will be soft and supple. Realistically though, if we're doing a fully tooled veg-tan strap, it's going to be relatively stiff when new. Consider a "pre-break-in", by pulling and stretching the strap back and forth around a pole or pipe, to make it a bit more flexible when new. Yes, this could mess with your finish or tooling, but that will happen eventually as it softens in use. The best solution may be  to pre-stretch and soften, prior to tooling and finishing, but I'll leave that to the leather experts, as I'm an amateur. Any thoughts on this would be GREATLY appreciated. The softer, the better!

6. Strap Locks, or not?
    This one IS something that the client should indeed choose for themselves. Some do complain about a strap being difficult to affix or remove, especially when new. Strap locks do allow one to have a relatively stiff strap and put it on and off with the push of a button. Personally, I don't use/need them - some folks won't do without them. Either is fine, and as long as it won't slip off while playing, neither is superior IMO.



 

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Thank you for your information @JazzBass. My nephew is a guitar player, so there might be a strap being made in my future.

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This is awesome info, even something I have been asking a few players and they are unsure what they want/need because they don't have enough experience with custom work.  I am in the process of making a tooled strap, this answers most of the q's I've had!  Thanks so much for sharing, I'll be applying the info to my build. :) :guitar:

YinTx

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What does a strap lock look like?

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On 10/21/2018 at 9:20 PM, ScoobyNewbie said:

What does a strap lock look like?

It's a two piece affair, requiring changing the strap button on the guitar, and screwing the other piece to the strap.

5bdaaefe4b427_straplock.jpg.d1239acedeac6dfb3f92b0698dcbc9b3.jpg

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Great information, @JazzBass...most appreciated. I've been playing music for 30yrs but I'm a sit-down type player and have little to no need for straps...I've made a few for other musicians but have always used the slotted design (what they wanted). Your info is very insightful.

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13 hours ago, Double Daddy said:

Great information, @JazzBass...most appreciated. I've been playing music for 30yrs but I'm a sit-down type player and have little to no need for straps...I've made a few for other musicians but have always used the slotted design (what they wanted). Your info is very insightful.

Well...hmm...

I'd bet a month's pay that the choice of the slot system by a player, is due to two things -
1) they don't want a buckle that could ding the instrument while handling it off the body, or in its case.
2) the slot system is the only other system that they know, from what's always been available. .

At the same time, they know, from experience, two things -
1) it's a real chore to adjust the strap, BUT
2) once adjusted, it is unlikely to need it to be moved, so we "deal with" the initial fitting.

We measure our shoes, clothes, and belts. IMHO we should (ideally, of course) tailor our straps, as we tailor ours suits.

HOWEVER - (you'll like this part)

Adjustable straps absolutely have their uses, for a person with multiple instruments that they only play occasionally. It makes no sense to spend the money on custom tailoring when "off the rack" is all that's required. Although I am not part of the "leather business", it's obvious that it's rather necessary to have a stock of items for sale that are not "one-offs". Few if any could do business that way.

I've been discussing this with a good friend and stratospheric guitarist. We believe that we do indeed have a concept that abandons the slot system, has no buckles or hardware, and may be adjusted in seconds, if need be. Once prototyped and tested by both of us, I'll happily share it here. Want a hint? :) 

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Sure!

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Think Velcro ;)

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