Guitar straps are an essential accessory for all types of guitar players, whether they play classical music or rock and roll.
Whether playing the guitar sitting or standing, a strap helps secure the instrument to the player’s body, otherwise, it could interfere with playing technique. Both electric guitars and acoustic guitars should be used with a strap.
Straps are held to the guitar by small devices called strap pins. These act almost like a button, where a hole in one end of the guitar strap is threaded around the strap pin to secure the strap to the guitar.
Most electric guitars have two strap pins installed, but acoustic guitars might only have one strap pin or none! Classical guitars usually have no pins, which makes them hard to play when standing.
If your acoustic guitars have no strap pins, a strap must be attached in more creatively. Alternatively, external strap pins can be drilled into the body.
For right-handed players (strumming with their right hand, fretting with left), the left shoulder bears the weight of the strap. The reverse is true for left-handed players.
This article demonstrates how to attach a guitar strap to an acoustic guitar, and discusses other important strap-based considerations.
Types of Guitar Strap
There are several different categories of guitar strap geared towards guitarists’ different needs. For stage guitarists who play multiple instruments, one strap will not be enough, as it adds to instrumental changeover times.
Fixed – made to a set length and can’t be changed.
Adjustable – can be changed and repositioned to fit an individual’s height.
DIY – An old belt? A Piece of chain? Grannies lace underwear? Most string-like materials can be recycled as guitar straps with some clever crafting. You can even take a piece of string, tie a knot in either end and play with that! (More details below).
The material also affects the feel of the guitar strap. It’s worth having a search for the style that suits you best.
Leather are generally one of the sturdier varieties but are heavier, expensive, and slower to adjust. They also tend to be the most comfortable variety, although heat up more on stage. Leather is more suitable for bass or heavier electric guitar.
Fabric or cloth straps can take less weight but are lighter and easy to adjust. These tend to be the worse when it comes to slippage, but not as hot as leather. They will be more comfortable than nylon or synthetic strap materials.
Thinner straps and strings are stylish and easy to adjust, however they can dig into the skin, so avoid this strap type with heavier guitars. These are better for instruments like the ukulele or ¾ sized guitars.
Theoretically, the material of the strap could affect the guitar’s sound and tone.
For an acoustic guitar use either a leather or fabric strap. Avoid using a guitar strap with a hard metallic buckle as this could scratch the wood of an acoustic guitar.
Attaching guitar strap to buttons.
First, align the guitar strap in the correct direction for easy attachment. Ensure the correct side is facing outwards, particularly if there is a pattern on the strap.
If the guitar strap has an adjustable buckle, position it in an easy-to-reach location, usually closer towards the neck side, so it can be reached with the right hand when wearing the guitar.
If sitting, rest the guitar across the lap. If standing, the neck of the guitar should be held with one hand, whilst the other hand attaches the strap. The safest option is to attach the strap while the guitar is resting in a stand.
Next, take the guitar strap, there should be holes at either end of the strap on the connector patch. Start with the hole at the neck end of the strap, take this hole and insert it through one strap pin on the neck of the guitar.
Push the strap down around the strap pin so all of the material surrounding the hole is behind the pin. The guitar should be fastened to the strap from one end. Repeat this process with the second hole, connecting it to the strap pin at the base of the acoustic guitar.
The strap is now attached to the acoustic guitar!
How to attach a guitar strap without buttons.
Not all guitars have buttons, which makes it harder to attach a strap. One option is to and install them on the guitar by drilling them into the body, although there is a risk of damage.
Most straps can be modified, with string, to attach to guitars with only one button. Guitarists have recycled all kinds of items into guitar straps.
Take a piece of string (or any material thin enough to fit below the strings), tie a knot around the headstock, above the nut on the neck of the guitar – then tie this string through one of the straps holes.
Putting a piece of string through the fastening loop on the strap and tying it around the head, above the fretboard but below the strings will secure the strap without buttons.
This is a workaround for an acoustic guitar with only one pin. The other pin should be located at the base of the body and attach as normal.
If there are no pins at all, then one option is to do some more serious modification, which involves drilling holes into your precious guitar. Alternatively, Clip-on straps are also a potential solution.
How to attach buttons or strap pins to a guitar.
- It might be necessary to install additional strap pins to an acoustic guitar, as not all come with enough pre-installed. Although this does involve drilling into the guitar, which may not be suitable for everybody.
- Buy some installable guitar strap pins (link here). The more expensive models tend to be sturdier and more reliable.
- With a pencil, mark a location on the base of the guitar to guide the drilling of the hole. Make a second mark above the heel of the neck, the curved edge of the body.
- Starting with the pin at the base of the body, drill a pilot hole (small test hole) with a drill bit around the size of 0.5-1mm. This can then be expanded with a larger drill bit, make sure to match the bit size to the diameter of the screw on the new strap pin. Ideally, the drill bit is a tiny bit smaller than the pin screw.
- The hole must be thin enough to fit the strap pin tightly into the wood with no wobbling.
- If drilling seems too brutal for your precious axe, a thin cylindrical or round file can be used. The file can slowly expand a small hole without applying too much force. When using a drill there is a chance of the wood getting chipped.
- Take the screw end of the new strap pin, and insert it into the drilled hole. Screw the pin in until tight. If possible, tighten a nut on the other side of the screw (inside the guitar body).
- Repeat this process for the second strap pin at the neck end of the guitar – drill, install, tighten.
- These may need retightening every so often.
- Strap pins can also easily to attached to an electric guitar that doesn’t have any. The process is largely identical to before except there is no space to attach a nut. The pins are screwed tightly into the body.
How to adjust guitar strap length.
- Adjusting the strap correctly for your body and posture is an essential step to having good technique. Strap length directly affects playing technique, and if set improperly will make playing the guitar harder.
- Most guitar straps are adjusted through a buckle mechanism. The buckle is pulled up or down the strap to increase or decrease the length, similar to a belt.
- When standing, hold the neck of the guitar, lift it to your body, and put the strap over your head.
- Adjust the length so the guitar rests across the chest and belly, with the strings and soundhole crossing over above the belly button.
- The left-arm should be free to smoothly reach the full extent of the fretboard without needing to bend the wrist and an awkward angle.
- The right hand should be located resting naturally across the strings in a strumming position, allowing the elbow and wrist to strum across the strings. The right shoulder should be free to swing around. The back should be straight with a raised neck, not hunched over.
- If sitting, the body of the guitar should rest on the right thigh, with the strap lifting the majority of the weight onto the shoulder.
- Again, pay attention to the elbows and wrists to ensure fluidity and avoid injury. Experiencing any kind of pain in the back, neck, or shoulder, during or after playing, could be a sign of incorrect setup and posture.
- If the strap is too long, the guitar will be low which forces the plater to reach down and bend over, causing back problems. If the strap is too short, the guitar will be too high and lower the amount of moving space for the arms. This will prevent the elbows and wrists from moving correctly
- These are only rough guidelines, the most comfortable position will be unique to each player.
Visual Style VS Technique.
Famous and successful guitar players have been known to wear straps at both ends of the spectrum.
There will be a difference in playing style, therefore performance and tone. Heavier guitarists from rock, punk, and metal backgrounds usually wear lower straps. The higher straps are favored by more indie-style bands.
How much of this choice is aesthetic or technique influenced is unclear, but it is a better idea to go for technique over visuals, as this is what prevents injury.
Related: If you want to refinish your acoustic guitar, check out our handy guide on it!
Some simple straps do not hold the instruments very well, and they can detach and slip off.
More complex fastening mechanisms have been designed to improve security and prevent the risk of a strap pin slip. These are relatively expensive for a guitar accessory but are a worthy investment for expensive instruments, or stadium and live musicians who can’t afford accidents to happen onstage.
You can buy guitar strap locks that attach to most types of guitar and straps, sometimes around the headstock of the instrument. This is a good way to attach a strap to pinless guitars without putting holes in it.
Also learn how you can build an acoustic guitar from our guide!